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Homeland Security funding punted

With funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set to expire at midnight Friday, House and Senate lawmakers have spent this week scrambling to find a workable full-year funding solution that averts a partial government shutdown.

Unable to devise a full-year spending bill that reverses the president’s executive order on immigration, Republican lawmakers have pivoted their strategy to a clean short-term continuing resolution that would fund the Department through March 19.

After four failed attempts to gain cloture in the Senate on the House-passed DHS spending bill (H.R. 240), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed Tuesday to split the funding and immigration issues into two separate bills. By Wednesday, the legislative impasse in the Senate was cleared when it voted 98 to 2 to move forward with consideration of the DHS funding bill, absent the immigration policy riders.

Late Thursday, House GOP leadership had gathered its members to gauge their willingness to pass a three-week funding patch and go to conference with the Senate on a full-year funding bill.

On Friday, the Senate resumes consideration of the DHS spending legislation and anticipates passing a clean spending bill without facing any major obstacles. In the House, members will vote on a three-week continuing resolution (H.J.Res. 35) and may vote to go to conference with the Senate. Should the Senate also pass H.J.Res. 35 on Friday, Congress will have extended DHS’ funding for three weeks in the hopes of giving congressional Republicans more time to reach an agreement.

President issues Keystone veto

On Tuesday, President Obama made good on his promise to veto legislation that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,179 mile pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada into the U.S. and pump up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day.

Tuesday’s veto was only the third veto President Obama has issued throughout the course of his presidency. In his message to Senate Republicans explaining his decision, Obama had taken objection to the legislation expediting the executive review process underway at the State Department and he cited concerns for national security, safety, and environmental interests.

A congressional override of the president’s veto is highly unlikely, given that the legislation passed both bodies well below the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a presidential veto. In the House, the Keystone XL bill passed by a 270 to 152 vote, and the Senate cleared the legislation with a 62 to 36 vote margin. Nevertheless, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the matter on March 3.

Going forward, congressional Republicans may still try to attach Keystone XL to other legislative vehicles. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has vowed that the fight for the pipeline is not over.

President Obama could still approve the Keystone XL pipeline, on his own authority, after the executive review process is completed. However, that is an unlikely scenario since the president has hinted that the pipeline’s environmental impacts would outweigh the economic benefits.

FCC approves highly controversial net neutrality rule

Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed its highly anticipated net-neutrality rule by a 3 to 2 vote. The new regulations will broadly increase the U.S. government’s ability to police the Internet.

Significantly, the rule reclassifies the Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. Under the new regulations, the FCC gains additional enforcement authority in disputes and will allow websites to file complaints against providers.

The regulations will impact both home and cellular Internet connections. The rule includes a consumer protection clause that prohibits providers from interfering with consumers’ ability to access the services of their choice.

Supporters of the rule, mostly tech start-ups and Internet activists, successfully advocated for greater equality in Internet access through increasing the FCC’s regulatory authority. The president and other proponents of net-neutrality argued that the Internet needed to be moved under Title II, so the FCC’s regulations could stand up under judicial challenge.

Cable and telecommunication companies have been staunch in their opposition to the rule. Major Internet service providers are concerned that the FCC has turned the Internet into a public utility. These companies fear a slew of burdensome regulations that have little to do with Internet access. Congressional Republicans have been united in their opposition to the FCC’s net-neutrality rule. At Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communication and Telecommunications hearing, Republican members expressed concerns that the pending rule will impose outdated restrictions on new technologies, discourage growth, and lead to new fees.

The Telecomm Subcommittee hearing was originally scheduled to be the first of two House hearings on net-neutrality for Wednesday. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee before the Commission’s vote on Thursday. The Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) vocally objected to the chairman’s decision not to appear, and begrudgingly delayed the hearing.

Yellen warns currency manipulation provisions in trade bill could harm monetary policy

Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen cautioned the Senate Banking Committee that including currency manipulation provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement could “hamper or even hobble monetary policy.” During the hearing, Yellen acknowledged that currency manipulation to gain a competitive advantage should be addressed, but she said trade agreements are not the appropriate place to address such issues.

