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Judge halts Obama's immigration action

On Monday, President Obama's immigration reform policy hit a judicial roadblock. Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas, issued an injunction that suspends his executive action. The judge found that a coalition of 26 states challenging Obama's actions had made enough of a showing to warrant staying implementation of the deportation policy as the case moves forward.

The Justice Department said it would appeal Hanen's order to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and White House aides said the government is considering asking for an emergency stay of the injunction. "We believe we are on very strong legal footing," Cecilia Munoz, Obama's top domestic policy adviser, said on a conference call with reporters.

Courts historically have granted the federal government wide discretion in regulating the flow of immigrants, and the administration has long contended that it has prosecutorial discretion under the law to set deportation priorities.

The ruling emboldened conservative opposition to Obama's policy on Capitol Hill, a dispute that threatens to shutter the Homeland Security Department when funding runs out at the end of the month. On Tuesday, DHS said that as a result of Hanen's order, it would not, as was planned, begin accepting applications from the first set of illegal immigrants in a position to receive relief from deportation under Obama's executive actions. Ultimately, as many as five million illegal immigrants could benefit from the program.

The latest in the battle over DHS funding

A federal judge's stay of President Obama's executive action on immigration could give congressional Republicans a lifeline to avoid a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department. But it is not yet clear that they'll take it.

With funding set to lapse at the end of the month, and a House-passed bill stalled in the Senate over provisions rolling back Obama's executive action, some on the Hill are speculating that the temporary injunction could give House and Senate leaders cover to pass a clean DHS funding bill—either one that covers the remainder of the fiscal year, as Democrats have demanded, or a short-term measure that would set up another looming deadline.

It's unclear if Republican leaders want to seize the opportunity, or indeed if their rank-and-file will allow it, but with members away from Washington for the week, it was clear Tuesday that the standoff will continue until at least next week.

It is thought that by allowing the courts to work their will, leadership could avoid consternation from conservatives in their aisles, while earning enough Democratic votes to fund the department with a clean spending bill.

But House and Senate leadership on Tuesday forecast that they would continue with their plan as usual. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down, joining conservative members in both chambers in using the judge's decision to put more pressure on Senate Democrats to capitulate.

The added pressure, Republicans hope, will force the hands of the seven Senate Democrats who said last year that they disagreed with the president's action. That theory will be tested as early as next week, when the Senate plans to hold a fourth vote on the House measure.

McConnell will huddle with his own membership next Tuesday, just three days before DHS's funding expires. And on Wednesday, House Republicans will hold an all-members meeting, during which the topic of how to proceed on DHS funding is sure to come up. House aides cautioned that no final decisions about how to move forward are likely to be made before leaders have a chance to speak with their members.

If Democrats continue their refusal to vote for a bill undercutting Obama's executive action, Republicans could remain equally unflinching, and the result would be a funding lapse for DHS (although more than 80 percent of the agency would remain operational because it is considered essential).

VIDEO

Watch the Washington Business Brief video, “Rough Week for the President with Steve LaTourette .”

Patent reform

Last year, the House passed the Innovation Act - patent reform legislation - by a wide bipartisan majority. Earlier this week, House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) re-introduced the bill. The bill continues to enjoy bipartisan support, with Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and others joining Goodlatte in sponsoring the bill.

Even though the Senate failed to act on patent reform last year, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said that the Senate would absolutely take-up and pass patent reform this year.

The Innovation Act is designed to reign in so-called patent trolls. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a patent troll is "a business model that focuses on purchasing and asserting patents against manufacturers already using the technology, rather than developing and transferring technology" to licensees.

Among the Innovation Act's numerous provisions is a "loser pays" system: Judges must award attorneys' fees to the losing party of a patent lawsuit, unless the loser's case was "reasonably justified."

Additionally, the legislation provides much needed transparency. It would require any company filing a patent suit to outline the specific structures, features, and/or functions of an allegedly infringing product and the patent alleged to be infringed. And since trolls are often shell companies that are acting on behalf of someone else, they would also be required to identify the real party of interest in the case.

Transportation in focus

FAA issues drone guidelines

On Sunday, after months of delay, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a set of rules and regulations for flying commercial drones. 

The rules, which would allow commercial users to fly drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, require operators to fly the devices within their sight during daylight hours only. The drones would have to stay within 500 feet of the ground and fly at speeds below 100 miles per hour, according to the regulations.

The regulations state that drone operators would have to be over 17 years old and would need to complete a test to obtain a certificate from the FAA before they could fly commercial drones. Operators would need to retake the test every two years to remain certified.

The proposal also says that drones cannot "drop" objects, perhaps taking aim at the idea of drone delivery services like one Amazon has put forward. The FAA's proposal also makes no mention of autonomous flight, without which drone delivery schemes likely cannot exist. But the proposal did mention the possibility of more flexible rules for a class of "micro" drones that weigh less than 4.4 pounds, which could allow for delivery by drone.

