House and Senate Return, Biden Nominates Ambassador to Ukraine, Low Recidivism Among First Step Beneficiaries
By Jason Pye - Director, Rule of Law Initiatives
DOJ finds low recidivism among First Step beneficiaries: The Department of Justice released its annual report on the First Step Act. The report covers several different aspects of the First Step Act, but one particular section of the report is intriguing and undercuts opponents of both the landmark 2018 criminal justice reform law and other legislation currently pending, including the EQUAL Act, S. 79. The report found that of the 9,791 individuals released from federal prison because of the provisions of the First Step Act, including retroactivity of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, only 15.9 percent were rearrested. The rearrest rate for individuals whose primary offense was drugs was 15.4 percent. Rearrest is an incredibly broad measure of recidivism, so the recidivism rate based on reconviction is almost certainly lower.
Brace for a busy work period: We’re back after a two-week recess. The next few weeks are going to be loaded with discussions on various legislative priorities. These priorities include additional funding for Ukraine, additional funding for COVID-19, renewed discussions on the Build Back Better Act (or whatever it’s called now), Title 42, and more. The Senate is more the focus in this work period than the House. Both chambers are in session this week, but the House is out next week. We’ll keep track on everything and possibly send out an update later this week if things move.
Fed nominees in the Senate: The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of the nomination of Lael Brainard to serve as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. A roll call vote on the cloture motion for the Brainard nomination is expected to begin around 5:30 pm. The nominations of Lisa DeNell Cook to serve as a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Alvaro M. Bedoya to serve as a Federal Trade Commissioner are also expected early in the week.
Biden nominates Ukraine ambassador: With the United States set to reopen its embassy in Kyiv in a few weeks, President Biden has nominated Bridget A. Brink to serve as the United States Ambassador to Ukraine. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over the nomination. We’d expect the committee to move rather quickly to get Brink confirmed.
Senate committee schedule: Below are some Senate committee hearings that may be of interest. The full Senate committee schedule for the week is here.
To receive testimony on the health of the defense industrial base (Armed Services, Tuesday at 9:30 am)
Mistreatment of Military Families in Privatized Housing (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations, Tuesday at 10:00 am)
FDA User Fee Agreements: Advancing Medical Product Regulation and Innovation for the Benefit of Patients, FDA Center Directors (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Legislative to Review S. 4030, the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, and S. 3870, the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act (Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Child Care and Other Policy Tools to Combat Bottlenecks and Inflation (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy; Tuesday at 2:30 pm)
Nominations hearing (Judiciary, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
To receive testimony on United States Special Operations Command’s efforts to sustain the readiness of special operations forces and transform the force for future security challenges (Armed Services, Wednesday at 2:30 am)
Oversight of the Small Business Administration (Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Wednesday at 2:30 pm)
Executive Business Meeting (Judiciary, Thursday at 9:00 am)
Nominations hearing (Energy and Natural Resources, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Nominations hearing (Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Thursday at 10:00 am)
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.
House schedule and suspensions: The House returns Tuesday at 2:00 pm for legislative business. First and last votes today are expected around 6:30 pm. The chamber will be in session through Friday. Last votes for the week are expected at 3:00 pm on Friday. There are 28 bills (listed below) on the suspension calendar for the week.
Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act, H.R. 6445 (Small Business Committee)
Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act, H.R. 6441 (Small Business Committee)
SCORE for Small Business Act, H.R. 6450 (Small Business Committee)
One Stop Shop for Small Business Compliance Act, H.R. 4877 (Small Business Committee)
Small Business Advocacy Improvements Act, H.R. 6454 (Small Business Committee)
Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act, S. 270 (Natural Resources Committee)
Highlands Conservation Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2793 (Natural Resources Committee)
Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asia Pacific American History and Culture Act, H.R. 3525 (Natural Resources Committee)
Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, H.R. 5973 (Natural Resources Committee)
Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, H.R. 6023 (Natural Resources Committee)
National Liberty Memorial Preservation Act, H.R. 6201 (Natural Resources Committee)
Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, H.R. 6651 (Natural Resources Committee)
American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act, S. 497 (Natural Resources Committee)
Don Young Alaska Native Health Care Land Transfers Act, H.R. 441 (Natural Resources Committee)
Patents for Humanity Act, H.R. 5796 (Judiciary Committee)
Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, S. 3059 (Judiciary Committee)
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Authorization Act, H.R. 4133 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Stop Iranian Drones Act, H.R. 6089 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, H.R. 4693 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
To direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization, and for other purposes, S. 812 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act, H.R. 7311 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act, H.R. 3344 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
AXIS Act, H.R. 7314 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Protecting Semiconductor Supply Chain Materials from Authoritarians Act, H.R. 7372 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to provide evidence or to release United States citizen Paul Whelan, H.Res. 336 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Georgia Support Act, H.R. 923 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Ukraine Religious Freedom Support Act, H.R. 496 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act, H.R. 6930 (Foreign Affairs Committee)
Bills that come to the floor under suspension of the rules require two-thirds of members present and voting for passage. This is the most common way that bills considered by the House come to the floor. Some of these bills may be passed by a voice vote, rather than a roll call vote. Most bills that come to the floor under suspension aren’t widely considered controversial, although leadership may occasionally test a bill under suspension to gauge opposition or sneak a bill through the chamber.
