Next week: Appropriations, VA reform, intelligence authorization

Over the course of three days, the House will consider its third 2015 appropriations bill, Veterans Affairs Department reforms and the intelligence authorization.

The House will only be in session for one full day next week so that members can be in their districts for Memorial Day. But it nonetheless has a packed floor agenda.

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The Senate will not be in session.

First up will be the $52 billion appropriations measure funding the Justice Department, Commerce Department and science programs. Controversial amendments are likely regarding gun control policies and restrictions on the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to track gun purchases.

The wide-ranging bill will likely further attract amendments regarding prison reform, Guantanamo Bay, cuts to police grant programs, limits on pending trade agreements and spending reductions to NASA. It will be considered an open rule, meaning that members can offer an unlimited number of amendments.

The House passed the 2015 military construction-Veterans Affairs and legislative branch appropriations bills - considered the least controversial - earlier this month.

VA reforms

The House will consider several bills to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs in light of allegations that several VA hospitals tried to conceal long wait times for medical care.

One measure, H.R. 2072, would require the VA inspector general (IG) to notify the VA secretary and relevant congressional committees of any departmental failure to adopt recommended reforms outlined in an IG report.

Another bill, H.R. 4399, would reform the VA performance appraisal system. It would require the firing of senior executives who get two annual ratings of less than fully successful. Additionally, it would authorize the promotion of an executive with three consecutive ratings of the highest performance level.

The House has already passed legislation that would grant the VA secretary authority to fire senior executives.

Intelligence authorization

The House will lastly take up the intelligence authorization, which authorizes funding for intelligence activities. 

It includes policies for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency (NSA).

The House on Thursday passed legislation to limit the NSA's bulk data collection. Critics of the measure said it had been watered down in negotiations and did not go far enough to protect civil liberties.

The legislation includes a provision in Title III to restrict conduct of intelligence activities. It reads, "The authorization of appropriations by this Act shall not be deemed to constitute authority for the conduct of any intelligence activity which is not otherwise authorized by the Constitution or the laws of the United States."

Nonetheless, the measure will likely still draw debate over NSA spying.

 

Monday - Tuesday

The House and Senate are not in session. The House will meet at 12 p.m. Tuesday for a pro forma session, however.

Wednesday - Thursday

The Senate is not in session.

The House returns Wednesday and will vote at at 6:30 p.m. Following votes on suspension bills, it will debate the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

Consideration of all 11 suspension bills and the CJS appropriations measure will be spread out over two days.

H.R. 2072, to require the VA inspector general (IG) to notify the VA secretary and relevant congressional committees of any departmental failure to adopt recommended reforms outlined in an IG report.

H.R. 4399, to overhaul the appraisal system for VA senior executives.

H.R. 2942, to reestablish the VA's Professional Certification and Licensure Advisory Committee.

- H.R. 4261, to expand the research of Gulf War Illness. The disorder includes symptoms of fatigue, muscle pain and cognitive problems.

- H.R. 2527, to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training.

- H.R. 503, to authorize the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in Washington, D.C.

- H.R. 3366, to release certain property interests in land conveyed by the U.S. government in 1954 so that Oregon State University can establish the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

- S. 611, to establish parameters for a land exchange at the request of the Sandia Pueblo of New Mexico.

- H.R. 4028, to include the desecration of cemeteries among the forms of violations of the right to religious freedom around the world.

- H.R. 4587, to direct the president to impose asset blocking and U.S. exclusion sanctions against Venezuelan government officials who are responsible for human rights abuses against people participating in protests. It would also authorize appropriations for assistance to Venezuelan civil society.

- A draft resolution to urge the Chinese government to respect human rights for all its citizens and stop censoring discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. 


Friday

The House will debate the intelligence authorization.