Yellen’s views on currency manipulation policies in trade agreements are in sync with the president and House Ways and Means Chairman, Paul Ryan (R-WI), who have pushed back against efforts to include those provisions in the TPP. The Obama administration is not planning on including a currency manipulation chapter in the agreement.

Congressional Democrats have been the administration’s biggest challenge in approving the TPP. Opponents of the trade deal cite labor, environmental, and currency issues as their reason for blocking the agreement.

To overcome the stalled negotiations, the Obama administration is asking Congress for legislation to fast-track trade negotiating authority, known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Congress may introduce a TPA bill within days, but any TPA measure would face strong opposition from congressional Democrats and some Republicans.

On Wednesday, Yellen appeared before the House Financial Services Committee. During a heated three-hour long hearing, Republican lawmakers criticized the Fed for not raising interest rates quickly enough and failing to ease some of the restrictions placed on the financial industry after the 2008 market crash.

Attorney General nominee, Loretta Lynch, clears Senate judiciary

Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s nomination for U.S. Attorney General by a 12 to 8 vote. The full Senate is expected to hold a vote on her confirmation within the next two weeks.

Three Republican Senators: Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AR), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voted with the Judiciary Committee’s nine Democrats to advance Lynch in the confirmation process. Her nomination has been pending in the Senate for 110 days, longer than any AG nominee in recent memory, which Democrats took objection to.

At her confirmation hearing, Sen. Hatch said “I supported advancing Loretta Lynch’s nomination to the floor today because her record of service over several decades shows that she is well qualified to be attorney general.” Hatch expressed his belief that Lynch will be more independent than her predecessor and she will make progress in recommitting the department to the rule of law.

However, several Republicans opposed Lynch’s confirmation. Thursday, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) voted against advancing Lynch’s nomination because of her defense of the president’s executive action on immigration.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other Republicans are urging senators to join them in opposing Lynch’s confirmation when the full Senate vote occurs. Lynch needs to secure just a simple majority vote for a successful Senate confirmation. To do so, she will only need four Republicans to support her confirmation, assuming all the Senate Democrats vote in her favor.

Transportation in focus

Saturday, West Coast ports reopened after a tentative agreement was reached late Friday night. The agreement announced in a joint statement by Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) President, James McKenna, and International Longshore and Warehouse Unions (ILWU) President, Bob McEllrath, signaled an end to a nine-month labor dispute impacting all 29 West Coast ports.

The agreed upon five-year contact was negotiated with the help of U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Deputy-Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Scot Beckenbaugh. While participating in negotiations in San Francisco, Secretary Perez warned the parties that if they did not reach a deal by Saturday, they would be called to Washington, D.C.

The Pacific Maritime Association, the representative of the ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who represents the dockworkers, had reached mutually agreeable terms on the major items within the contract, including pay and health care. However, there was an ongoing disagreement about an arbitrator, who would play a critical role in the contract’s implementation and enforcement decisions.

Tensions flared when PMA issued orders to halt loading and unloading cargo at West Coast ports for two consecutive weekends. Port management did not want to have to pay workers weekend and holiday pay for work that was not being completed. PMA accused dockworkers of employing illegal slowdown tactics, which ILWU denied.

California Senators Barbara Boxer (D) and Dianne Feinstein (D), sent a joint letter to PMA and ILWU imploring the parties to reach an agreement and prevent further damage to the U.S. economy. Economists calculated that the port labor dispute cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion a day.

 

Political bits

House

Mississippi 1st Congressional District: Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert (R) and former Public Service Commission candidate Boyce Adams (R) are the most likely candidates to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R). The special election for the open seat will be held on May 12. Neither Adams nor Tagert have formally announced their candidacy, but sources in Mississippi indicate both men are making decisive moves toward a run. State Rep. Chris Brown (R) was the first candidate to officially enter the race.

Florida 26th Congressional District: Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia (D) will not try to reclaim his seat in 2016.

