Senate Prepares to Pass Defense Bill That Obama Will Veto
Measure uses Overseas Contingency Operations funds to offer additional money to the Defense Department over the sequestration caps.
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.
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.
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.
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.