This Week on the Hill
- March 10, 1997
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The Senate today begins debate on the resolution providing $4.35 million for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's investigation into allegations of illegal fundraising practices by 1996 presidential and congressional campaigns. Roll call votes are expected Tuesday on the resolution, which the Senate Rules Committee approved last Thursday on a party line vote.
Senate Democrats plan to try to win GOP support to extend the probe's scope to include "improper" as well as illegal activities, which would mean that inquiries into soft money, tax-exempt organizations and campaigns prior to 1996 could be included. But Governmental Affairs ranking member John Glenn, D-Ohio, last Friday said Democrats are "trying to be constructive" in offering their amendment, and he maintained "there's no plan to filibuster now."
On a related front, the Senate this week is slated to consider a constitutional amendment by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D- S.C., that would allow Congress to set limits on how much federal candidates can spend on their own election campaigns.
Meanwhile, the nomination of Federico Pena to be energy secretary also is scheduled to finally make its way to the Senate floor this week. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the nomination last week after a month's delay.
For his part, Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., last week contended the Senate should not vote on Pena's nomination until the Clinton administration explains how it plans to accept nuclear waste for storage by the Jan. 31, 1998 deadline. President Clinton has pledged to veto Energy committee legislation to store the waste temporarily at a Nevada site before completion of a study.
In the House, the much-maligned slow pace will pick up a little this week. No legislative business is scheduled today, but 11 suspension bills are on Tuesday's agenda, including a waiver resolution, passed by the Senate 98-2 last week, that would allow Charlene Barshefsky to become U.S. trade representative.
Barshefsky needs the waiver because she represented foreign interests before joining the USTR's office in 1993.
Also among Tuesday's suspension bills are measures supporting the autonomous governance of Hong Kong after its reversion to the People's Republic of China and making technical corrections in the 1965 Higher Education Act relating to graduation data disclosures.
Wednesday or Thursday, the House is slated to debate the Paperwork Elimination Act, which would allow small businesses to use electronic technologies when filing information with, or retrieving it from, the federal government.
Also mid-week, the House takes up a Republican resolution that would overturn Clinton's move last week to certify Mexico as having cooperated in the drug war.
In addition, House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, late last week said the House might consider a resolution this week demanding that the president send a new budget to Capitol Hill.
Apart from the Senate and House floors, the following is other activity expected this week:
ABORTION: The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday is slated to mark up the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, among other measures. Congressional Republican backers last week renewed their push for the anti-abortion legislation, citing a prominent abortion rights supporter's admission that he lied about how often a controversial late-term abortion procedure is used.
House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Charles Canady, R-Fla., last week said House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, has assured him the Partial Birth Abortion Ban legislation would be brought to the House floor for a vote "in short order", probably either the week before or immediately after the Easter recess, which is slated for the weeks of March 24 and 31.
The House bill upon introduction last week had 165 co- sponsors.
Previewing Wednesday's House markup, the Senate Judiciary Committee and Canady's subcommittee have scheduled a joint hearing for Tuesday on the issue.
APPROPRIATIONS/BUDGET: It was not clear late last week which direction budget maneuvers may go this week. The GOP is searching for a budget strategy by going several different directions at once, a key House Republican conceded last week, and added it is unclear what strategy will work.
Republicans spent much of last week touting a CBO report showing that, using that agency's economic assumptions, the Clinton budget would result in a $69 billion deficit in 2002.
It also was not clear at week's end what the administration or Congress might do on the consumer price index. One source predicted the announcement of a special commission to study the CPI was imminent, although OMB Director Franklin Raines downplayed that possibility.
At the same time, quiet, informal discussions over a possible budget deal may continue. And House and Senate appropriations subcommittees this week are scheduled to continue to review the administration's FY98 budget request.
BANKING: House Banking Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, today is scheduled to address the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, where he is expected to discuss financial services integration and other issues pending before the committee. Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also is slated to speak to the NAFCU.
Wednesday, the House Banking Capital Markets Subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing on financial services modernization, and Thursday, the International Monetary Policy Subcommittee will conduct a general oversight hearing on international financial institutions.
EDUCATION: The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee Friday will hold a hearing on Pell grants and tax policies for higher education. College representatives are scheduled to testify.
The same day, Labor and Human Resources Chairman James Jeffords, R-Vt., will address the National Association of State Boards of Education.