The public can comment on the proposed rules for 60 days, and the FAA plans to hold meetings to discuss the proposal before it's implemented. Existing restrictions on commercial drone flights remain in place until the rules are finalized. That means commercial drone flights are still banned, except for a handful of organizations that applied for and received special exemptions from the FAA.

Only 28 companies have received permission to fly drones for uses as varied as industrial inspections, filming over closed movie sets, and even newsgathering.

Also on Sunday, President Obama sent a presidential memo to the heads of all federal agencies, ordering them to draw up and publish policies for drone use within a year. The memo outlined privacy and accountability protections that agencies would have to take into account as they create their policies.

The memo also ordered the Commerce Department to begin working on rules concerning "privacy, accountability, and transparency" for private and commercial drone users. The FAA regulations proposed Sunday only address safety.

Political bits

House

California 44th Congressional District: Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) announced that she will not run for re-election but will instead seek a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

New York 11th Congressional District: A judge said this week that Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) must schedule a date for a special election to fill the vacancy of former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY).

Senate

California: A new poll showed former Secretary of State Condi Rice (R-CA) beating California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-CA) in a hypothetical matchup. Rice has repeatedly denied having any interest in running for office.

Florida: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is apparently interested in running against freshman Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Illinois: Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a Tea Party favorite, said he is seriously considering a primary challenge to Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL).

Utah: Former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) said that he has been approached about challenging incumbent Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) in a primary. Huntsman said, however, that such a run was not likely.

Governor

Oregon: Secretary of State Kate Brown (D-OR) was sworn in this week replacing former Governor John Kitzhaber (D-OR), who resigned.

President

Polling:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has signed on as a host of a fundraiser for Graham's potential presidential bid.

A LOOK AHEAD

House

Wednesday February 25

9:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on "Quality of Life in the Military."

10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy."

10:00 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Advancing U.S. Interests in a Troubled World: The FY2016 Foreign Affairs Budget."

10:00 a.m. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Hearing. Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules Subcommittee and National Security Subcommittee joint hearing "A Review of the Department of Homeland Security's Policies and Procedures for the Apprehension, Detention, and Release of Non-Citizens Unlawfully Present in the United States."

10:00 a.m. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Hearing. Transportation and Public Assets Subcommittee hearing on "Preventing Another MH370: Setting International Standards for Airline Flight Tracking."

10:00 a.m. House Agriculture Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on the review of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Agriculture Department budget.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the Internal Revenue Service.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Health and Human Services Department budget.

10:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "How is DOD responding to Emerging Security Challenges in Europe?"

10:00 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee - Hearing. Energy and Power Subcommittee and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee joint hearing on "The FY2016 EPA Budget."

10:00 a.m. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "An Overview of the Department of Energy's Budget Proposal for FY2016."

10:00 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - Hearing. Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee hearing on "The President's FY2016 Budget Request for Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs."

10:00 a.m. House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee - Hearing. House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee joint hearing on "The Legislative Presentation of The American Legion."

10:15 a.m. House Judiciary Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The Unconstitutionality of Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration."

10:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on Justice Department, Commerce Department and NASA oversight.

10:30 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee - Hearing. Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on "The Uncertain Future of the Internet."

11:30 a.m. House Homeland Security Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The Administration's Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal on Information Sharing."

1:00 p.m. House Budget Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on the views of members of Congress on the FY2016 budget.

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Interior Department budget.

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Housing and Urban Development Department budget.

2:00 p.m. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "FCC Process: Examining the Relationship Between the FCC and the White House."

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on the House of Representatives, Government Accountability Office and U.S. Capitol Police budgets.

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on the State Department budget.

2:00 p.m. House Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing on "Department of the Navy FY2016 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces."

2:00 p.m. House Small Business Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The SBA Budget for FY2016: Does it Meet the Needs of America's Small Business?"

2:00 p.m. House Ways and Means Committee - Meeting. Social Security Subcommittee meeting to organize for the 114th Congress.

2:00 p.m. House Ways and Means Committee - Hearing. Social Security Subcommittee hearing on "Maintaining the Disability Insurance Trust Fund's Solvency."

3:30 p.m. House Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing on "Information Technology Investments and Programs: Supporting Current Operations and Planning for the Future Threat Environment."

Thursday, February 26

9:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Energy Department budget. 10:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Outside Perspectives on the President's Proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."

10:00 a.m. House Education and the Workforce Committee - Hearing. Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee and Workforce Protections Subcommittee joint hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat."

10:00 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee - Hearing. Health Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the FY2016 HHS Budget."

10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee - Hearing. Housing and Insurance Subcommittee hearing on "The Future of Housing in America: Oversight of the Federal Housing Administration." (Part Two)

10:00 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee - Hearing. Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee hearing on "Across the Other Pond: U.S. Opportunities and Challenges in the Asia Pacific."