Illinois 18th Congressional District: U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R) has some explaining to do. The AP identified a dozen or so flights worth more than $40,000 on donors' planes since mid-2011. Schock is accused of spending taxpayer dollars and campaign funds for flights on private planes owned by donors and other expensive travel and entertainment expenses.

New York 11th Congressional District: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm (R) will be held on May 5.

Senate

Ohio: Former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) officially launched a 2016 Senate campaign Wednesday morning. While Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld (D) remains in the race, many Democrats believe Sittenfeld will drop out of the race. If Strickland secures the Democratic nomination, he will face U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R) in November 2016.

Florida: The ongoing feud between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) and attorney John Morgan over Wasserman Schultz's stance on medical marijuana could open the door for a potential Senate bid by Wasserman Shultz. Despite her position as DNC Chair, tensions exist between Wasserman Schultz and White House staffers. A Senate run may be the most attractive option for the representative to advance her political career.

California: Reps. Xavier Becerra (D), Loretta Sanchez (D), and Adam Schiff (D) —continue to consider bids for the open CA Senate seat. So far, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is the only major candidate officially declared in the race.

Governor

Indiana: Democrats are still searching for a candidate to challenge Gov. Mike Pence (R) in 2016. The most likely contenders are 2012 nominee John Gregg (D) and former U.S. Rep. Baron Hill (D).

Kentucky: Former Senate candidate Matt Bevin (R) has vowed to dismantle Kentucky's health care exchange if elected governor.

North Dakota: Tuesday, the North Dakota House backed legislation requiring a special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat vacancy. State Democrats have criticized the bill as an attempt to discourage Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) from running for governor in 2016.

President

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s (D) potential 2016 presidential bid could be hurt by news that the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose a 2010 donation of $500,000 from the Algerian government. During her tenure as secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments. However, failure to disclose the donation to the State Department is a violation of the Foundation’s ethics agreement with the Obama administration.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) super PAC is attracting contributions from Republican supporters of gay marriage and other non-traditional conservative causes, including abortion rights and illegal immigrants.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has taken the lead among potential GOP presidential nominees in a new Iowa Quinnipiac poll. The poll, released Wednesday, reported that 25 percent of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers would support Walker. At this time, the Wisconsin Governor has not officially announced his candidacy.

A LOOK AHEAD

House

*Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA) is expected to be on the House floor

Monday, March 2

3:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) budget.

Tuesday, March 3

8:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the National Institutes of Health budget.

9:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Defense Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Africa Command budget.

9:30 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: Enabling a 21st Century Aviation System."

10:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The President's Proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force Against ISIL and U.S. Policy, Strategy, and Posture in the Greater Middle East."

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on Installations, Environment, Energy and Base Realignment and Closure budgets.

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Forest Service budget.

1:30 p.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee – Hearing. Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on "21st Century Energy Markets: How the Changing Dynamics of World Energy Markets Impact our Economy and Energy Security."

2:00 p.m. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – Hearing. Government Operations Subcommittee and Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules Subcommittee hearing on "Challenges Facing OIRA (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) in Ensuring Transparency and Effective Rulemaking."

2:00 p.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee – Hearing. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Understanding the Cyber Threat and Implications for the 21st Century Economy."

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Agriculture Department Marketing and Regulatory Programs budget.

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Commerce Department budget.

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Agency for International Development budget.

2:30 p.m. House Financial Services Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "The Semi-Annual Report of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection."

3:30 p.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Readiness Subcommittee hearing on "Alignment of Infrastructure Investment and Risk and Defense Strategic Requirements."

Wednesday, March 4

9:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the Veterans Affairs Department budget.

10:00 a.m. House Education and the Workforce Committee – Hearing. Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee hearing on H.J.Res.29, providing for congressional disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, U.S. Code, of the rule submitted by the National Labor Relations Board relating to representation case procedures.

10:00 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Ukraine Under Siege."

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

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

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

10:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "U.S. Policy, Strategy, and Posture in Afghanistan: Post-2014 Transition, Risks, and Lessons Learned."

10:15 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee – Hearing. Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on "The 21st Century Electricity Challenge: Ensuring a Secure, Reliable and Modern Electricity System."

