Senate Prepares to Pass Defense Bill That Obama Will Veto

Defense Department file photo

While all the polit­ic­al fo­cus will be on Thursday’s House GOP lead­er­ship elec­tions, the le­gis­lat­ive show must go on. So Con­gress this week will fin­ish up its work on the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, send­ing le­gis­la­tion to Pres­id­ent Obama’s desk where a prom­ised veto awaits.

The bicam­er­al con­fer­ence re­port on the NDAA passed the House on Thursday on a 270-165 vote and now heads to the Sen­ate, where a pro­ced­ur­al vote is ex­pec­ted on Tues­day.

The vote Tues­day will mark the second time in a week that Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell will present Demo­crats with a choice between main­tain­ing their op­pos­i­tion to le­gis­la­tion that main­tains the cur­rent se­quest­ra­tion caps for 2016 and fund­ing U.S. de­fense op­er­a­tions.

The bill is ex­pec­ted to pass the Sen­ate, with sup­port from a hand­ful of Demo­crats. But the ma­jor­ity of the minor­ity party, like the White House, op­poses the bill be­cause of its use of Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions funds to of­fer ad­di­tion­al money to the De­fense De­part­ment over the se­quest­ra­tion caps, a move Demo­crats and many hawk­ish Re­pub­lic­ans view as a gim­mick.

The Sen­ate’s vote will mat­ter little prac­tic­ally, giv­en Obama’s prom­ised veto and the already suf­fi­cient votes in the House to sus­tain it.

The House, mean­while, is set to bring to the floor this week a bill that would re­peal the dec­ades-old fed­er­al ban on crude-oil ex­ports. The re­peal ef­fort has slowly picked up sup­port in re­cent months, in­clud­ing the back­ing of House Speak­er John Boehner, but still faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture in the Sen­ate.

The real fo­cus in the House will be on Thursday’s lead­er­ship elec­tions to re­place Boehner as speak­er and the jock­ey­ing for the ma­jor­ity-lead­er and whip po­s­i­tions, as­sum­ing those jobs open.

EN­ERGY AND EN­VIR­ON­MENT

Aside from the oil-ex­port bill on the House floor, Con­gress takes its first crack at the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions-test-cheat­ing scan­dal, with the House En­ergy and Com­merce Over­sight and In­vest­ig­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee call­ing in Volk­swa­gen Group of Amer­ica Pres­id­ent Mi­chael Horn to testi­fy at a Thursday hear­ing. The com­mit­tee will also hear from a rep­res­ent­at­ive of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency on al­leg­a­tions that Volk­swa­gen used a “de­feat device” to dodge emis­sions re­quire­ments. 

EPA act­ing air chief Janet Mc­Cabe will testi­fy be­fore the En­ergy and Power Sub­com­mit­tee about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rules lim­it­ing car­bon-di­ox­ide emis­sions from power plants.

TECH­NO­LOGY

The House and Sen­ate will hold du­el­ing hear­ings Wed­nes­day morn­ing on ways to im­prove mo­bile In­ter­net ac­cess. The Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee’s hear­ing will dis­cuss “re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers” to high-speed cel­lu­lar net­works, while the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mu­nic­a­tions and Tech­no­logy Sub­com­mit­tee will ex­am­ine ways for fed­er­al agen­cies to use the air­waves more ef­fi­ciently, which would al­low for more com­mer­cial wire­less traffic. 

Also on Wed­nes­day, the Asia-fo­cused sub­com­mit­tees of the House and Sen­ate for­eign-af­fairs pan­els will take on cy­ber ques­tions in Asia, with a hear­ing in the Sen­ate on “the North Korean threat,” and a post­mortem of Chinese Pres­id­ent Xi Jin­ping’s state vis­it in the House.

On the same very busy day, the House Trans­port­a­tion Com­mit­tee’s avi­ation sub­com­mit­tee will hear testi­mony from the Fed­er­al Avi­ation Ad­min­is­tra­tion deputy ad­min­is­trat­or about drone safety, and the House Small Busi­ness Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing on the ef­fects of the EMV chip stand­ard for bank cards on small busi­nesses.

HEALTH

On Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee’s Labor, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Edu­ca­tion, and Re­lated Agen­cies Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing on in­vest­ing in the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health, at which its dir­ect­or is in­cluded on the wit­ness list. The sub­com­mit­tee has pro­posed rais­ing the amount of fund­ing ap­pro­pri­ated to the NIH, which has gen­er­ally re­ceived bi­par­tis­an sup­port. 

On Thursday, the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee will hold its second hear­ing on Planned Par­ent­hood. This one will fo­cus on “the hor­rors of abor­tion pro­ced­ures, de­tails of late-term abor­tions, and the ele­ments in­volved when al­ter­ing an abor­tion in or­der to har­vest fetal tis­sue.”

Also on Thursday, the En­ergy and Com­merce Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing ex­amin­ing sev­er­al bills aimed at ad­dress­ing the na­tion’s es­cal­at­ing drug-ab­use threat.

WHITE HOUSE

After two weeks with a heavy em­phas­is on for­eign policy, Pres­id­ent Obama shifts his at­ten­tion to do­mest­ic is­sues and do­mest­ic travel this week. The only sched­uled di­ver­sion to in­ter­na­tion­al is­sues will be a meet­ing Wed­nes­day with Ger­man Pres­id­ent Joachim Gauck. Much of Wed­nes­day will be de­voted to what the White House is call­ing a “Sum­mit on Work­er Voice,” an ef­fort to give work­ers more say on work­place is­sues. On Thursday, the pres­id­ent will speak at the Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Caucus’s an­nu­al awards din­ner. On Fri­day, he hits the road, go­ing to Seattle for Demo­crat­ic Party events. Then it is on to Los Angeles on Sat­urday for more polit­ic­al fun­draisers. He will spend the week­end in Ran­cho Santa Fe, a wealthy part of San Diego County and home to many fine golf courses.

George E. Condon Jr.Caitlin OwensJason PlautzBrendan Sasso and Kaveh Waddell contributed to this article.

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