Appropriations bills to dominate House agenda

Greg Nash

The House will begin consideration of bills to fund the federal government when members return to Washington from the spring recess.

In a memo to House Republicans on Thursday, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the first appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year will hit the floor the last week of April. The first appropriations measures on tap will be for the Department of Energy, as well as military construction and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The House can now move to the annual appropriations process after passing its budget resolution last month. House and Senate negotiators have been working on a compromise budget between the two chambers over the congressional recess and are expected to reconcile the two blueprints.

Appropriators will need the final agreement to provide guidelines for spending limits. However, under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, neither chamber can move forward with floor consideration of appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year before May 15 until the final budget is adopted.

{mosads}A conference report on the budget resolution is expected to hit the House floor upon its completion, McCarthy said.

The first two appropriations measures headed to the floor are among the easiest of the 12 annual bills to pass. Both bills will be considered under a process that allows members to offer an unlimited number of amendments.

Separately, McCarthy said the House “may” vote on a reauthorization of the Patriot Act at the end of this month. Key provisions of the law will expire at the end of May, meaning a bill would hit the floor well before the deadline.

Among the provisions set to expire is Section 215, which the National Security Agency (NSA) has used to authorize the bulk data collection of Americans’ phone records.

“These provisions, which expire at the end of May, are necessary to maintain the U.S. Intelligence Community’s ability to monitor the communications and activities of foreign terrorists who seek to attack the homeland,” McCarthy wrote.

The House also plans consideration of cybersecurity legislation during the week of April 21. McCarthy didn’t announce a specific bill or package of measures, but said “several” committees are working on legislation.

“With recent high profile data breaches, the White House and Senate Democrats are finally getting on board with much of what the House has already called for – giving us opportunities to work with our partners across the aisle on strong, bipartisan legislation,” McCarthy wrote.

When the House is back in session next week, members will consider legislation to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from targeting conservative groups in light of the controversy surrounding former official Lois Lerner. The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress last year for refusing to testify before the House Oversight Committee.

The Justice Department notified Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last week that it won’t bring contempt of Congress charges against Lerner for her role in the IRS scrutinizing conservative nonprofits’ applications for tax-exempt status.

The House passed many of the slated bills in the last Congress, but they are more likely to gain traction in the Senate this time under GOP control. Bills on tap include prohibiting IRS employees from using personal email accounts to conduct official business; allowing groups to file an administrative appeal if they are rejected for tax-exempt status; and forcing termination of federal employees if they are delinquent on their taxes.

“The Department of Justice’s recent decision to exonerate Lois Lerner and the Inspector General’s easy recovery of emails the IRS Commissioner testified under oath were irretrievably lost demonstrate that the administration is unwilling to fix what’s wrong at the IRS,” McCarthy wrote.

As with previous memos to the GOP conference in recent months, McCarthy made no mention of when bills to restrict abortions, reform the No Child Left Behind education law or enhance border security would return to the House floor. All were previously yanked from the schedule due to concerns over whether they could pass.

This story was updated at 5:36 p.m.

McCarthy Memo

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