10:30 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee – Hearing. Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing on "Reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission: The FCC's FY2016 Budget Request."

10:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget

11:00 a.m. House Small Business Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Building an Opportunity Economy: The State of Small Business Entrepreneurship."

1:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on Energy Department, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Weapons Activities budget.

2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the Treasury Department budget.

2:00 p.m. House Homeland Security Committee – Hearing. Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee hearing on "Industry Perspectives on the President's Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal."

2:00 p.m. House Homeland Security Committee – Hearing. Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee hearing on "Industry Perspectives on the President's Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal."

2:00 p.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing on "Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities for FY2016."

3:30 p.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing on "Cyber Operations: Improving the Military Cyber Security Posture in an Uncertain Threat Environment."

Thursday, March 5

9:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the National Park Service budget.

9:00 a.m. House Natural Resources Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Examining the Department of the Interior's Spending Priorities and the President's FY2016 Budget Proposal."

9:00 a.m. House Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing on "Update on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program and the FY2016 Budget Request."

10:00 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee – Hearing. Health Subcommittee hearing on "Examining the 340B Drug Pricing Program."

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 Multiple Veterans Service Organizations."

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

10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Defense Subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Central Command budget. Senate

Tuesday, March 3

9:00 a.m. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Examining the FY2016 Budget Requests for the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Transportation."

9:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Fairness in Taxation."

2:30 p.m. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Federal Reserve Accountability and Reform."

2:30 p.m. Senate Judiciary Committee – Hearing. Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee hearing on "Oversight of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Ensuring Agency Priorities Comply with the Law."

2:30 p.m. Senate Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Defense Authorization Request for FY2016 and the Future Years Defense Program."

Wednesday, March 4

9:30 a.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on the FY2016 EPA budget.

10:00 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2016 for the Interior Department.

10:00 a.m. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – Hearing. Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on "Surface Transportation Reauthorization - Oversight and Reform of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration."

10:00 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "Whistleblower Retaliation at the FBI: Improving Protections and Oversight."

10:00 a.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 Veterans of Foreign Wars."

10:30 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Defense Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2016 for the Navy and Marine Corps.

2:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee – Hearing. Energy and Water Development Subcommittee hearing on proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2016 for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

2:30 p.m. Senate Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Personnel Subcommittee hearing on Active, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2016 and the Future Years Defense Program.

2:30 p.m. Senate Indian Affairs Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on S.438, to provide for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of certain Indian irrigation projects.

3:30 p.m. Senate Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing on "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy, Programs and Strategy."

Thursday, March 5

9:30 a.m. Senate Armed Services Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on postures of the Army and Air Force in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2016 and the Future Years Defense Program.

10:00 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on opportunities for the United States to build on its status as an Arctic nation for the betterment of the nation and those who live in the Arctic.

10:00 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – Hearing. Full committee hearing on "America's Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records Into Better Care."

WASHINGTON BY THE NUMBERS

45 – In his bid for reelection, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former White House chief of staff, captured just 45 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s five-way Democratic primary. Emanuel failed to achieve the 50 percent vote margin that would have allowed him to avoid a run-off election. On April 7, Emanuel will face Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D), a Cook County Commissioner, who had the second highest vote tally.

255 – That’s the average percentage that premiums would increase if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law’s subsidies in 37 states, according to new research by non-partisan Avalere Health. Mississippi would be hit hardest with a 779 percent premium increase.

THEY SAID WHAT?

“Every single day Joe Biden says something that would end my career if I said it once." – Senator Marco Rubio (NH Journal)

"‘Rainmaking’ is not a federal crime." – Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's (D) defense team (New York Observer)

WASHINGTON HUMOR

“Nicolas Cage is going to be starring in a film based on Edward Snowden. Cage said he's perfect for the role because he knows what it's like to go into hiding after doing something people don't like.” - Conan O’Brien

  

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
101 Constitution Avenue NW, Suite 600 East, Washington, D.C. 20001 

www.mcdonaldhopkinsgs.com

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

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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