Sentencing Commission Nominees, Ukraine Aid, UFO Hearing, and Happy Lagwagon Day
By Jason Pye - Director, Rule of Law Initiatives
Point of Order is a (mostly) weekly preview of key congressional activity for those with more than a passing interest in federal policy.
Happy Lagwagon Day: It’s May 16! (Just click the link.)
Sentencing Commission nominees: The U.S. Sentencing Commission has not had a quorum since January 2019. That could change soon. President Biden has announced seven nominees to serve on the Sentencing Commission. The nominees are Carlton W. Reeves (also nominated to serve as chair), John Gleeson, Claria Horn Boom, Luis Felipe Restrepo, Claire McCusker Murray, Laura E. Mate, and Candice C. Wong. The nominees are a mix of Democrats and Republicans, including appointees from the Obama and Trump administrations. Once the nominees are formally submitted to the Senate, they will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House schedule and suspensions: The House returns today 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 Thursday. Last votes for the week are expected at 3:00 pm on Thursday. There are 28 bills (listed below) on the suspension calendar for the week.
Bombing Prevention Act, H.R. 6873 (Homeland Security Committee)
President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition Act, H.R. 6824 (Homeland Security Committee)
State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act, S. 2520 (Homeland Security Committee)
Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act, H.R. 6825 (Homeland Security Committee)
DHS Acquisition Reform Act, H.R. 6871 (Homeland Security Committee)
Cybersecurity Grants for Schools Act, H.R. 6868 (Homeland Security Committee)
DHS Roles and Responsibilities in Cyber Space Act, H.R. 5658 (Homeland Security Committee)
Public Safety Officer Support Act, H.R. 6943 (Judiciary Committee)
TBI/PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act, H.R. 2992 (Judiciary Committee)
To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to transfer the name of property of the Department of Veterans Affairs designated by law to other property of the Department, S. 3527 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
To designate the community-based outpatient clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs planned to be built in Oahu, Hawaii, as the "Daniel Kahikina Akaka Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic," S. 1760 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
To rename the Provo Veterans Center in Orem, Utah, as the "Col. Gail S. Halvorsen 'Candy Bomber' Veterans Center, " S. 2514 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Fiscal Year 2022 Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Authorization Act, H.R. 7500 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Patient Advocate Tracker Act, H.R. 5754 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Veterans Eligibility to Transfer School (VETS) Credit Act, H.R. 6604 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act, S. 2687 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to update the payment system of the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow for electronic fund transfer of educational assistance, administered by the Secretary, to a foreign institution of higher education, H.R. 7375 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Student Veteran Work Study Modernization Act, H.R. 6376 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Department of Veterans Affairs Principles of Benefits Automation Act, H.R. 7153 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Lactation Spaces for Veteran Moms Act, H.R. 5738 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
MST Claims Coordination Act, H.R. 7335 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Dignity for MST Survivors Act, H.R. 6961 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to seek to enter into an agreement with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for a review of examinations, furnished by the Secretary, to individuals who submit claims to the Secretary for compensation under chapter 11 of title 38, United States Code, for mental and physical conditions linked to military sexual trauma, H.R. 6064 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
VA Peer Support Enhancement for MST Survivors Act, H.R. 2724 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Veterans Rapid Restraining Assistance Program Restoration and Recovery Act, S. 4089 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options for Veterans Act, S. 2533 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas SERVICE Act, S. 2102 (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Training Act, H.R. 6052 (Veterans' 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 today at 3:00 pm to markup the rule for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, H.R. 7309; the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, H.R. 7688; the Targeting Resources to Communities in Need Act, H.R. 6531; and a bill to name a courthouse and federal building after Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, S. 2938. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act reauthorizes the 2014 federal workforce development law of the same name. The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to target alleged price gouging for gasoline. The Targeting Resources to Communities in Need Act would direct certain federal agencies to account for communities experiencing poverty for greater shares of federal funds. Finally, S. 2938 would name a courthouse and federal building in Tallahassee, Florida after Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, who was the first Black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. Bills like this usually pass under suspension, but there was controversy over this naming among House Republicans because of a 1999 opinion Hatchett authored against school prayer when he served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. S. 2938 failed to pass on suspension in March. Additional legislation is possible.
January 6 Committee issues unprecedented subpoenas: The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has issued subpoenas to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), and Scott Perry (R-PA). In a release, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said, “The Select Committee has learned that several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6th and the events leading up to it. Before we hold our hearings next month, we wished to provide members the opportunity to discuss these matters with the committee voluntarily. Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th. We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.” Again, this is unprecedented. It’s unclear if the members will comply with the subpoena or sue to stop the subpoenas. There is, however, the potential for consequences, which could include referral to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution.
RSC chair race: The race for the next chair of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) is already underway between Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) and Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL). Hern, who chairs the RSC Budget and Spending Task Force, is in his second term while Cammack is in her first. The current chair, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who embodies political ambition and is seemingly desperate to move up in the leadership ranks, is term-limited.
A hearing on UFOs: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation will hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10:00 am on “unidentified aerial phenomena.” At least some of the hearing will be open. Apparently, this is the first hearing of its kind in a half-century, and we all know that Tom DeLonge will be tuned in.
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.