Rule bills: The House Rules Committee will meet on Wednesday at 2:00 pm to markup the Ukraine Democracy Lend-Lease Act, S. 3522, and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, H.R. 350. The Ukraine Democracy Lend-Lease Act would allow the United States to provide further assistance to Ukraine while bypassing bureaucracy that could slow down additional aid. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would essentially allow federal law enforcement more power to crack down on domestic terrorism, including white supremecy and hate crimes. Additional legislation is possible.
McCarthy got this one right: During the recess, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Republicans shouldn’t attempt to impeach President Biden for “political purposes.” He prefers oversight and investigations. McCarthy was on the receiving end of some criticism from ultra-conservative House Republicans for those comments. Obviously, talk of impeachment would be a distraction. However, McCarthy’s point is one that should be taken to heart. Impeachment is not a political tool that should be used so casually by either party. (The second impeachment of President Trump was entirely warranted.) Writing in Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton defined impeachable actions as “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” Policy disagreements, even when coming from interpretations of statutes, shouldn’t be reasons for impeachment. Republicans should keep that in mind, or they could pay a price similar to the one that they paid in the 1998 midterm election.
But McCarthy has a really big headache to deal with: McCarthy has served as the Republican leader since August 2014. When Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) resigned, many assumed that McCarthy was the next in line, but he dropped out. The growing sense is that Republicans are likely to take the House this fall. McCarthy is the likeliest Republican to take the Speaker's gavel. However, The New York Times reported that McCarthy planned to call then-President Trump to ask him to resign in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. McCarthy strongly denied making the comments. Then the Times produced the receipts via a recording in which McCarthy clearly says that he'd had it with Trump and would ask him to resign. Further complicating things, McCarthy was talking with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has been all but excommunicated from the House Republican Conference for her criticisms of Trump. The good news for McCarthy is that Trump hasn't lashed out. In fact, Trump told the Wall Street Journal, "I like him. And other than that brief period of time, I suspect he likes me quite a bit."
House committee schedule: Below are some House committee hearings that may be of interest. The full House committee schedule for the week can be found here.
Oversight of Federal Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking (Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; Wednesday at 10:00 am)
McKinsey & Company’s Conduct and Conflicts at the Heart of the Opioid Epidemic (Oversight and Reform, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
An Examination of Price Discrepancies, Transparency, and Alleged Unfair Practices in Cattle Markets (Agriculture, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Consumers First: Semi-Annual Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Financial Services, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, Wednesday at 10:15 am)
Building Confidence in the Supreme Court Through Ethics and Recusal Reforms (Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet; Wednesday at 2:00 pm)
Examining Workforce Development and Job Creation in Surface Transportation Construction (Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit; Wednesday at 2:00 pm)
Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (Homeland Security, Thursday at 10:00 am)
A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Agriculture, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Preventing Pandemics through US Wildlife-borne Disease Surveillance (Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Thursday at 10:00 am)
A Growing Threat: The Impact of Disinformation Targeted at Communities of Color (House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Now or Never: The Urgent Need for Ambitious Climate Action (Science, Space, and Technology; Thursday at 10:00 am)
Ensuring Scientific Integrity at Our Nation’s Public Health Agencies (Coronavirus Crisis, Friday at 9:00 am)
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.
Rest in peace, Senator Hatch: Former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) passed away over the weekend. He was 88 years old. Hatch, who came from very humble beginnings, served in the Senate longer than any other Republican. Although his legislative accomplishments are too numerous to list here, Hatch was the chair of the Senate Finance Committee when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017.
Deficit watch: The federal budget deficit through March of FY 2022 is $667 billion. Revenues were up 25 percent compared to the same time in FY 2021 while outlays were down 18 percent. Historically, April brings a surplus because of tax filing, so the deficit may very well decline to some degree next month.
Twitter appears to go to Elon Musk: Although there has been considerable drama around this, Twitter is likely to be purchased by eccentric Tesla CEO Elon Musk for $43 billion. The formal announcement could come as early as today.