Closing Out the Week in Congress Nov. 16-20

November 20, 2015

Submitted by:  Veronica Coffin

Repercussions of the attacks in Paris ruled headlines this week as the House voted to restrict U.S. refugee policy – a bill that the White House threatened to veto. Congress received a high-level security briefing. And Congress held two joint House-Senate conference committee meetings — on Highway and Education reform bills.

Sponsored by: Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX)
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase the maximum prison term for a person who reenters after being denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed from two years to five years.

Bill to Limit Refugee Policy Passes House

As Congress reconvened for the week, dozens of bills were introduced in response to theParis attacks. Many sought to restrict refugee policies, including The American Safe Act (H.R. 4038) from Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX) which passed the House on Thursday/

To Conference We Go

One of the final steps of “regular order” in the legislative process is “going to conference” when the House and Senate appoint conferees to meet and work out differences in different versions of bills that passed both chambers.

On Thursday, two conference committees met on major legislation: the long-term highway bill and an education reform bill. This is more in-the-weeds, “regular order” legislating than has happened in a long time! This increases the number of conference committees from two to four (so far) for the 114th Congress.

The conferences now underway will likely impact infrastructure projects and education policy for many years to come.

Transportation Conference

  • Lawmakers are expected to reach agreement and file a conference agreement by Nov. 30. The combined bill (a “conference report”) would then come up for a vote in both the House and Senate.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R, PA) says that’s “a very ambitious schedule.”
  • The House and Senate passed respective bills that cover six years, but so far, neither legislative body can find enough funding for more than three years. This obstacle caused Senate leaders and transportation lobbying groups to shift support to a shorter bill with more funding. House Transportation Ranking Member, Peter DeFazio (D, OR), supports this option but Chairman Shuster is “sticking to his guns on a six-year bill, saying the House option is his preferred length.”
  • Learn more about the bills S. 1647 DRIVE Act and H.R. 3763 STRR Act.

Education Conference

Federal Reserve in Congressional Crosshairs
On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3189: The Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization (FORM) Act by a vote of 241-185. The “Audit the Fed” bill now goes to the Senate. The White House has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches the President’s desk. Read more from the AP.
– Congress may tap the Fed’s capital reserves as a “pay-for” for the Highway Bill, now in conference. The Fed expressed “strong concerns about using the resources of the Federal Reserve to finance fiscal spending.”

#ViewFromTheHill – November 16, 2015

Upped security was evident on the Hill this week, in response to recent terrorist attacks andsecurity concerns. Bearcats like this one were spotted, and public events and school field trips were cancelled or postponed.

Trans Awareness Week

The House launched a task force for transgender equality and hosted its first-ever forum on violence against transgender people. Learn more about current legislation affecting the transgender community.

Congressional Pushback on Obama Environmental Efforts

Congressional disapproval of environmental rules
On Tuesday, the Senate held two votes invoking the Congressional Review Act to “disapprove” the President’s Clean Power Plan. (Read more about the Congressional Review Act 
a “legislative Loch Ness monster.”)

Paris Climate talks coming – Congressional opposition hardening
The largest climate talks ever will convene in Paris on November 30, with 190 countries represented. In the Senate, a bipartisan group introduced a non-binding resolution this week stating their view that any agreement emerging from the talks should be considered a “treaty,” constitutionally subject to approval by two-thirds of the Senate. The Obama Administration has indicated it plans to negotiate the deal in a way where it would not be submitted to Congress.

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