Creating a More Resilient Nation: Stakeholder Perspectives (Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery; Tuesday at 9:00 am)
Examining Ways to Improve the Juvenile Justice System and Support America's Young People (Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, Tuesday at 9:00 am)
Examining Potential Reforms of Emergency Powers (Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties; Tuesday at 9:30 am)
Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (Intelligence Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation; Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Underpaid, Overworked, and Underappreciated: How the Pandemic Economy Disproportionately Harmed Low-Wage Women Workers (Coronavirus Crisis, Tuesday at 11:45 am)
Markup of Various Legislative Measures (Financial Services, Tuesday at 12:00 pm)
Markup of Various Legislative Measures (Science, Space, and Technology; Tuesday at 12:15 pm)
Reviving Competition, Part 6: Rebuilding America’s Economic Leadership and Combatting Corporate Profiteering (Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law; Tuesday at 1:00 pm)
Preparing for Take-Off: Examining Efforts to Address Climate Change at U.S. Airports (Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, Tuesday at 1:00 pm)
Markup of Various Legislative Measures (Agriculture, Tuesday at 2:00 pm)
Securing the DotGov: Examining Efforts to Strengthen Federal Network Cybersecurity (Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation; Tuesday at 2:00 pm)
SBA Management Review: Office of Capital Access (Small Business, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Taxpayer Fairness Across the IRS (Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Revoking Your Rights: The Ongoing Crisis in Abortion Care Access (Judiciary, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
The Impact of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine in the Middle East and North Africa (Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism; Wednesday at 2:00 pm)
Examining DHS’s Efforts to Combat the Opioid Epidemic (Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations; Wednesday at 2:00 pm)
Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain (Climate Crisis, Wednesday at 2:30 pm)
Oversight Hearing on Clemency and the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; Thursday at 9:00 am)
Free Speech Under Attack (Part II): Curriculum Sabotage and Classroom Censorship (Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Building a Workforce to Navigate the Electric Vehicle Future (Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology; Friday at 10:00 am)
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.
Ukraine aid begins the week: The Senate will return today at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of the Additional Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act, H.R. 7691. A roll call vote on the cloture motion to the motion to proceed to the legislation is expected around 5:30 pm. The Additional Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act provides $40.8 billion of additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and European partners. The House passed the bill last week by a vote of 368 to 57. Quick passage of the Additional Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act doesn’t seem likely. For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to add language that would create a watchdog to oversee the money. A few other Republicans have concerns, but Paul is pushing back. Although he was offered a vote on an amendment, Paul objected to moving the bill on Thursday because he wants the language to create a watchdog added to the base text. Any changes would require that the Additional Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act go back to the House. Nominees are likely to be on the agenda the rest of the week.
“China bill” conference committee has kicked off: Although the schedule for any additional conference committee meetings is unclear, the 107-member conference committee that has been formed to resolve the differences between the House and Senate on the so-called “China bill,” or the bipartisan innovation and competition bill, H.R. 4521, met for the first time last week. As mentioned there are 107 members of the conference committee–81 House members (50 Democrats and 31 Republicans) and 26 senators (evenly divided between the two parties).
Senate committee schedule: Below are some Senate committee hearings that may be of interest. The full Senate committee schedule for the week is here.
Climate Smart from Farm to Fork: Building an Affordable and Resilient Food Supply Chain (Energy and Natural Resources, Tuesday at 10:00 am)
Nominations Hearing (Foreign Relations, Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Cybersecurity in the Health and Education Sectors (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Wednesday at 10:00 am)
Business Meeting (Foreign Relations, Wednesday at 2:00 pm)
Stop Gun Violence: The Jackson-Elias Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act (Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Wednesday at 2:30 pm)
Business Meeting (Small Business, Wednesday at 2:30 pm)
The Path Forward On U.S.-Syria Policy: Strategy And Accountability- Immediately Following the Business Meeting (Foreign Relations, Wednesday at TBD)
Executive Business Meeting (Judiciary, Thursday at 9:00 am)
Nomination Hearing (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Thursday at 10:00 am)
Mental Health Care for Older Adults: Raising Awareness, Addressing Stigma, and Providing Support (Aging, Thursday at 10:00 am)
Nominations Hearing (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Thursday at 10:15 am)
Administration of Upcoming Elections (Rules and Administration, Thursday at 11:00 am)
If you’re interested in watching any of these hearings online, you can find committee websites here.
Deficit watch and more: The budget deficit through the first seven months of FY 2022 was $360 billion. April was a surplus month because of increased revenues. When the economy is performing well, this is the norm. September could also be a surplus month. This is quite good news. (The Congressional Budget Office will publish its budget and economic projections for the next ten years next week.) That said, there are still reasons to be concerned. Although inflation was down ever so slightly in April, it still registered at 8.3 percent over the past year. Obviously, supply chain issues are part of the problem, but there’s no denying that fiscal and monetary policy have played a role. The Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates, most recently by half a percentage point, to combat inflation. That increases borrowing costs and federal outlays since debt service is linked to interest rates. The economy contracted in the first quarter of the year, and first-time jobless claims are up. Whether we’re in a period isn’t completely clear, but it may be necessary considering the extraordinary response to the pandemic and the subsequent overheating of the economy.
About baby formula: Admittedly, I hadn’t heard about the baby formula shortage until the debate over the Ukraine supplemental when at least some conservative House members criticized the Biden administration for sending money to Ukraine while this shortage impacted the United States. Of course, it’s a serious issue. In February, Abbott Nutrition, the largest formula maker in the United States, issued a voluntary recall of powder formula because of a potential connection to bacterial infections. The biggest problem, though, appears to be trade and regulatory policies. Our trade policy, in particular, restricts baby forumla imports into the United States. (Yes, Trump’s beloved United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement gets blame here, not that you’ll hear conservatives say that.) In short, government created the problem, and Congress should be focused on addressing it rather than more partisan bomb-throwing.