Next week: Appropriations season begins

The annual appropriations process will officially begin in the House next week as it takes up the first two 2015 spending bills.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has said his goal is for all of the 12 annual spending bills for fiscal 2015 to pass before the August recess to avoid another omnibus measure after Sept. 30.

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Rogers said before the Easter recess that his committee is off to the earliest start on appropriations since at least 1974. Last year, the first appropriations bill of the season did not hit the House floor until June.

The first appropriations bills to be considered on the House floor are two of the traditionally easiest to pass: the measures allocating $71.5 billion for military construction and Veterans Affairs as well as $3.3 billion for the legislative branch.

The military construction-Veterans Affairs measure would provide $1.8 billion less than the current spending level, which matches the administration's request. The spending reduction is largely because of a lack of need for new military construction projects.

Meanwhile, the legislative branch appropriations bill would maintain current spending levels.

The budget deal struck last December eased the process for appropriators since it established a top-line spending figure of $1.014 trillion for 2015. Both Republicans and Democrats are more optimistic that they can pass most if not all 12 appropriations bills for the first time in years.

The spending gaps between the House and Senate in 2013, along with the inability of either chamber to pass all 12 appropriations bills, ultimately led to the October government shutdown. Rogers and his Senate counterpart, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), have pledged to avoid a repeat of that episode.

Bipartisan ObamaCare fix

The House is also expected to reconsider a bill to exempt Americans who work abroad and receive coverage through expatriate insurance plans from the healthcare law's regulations.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. John Carney (D-Del.), and garnered the support of 51 other Democrats in the April 9 floor vote. But it did not garner a required two-thirds majority for it to pass under suspension of the rules.

Members voted 257-159 for the measure, so it is expected to pass under a rule requiring only a simple majority next week.

Carney's legislation stands in contrast to the other 50-plus votes since 2011 to repeal or roll back the healthcare law. It has a more realistic shot of moving beyond the House, because it is sponsored by a Democrat and attracted more Democratic votes than on other proposals to change the healthcare law.

 

Minimum wage increase

After the Senate completes work on nominations, it could turn to a long-awaited vote on increasing the minimum wage. Senate Democrats' proposal would raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 over three years.

Senate Democrats initially indicated that the minimum wage increase, one of their centerpiece proposals to gear up for the midterm election campaigns, would come up for a vote before the Easter recess.

But some Democrats, such as Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is in a tough reelection race this year, have suggested compromising on a lower increase, perhaps closer to $9.00 per hour. 

Many liberal Democrats insist that the Senate should stick with the $10.10 amount because it would lift more Americans out of poverty. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been reaching out to Democrats on a potential compromise that would raise the minimum wage but prevent more job losses. Neither side has committed to working toward a deal like the one proposed by Collins, however.

But a minimum wage increase ultimately stands no chance of consideration in the House even if the Senate passes it. House Republicans have said that it would eliminate jobs, citing a Congressional Budget Office report that hiking the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cost about 500,000 jobs. 

 

 

Monday

The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., it will hold confirmation votes on the following nominations:

- Michelle Friedland to be U.S. circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit
- David Weil to be administrator of the Department of Labor’s wage and hour division
- Katherine O'Regan to be an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development

The House will consider nine suspension bills after it convenes for legislative business at 2 p.m., with roll-call votes at 6:30 p.m.:

1) H.R. 4192, to amend the District of Columbia code to allow construction of single-story penthouses of up to 20 feet above the roof level.

2) H.R. 4194, to eliminate certain federal reporting requirements, such as reports on the waiver of certain sanctions against North Korea and annual summaries of airport financial reports.

3) S. 994, to direct federal agencies to establish government-wide financial data standards to allow taxpayers to view how federal funds are spent on a website to be called USASpending.gov. The Senate passed it by unanimous consent on April 10.

4) H.R. 298, to direct the Interior secretary to conduct a study on the significance of the Mills Springs Battlefield in Kentucky and whether it should be included in the National Park System.

5) H.R. 4032, to authorize certain water transfers by the North Texas Municipal Water District and the Greater Texoma Utility Authority.

6) H.R. 3110, to authorize the Interior secretary to permit members of the Hoonah Indian Association to collect the eggs of glaucous-winged gulls in certain parts of Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park.

7) H.R. 930, to direct the Interior secretary to conduct a study on the New Philadelphia, Illinois archaeological site and the feasibility of designating the area as part of the National Park System.

8) H.R. 4120, to extend construction for the building of the National Law Enforcement Officers Museum to honor federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty for an additional three years.

9) H.R. 1501, to direct the Interior secretary to study whether the Prison Ship Martyr's Monument in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., should be part of the National Park System. 

Tuesday 

The House will reconsider a bill that failed to pass before the recess under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. The measure, HR 4414, would exempt expatriates' health plans from having to comply with ObamaCare regulations. It will be taken up this time under a rule requiring only a simple majority.

The chamber will also consider three suspension bills:

1) H.R. 627, to authorize the issuance of gold, silver and half-dollar clad coins in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service.

2) H.R. 4167, to exempt divestiture of any debt securities of collateralized loan obligations issued before Jan. 31, 2014. Collateralized loan obligations are issuing entities of asset-backed securities, which primarily encompass commercial loans.

3) A draft bill to authorize congressional gold medals awarded to Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King and the Montford Point Marines to be publicly displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.

The Senate will vote on six district court nominations:

- Sheryl H. Lipman to be a district judge for the western district of Tennessee
- Allen Bastian to be a district judge for the eastern district of Washington
- Manish S. Shah to be a district judge for the northern district of Illinois
- Daniel D. Crabtree to be a district judge for the district of Kansas
- Cynthia Ann Bashant to be a district judge for the southern district of California
- Jon David Levy to be a district judge for the district of Maine

Wednesday - Thursday

The appropriations process will be underway as the House considers the military construction-Veterans Affairs and legislative branch spending measures. 

After completing work on nominations, the Senate could begin consideration of a bill, S. 1737, to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years.