Architect of the Capitol

Congress Will Race This Week to Avoid a Shutdown

Lawmakers will look to pass an omnibus spending bill and push forward on tax extenders, reconciliation and education.

Tis the sea­son—not for the hol­i­days, though those are here too, but for Con­gress to scramble to fin­ish a hand­ful of big-tick­et items be­fore head­ing home for the year.

So this week will find the two cham­bers ra­cing to agree on an om­ni­bus spend­ing bill be­fore Fri­day’s fund­ing dead­line, and they’ll also try to fin­ish ne­go­ti­ations on a massive pack­age of tax ex­ten­sions and com­plete work on re­con­cili­ation le­gis­la­tion and a cus­toms bill. Here’s what else is on tap:


The Sen­ate ex­pects to pass a ma­jor edu­ca­tion re­form bill this week, sig­ni­fic­antly scal­ing back the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s role in pub­lic schools after George W. Bush signed No Child Left Be­hind about 13 years ago. The bill—called the Every Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act—keeps the an­nu­al, statewide read­ing and math tests in grades 3 through 8 and main­tains that states re­port the aca­dem­ic per­form­ance of low-in­come and minor­ity stu­dents. But it bars fed­er­al man­dates on teach­er eval­u­ations, al­lows the states great­er flex­ib­il­ity in how to as­sess and fix their schools, and au­thor­izes a preschool com­pet­it­ive grant pro­gram. 


While gov­ern­ments gath­er in Par­is for the second week of a United Na­tions con­fer­ence to ham­mer out a glob­al agree­ment to fight cli­mate change, a dif­fer­ent sort of cli­mate de­bate will take place in the halls of the Sen­ate. Pres­id­en­tial con­tender and well-known cli­mate-change doubter Ted Cruz will hold a hear­ing in the Space, Sci­ence and Com­pet­it­ive­ness sub­com­mit­tee of the Com­merce Com­mit­tee ques­tion­ing the role of hu­mans in cli­mate change, with a wit­ness list full of sci­ent­ists who have ques­tioned the main­stream con­sensus on the is­sue.

The House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form’s In­teri­or sub­com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing Tues­day on a pro­posed In­teri­or De­part­ment rule pla­cing lim­its on coal pro­du­cers op­er­at­ing near streams. The stream-pro­tec­tion rule has been cri­ti­cized by the in­dustry for be­ing too re­strict­ive, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion says it will pro­tect drink­ing wa­ter and nearby land.

In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell will testi­fy at a Wed­nes­day hear­ing in the House Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee about her agency’s role in the Au­gust spill of min­ing waste in Col­or­ado, which was caused by an EPA-backed team.

On Fri­day, the Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion will un­veil draft rules that would force oil and min­ing com­pan­ies to dis­close pay­ments to for­eign gov­ern­ments for pro­jects in their coun­tries. A fed­er­al court shot down an earli­er ver­sion in 2013, and now the big ques­tion is wheth­er the re­vised ver­sion will provide ex­emp­tions (or loop­holes, de­pend­ing who you ask) that power­ful oil com­pan­ies such as Ex­xon and Shell have lob­bied for.

The long-delayed reg­u­la­tion is re­quired un­der the 2010 Dodd-Frank fin­an­cial over­haul law. It’s aimed at in­creas­ing trans­par­ency in or­der to com­bat the “re­source curse”—the cor­rup­tion, con­flict, and poverty that of­ten af­flict en­ergy-rich na­tions in Africa and else­where. The SEC, which has slow-walked the rule, has prom­ised a fed­er­al judge that it would fi­nal­ize the reg­u­la­tion by June of 2016.


Con­gress will con­tin­ue work­ing on a tax-ex­tenders pack­age deal this week, but it’s look­ing in­creas­ingly un­likely that a delay of Obama­care’s Ca­dillac tax, which is levied on pricey em­ploy­er-sponsored health in­sur­ance plans, will be in­cluded.