10:00 a.m. House Judiciary Committee - Hearing. Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "ISIL in America: Domestic Terror and Radicalization."

10:00 a.m. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee - Hearing. Research and Technology Subcommittee hearing on "Overview of the FY2016 Budget Proposals for the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology."

10:00 a.m. House Homeland Security Committee - Hearing. Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee hearing on "Assessing DHS's Performance: Watchdog Recommendations to Improve Homeland Security."

10:00 a.m. House Education and the Workforce Committee - Hearing. Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee and Workforce Protections Subcommittee joint hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat."

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Food Safety and Inspection Service budget.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Defense Subcommittee hearing on the Navy budget.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on "The Vital Responsibility of Serving the Nation's Aging and Disabled Communities."

10:00 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill: Laying the Foundation for U.S. Economic Growth and Job Creation Part II."

10:15 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee - Hearing. Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee hearing on "Update: Patent Demand Letter Practices and Solutions."

11:30 a.m. House Judiciary Committee - Hearing. Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee hearing on H.R.870, the "Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act of 2015."

1:00 p.m. House Agriculture Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on understanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program population through published research.

1:00 p.m. House Agriculture Committee - Hearing. Nutrition Subcommittee hearing on understanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program population through published research.

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Environment Protection Agency budget.

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Transportation budget.

1:30 p.m. House Judiciary Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The U.S. Copyright Office: Its Functions and Resources."

1:30 p.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Legislative Branch Subcommittee hearing on Architect of the Capitol and Library of Congress budgets.

2:00 p.m. House Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing on "FY2016 Budget Request for Strategic Forces."

2:00 p.m. House Homeland Security Committee - Hearing. Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on "Addressing Remaining Gaps in Federal, State, and Local Information Sharing."

Friday, February 27

9:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Defense Subcommittee hearing on the Air Force budget.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment and Natural Resources Conservation Service budget.

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee - Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education budgets.

Senate

Tuesday February 24

10:00 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Human Trafficking in the United States: Protecting the Victims."

10:00 a.m. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee - Markup. Full committee markup of S.527, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Foot Soldiers who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, or in the final Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in March of 1965, which served as a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Tax Reform, Growth and Efficiency."

10:00 a.m. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress."

10:00 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Improving the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Independence of Inspectors General."

10:00 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on the Interior Department's FY2016 budget.

10:00 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: A Report from the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education."

2:00 p.m. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee - Hearing. Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee hearing on "U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness."

2:00 p.m. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and House Veterans' Affairs Committee - Hearing. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and House Veterans' Affairs Committee joint hearing on "The Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans."

Wednesday, February 25

9:30 a.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The Importance of MAP-21 Reauthorization: Perspectives from Owners, Operators, and Users of the System."

10:00 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System."

10:00 a.m. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance."

2:00 p.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Markup. Full committee markup of the "End Modern Slavery and Trafficking Initiative Act of 2015."

2:30 p.m. Senate Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Personnel Subcommittee hearing on "Healthcare Recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission."

2:30 p.m. Senate Armed Services Committee - Hearing. Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing on "Regional Nuclear Dynamics." Thursday, February 26

9:30 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee - Markup. Full committee markup of S.178, the "Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015"; S.166, the "Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2015"; and to vote on the nominations of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general; Michelle Lee to be Commerce undersecretary for intellectual property and director of the Patent and Trademark Office; Alfred Bennett, George Hanks Jr. and Jose Rolando Olvera Jr., each to be a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Texas; Jill Parrish, to be U.S. district judge for the District of Utah; and Nancy Firestone, Thomas Halkowski, Patricia McCarthy, Jeri Kaylene Somers and Armando Omar Bonilla, each to be a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

10:00 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Medical and Public Health Preparedness and Response: Are We Ready for Future Threats?"

10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Congress and U.S. Tariff Policy."

10:00 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - Hearing. Full committee hearing on the U.S. Forest Services' FY2016 budget.

WASHINGTON BY THE NUMBERS

$425 billion – The value of the software industry in the United States. The industry is often a target of patent trolls.

$9 – The hourly minimum wage rate that Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer, will begin paying in April - this is an increase from $7.25.

THEY SAID WHAT?

"Wimps. Snowing in DC and they close the government. Imagine if the rest of the country closed when it snowed." - Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Twitter.

WASHINGTON HUMOR

"A new report says that last year Colorado collected $44 million in marijuana taxes. Unfortunately, they can't remember where they put it." –Conan O'Brien

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
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www.mcdonaldhopkinsgs.com

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Although McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC is owned by the law firm McDonald Hopkins LLC, McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. Accordingly, the retention of McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies does not create a client-lawyer relationship and the protections of the client-lawyer relationship, such as attorney-client privilege and the ethics rules pertaining to conduct by lawyers, do not apply.

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