ENERGY: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a business meeting for Wednesday, and Chairman Mur-kowski last week said he hopes to be able to take up nuclear waste legislation.
Also Wednesday, the committee is staging its second workshop on electricity deregulation. Thursday, the Parks, Preservation and Recreation Subcommittee is holding a hearing on the future of the national park system.
Pena, if confirmed as energy secretary, is scheduled to appear Thursday before the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Deputy Energy Secretary Charles Curtis will testify if Pena has not yet been confirmed.
ENVIRONMENT: Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Chafee today is scheduled to address the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents regarding Superfund.
Also on that issue, EPA Administrator Carol Browner is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee.
The House Commerce Health and Environment, and Oversight and Investigations subcommittees will hold a joint hearing Thursday on proposed EPA air quality standards, as well as concerns over the response by the agency and the OMB to committee requests for information regarding the standards.
The House Resources Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee is holding a hearing Tuesday on federal funding for state programs under the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Wednesday, the full committee is holding a business meeting.
HEALTH: The House Commerce Health and Environment Subcommittee Tuesday is holding a hearing to get the views of the nation's governors on Medicaid reform; the Senate Finance Committee has set a hearing the same day focusing on the governors' perspectives on the Medicaid program.
On Thursday, the Health subpanel will hold a hearing on the Medicare Preventive Benefit Improvement Act, which would provide coverage for annual mammograms for all women 65 and up, annual pap smears and pelvic examinations for women at high risk of getting cervical cancer, colorectal cancer screenings, annual prostate screenings and new diabetes benefits.
The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee plans a hearing Tuesday on teaching hospitals and Medicare disproportionate share hospital payments. And the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on graduate medical education for Wednesday.
HOUSING: The House Banking Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee Tuesday will hear testimony on H.R.2, the Housing Opportunity and Responsibility Act.
HUMAN RESOURCES: Thursday, Sen. Jeffords will address the National Association for State Community Service Programs.
LABOR: The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee Thursday will mark up compensatory time legislation that would allow private-sector hourly employees to take time off in lieu of overtime pay. The House Education and the Workforce Committee passed a similar bill last week.
However, the Senate bill also creates "flex time," which would allow an employee to schedule 80 hours of work over a two week period. For example, an employee could choose to work 50 hours one week, then 30 hours the next week.
Democrats charge such a system will allow employers to force employees to work more than a 40 hour work week without receiving overtime pay. The administration already has threatened to veto both the House and Senate bills, arguing they do not adequately protect workers from being coerced by their employers to work overtime or accept comp time instead of pay.
Senate Labor and Human Resources Democrats delayed passage of the Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act, known as the TEAM Act, by over a week, offering several amendments and engaging in lengthy debate during a three day markup that ended last Wednesday. Aides said the more complicated comp time markup could take even longer.
Jeffords said he will schedule votes on numerous sub-Cabinet administration appointments to boards and commissions only after the comp time bill is finished. Those nominations have been pending for three weeks.
Meanwhile, the Labor and Human Resources Employment and Training Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on federal job training programs.
TAXES: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on revenue-raising proposals in Clinton's FY98 budget. On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on capital gains taxes, featuring former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and a panel of economists.
Also Thursday, the Joint Economic Committee will hold the first in a series of hearings on the economics of taxation. Thursday's session will focus on problems with the income tax system.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: The Senate Commerce Committee will hear testimony Wednesday on the FCC's plans for issuing universal service regulations under last year's Telecommunications Act.
TRADE: The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday to discuss FY98 and FY99 reauthorizations for the Customs Service, the USTR and the International Trade Commission. The subpanel plans to mark up those reauthorizations Thursday.
TRANSPORTATION: The House and Senate still are waiting for the Clinton administration to submit its proposal for reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.
Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater testified two weeks ago the proposal would be ready in seven-10 days, but a department spokeswoman last Friday said it still was not ready. Congressional aides said they do not expect it until late this week, at the earliest.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation Subcommittee Thursday will hold a hearing on ISTEA program eligibility requirements.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Surface Transportation Subcommittee will continue its series of hearings on ISTEA policy and project requests by House members on Tuesday and Thursday.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Railroads Subcommittee Wednesday will hold a hearing on the state of Amtrak, at which Amtrak President Thomas Downs is scheduled to testify.
The American Public Transit Association holds its annual legislative conference this week. Slater speaks to the group today, and several members Congress, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., are scheduled to address the group Tuesday.