Dur­ing Thursday’s nearly sev­en-hour vote-a-rama on re­con­cili­ation le­gis­la­tion, an amend­ment re­peal­ing the Ca­dillac passed the up­per cham­ber 90-10. Though the ma­jor­ity of sen­at­ors are now on re­cord sup­port­ing a re­peal, that doesn’t mean a delay of the tax—which starts in 2018—will be in the pack­age. (The two cham­bers still have to agree on a fi­nal ver­sion of the re­con­cili­ation bill be­fore it heads to Pres­id­ent Obama’s desk for a prom­ised veto.)

“I don’t think the Ca­dillac tax is go­ing to be part of any of this end-of-the-year ne­go­ti­ation. I think, frankly, it’s pretty good lever­age to do some more sys­tem­ic re­forms for the Af­ford­able Care Act,” Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn told re­port­ers last week. “It’s too valu­able to be trad­ing off for oth­er smal­ler, less valu­able items here at the end of the year.”

In ad­di­tion, the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Tues­day on the na­tion’s opioid epi­dem­ic, the first time that the pan­el will con­vene to dis­cuss the top­ic this Con­gress. From 1999 to 2013, pre­scrip­tion-paink­iller-re­lated deaths quad­rupled. Sim­il­arly, heroin-re­lated-over­dose deaths nearly quad­rupled from 2002 to 2013.

Also Tues­day, the House En­ergy and Com­merce Over­sight and In­vest­ig­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee will hold its second hear­ing in a two-part series check­ing up on the Af­ford­able Care Act’s state in­sur­ance mar­ket­places. Andy Slavitt, the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices act­ing ad­min­is­trat­or, is sched­uled to testi­fy.

On Wed­nes­day, the House En­ergy and Com­merce Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing titled, “Ex­amin­ing Le­gis­la­tion to Im­prove Health Care and Treat­ment.”


FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey will testi­fy Wed­nes­day be­fore the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. The over­sight hear­ing will likely fo­cus on an ar­ray of is­sues, in­clud­ing the FBI’s coun­terter­ror­ism ef­forts, sur­veil­lance cap­ab­il­it­ies, and the de­bate over en­cryp­tion tech­no­logy. Comey has pre­vi­ously warned that en­cryp­ted com­mu­nic­a­tions could al­low ter­ror­ists to “go dark” from U.S. sur­veil­lance. 

The House Over­sight Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing on Wed­nes­day on on­line gambling. The pan­el’s chair­man, Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, a Utah Re­pub­lic­an, has been a lead­ing crit­ic of on­line gambling, and the hear­ing’s title “A Casino in Every Smart­phone—Law En­force­ment Im­plic­a­tions” sug­gests a hard­line ap­proach to the is­sue. While the Justice De­part­ment has al­lowed states to reg­u­late on­line gambling in their own bor­ders, Chaf­fetz has been push­ing for a na­tion­al ban. 

The Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee will vote Wed­nes­day on Jes­sica Rosen­wor­cel’s nom­in­a­tion to serve an­oth­er term as a mem­ber of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion. The com­mit­tee is also sched­uled to con­sider a bill that would re­quire the FCC to de­pos­it rev­en­ue from air­wave auc­tions in­to the fed­er­al treas­ury. 


After two weeks in a row of trips over­seas, Obama has a re­l­at­ively light sched­ule in Wash­ing­ton this week. He star­ted off his week with re­marks at the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors re­cep­tion Sunday at the White House be­fore his prime-time ad­dress to the na­tion on com­batting ter­ror­ism. On Monday, he’ll have meet­ings at the White House, and on Tues­day will at­tend a Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee roundtable. 

On Wed­nes­day, he’ll de­liv­er re­marks at an an­niversary event for the 13th Amend­ment, which form­ally ab­ol­ished slavery and was rat­i­fied by the states on Dec. 6, 1865. Later that day, he’ll meet with Is­raeli Pres­id­ent Re­uven Rivlin, and host Ha­nukkah re­cep­tions at the White House. He’ll at­tend more meet­ings at the White House on Thursday and Fri­day.

Ben GemanAlex RogersRachel RoubeinBrendan Sasso and Rebecca Nelson contributed to this article.