This week: House turns to school safety after Florida shooting
© Greg Nash

House lawmakers are preparing to take Congress’s first legislative step on measures responding to last month’s shooting in Parkland, Fla., which reignited the nation’s debate over gun control.

House GOP leadership said they will bring a school safety bill up for a vote this week as part of their response to the Valentine’s Day shooting, where 17 people were killed.

The bill authorizes federal funding for prevention programs designed to educate students and adults about how to spot and report warning signs of gun violence.

“We will have that bill up on the floor next week. That will add to …  the Fix NICS (National Instant Background Check System) bill that we have sitting over in the Senate, we'll also have the FBI up here talking to [the House] Oversight [and Government Reform Committee] and Judiciary [Committee] on where the failures happened and why, to make sure we can have those corrections, so that it could never repeat itself again,” Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Congressional leaders to launch budget talks with White House RNC chair on Alabama abortion bill: I would have exceptions for rape, incest MORE (R-Calif.), the House majority whip, told reporters.


But the bill doesn’t include any new gun control measures, such as raising the minimum age to buy a rifle or expanding background checks.  

That makes it unlikely to satisfy gun control advocates, or Democrats, who have demanded Congress pass new gun reform legislation following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is also expected to probe the shooting as part of its oversight work.

The hearing, entitled, “See Something, Say Something: Oversight of the Parkland Shooting and Legislative Proposals to Improve School Safety,” is scheduled for Wednesday.

“This committee has an important oversight role to play. The great tragedy of the Parkland shooting is that it was preventable. The FBI and local law enforcement failed to act on credible tips that should have neutralized the killer and gotten him help,” Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Defense: Trump rails against media coverage | Calls reporting on Iran tensions 'highly inaccurate' | GOP senator blocking Trump pick for Turkey ambassador | Defense bill markup next week Trump reaches deal to lift steel, aluminum tariffs on Mexico, Canada Top GOP senator blocking Trump's pick for Turkey ambassador MORE (R-Iowa) said when he announced the hearing.

But it remains unclear when, or if, the Senate will take up legislation.

Though lawmakers have introduced a flurry of new proposals, the debate in the chamber remains stalemated.

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTrump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race MORE's (R-Texas) office noted late last week that his legislation with Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyConnecticut radio station rebrands itself 'Trump 103.3' Foreign Relations senators demand Iran briefing Prosecutor appointed by Barr poised to enter Washington firestorm MORE (D-Conn.) to bolster the background check records system picked up six more co-sponsors, bringing the total number of supporters to 62.

The legislation reinforces existing laws by ensuring that authorities report criminal records to the system and penalizing agencies that don't.

The boost in support puts it just over the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, a key procedural hurdle, and gives it enough support to potentially be passed by the Senate.

A scheduling update sent last week by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that outlined what else the chamber will tackle before recess did not mention the background check legislation.

That could kick any possible gun-related action into April. Congress is expected to return to Washington on April 9 after a two-week recess expected to start on March 23.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGetting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults MORE (D-N.Y.) indicated last week that Democrats would wait until after a March 24 gun control rally to try to force a gun control debate on the Senate floor.

"There will be huge rallies and demonstrations on the 24th. They expect millions of people to come to Washington ... and we will try to force floor action after that rally, when our Republican friends see they are just against the nation," Schumer told reporters on Tuesday.

Schumer didn't specify at the time what actions Democrats will attempt to take.

But a spokesman pointed to his floor comments, where the Democratic leader urged the Senate to have a larger debate that addressed requiring background checks for guns sold over the internet and at gun shows, allowing court orders to temporarily block someone deemed dangerous from getting a gun, and a ban on assault weapons.

Banking reform

The Senate is expected to wrap up its work on legislation reforming the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law after a fight over amendments stalled the bill.

The bill will provide smaller institutions and community banks relief from regulations and rules established under Dodd-Frank, which they argue made them less competitive.

The bill raises the threshold at which a bank is deemed big enough to warrant tighter oversight from $50 billion to $250 billion, exempting dozens of regional banks from stringent rules.  

Banks with less than $250 billion that aren't otherwise targeted by the Federal Reserve would no longer be subject to yearly stress tests or higher capital requirements. Those banks will also be freed from the requirement to submit a yearly plan on how they would break apart, in the event of a failure, without triggering a credit crisis.

The financial legislation brings Congress another step closer to passing its first rewrite of the Dodd-Frank legislation since it was enacted nearly eight years ago.

Though the bill is expected to clear the Senate, wrapping up the chamber’s work could eat up most of the week.

McConnell has set up an initial procedural vote for Monday evening. A vote to end debate on the overall legislation could happen as soon as Tuesday, though lawmakers might delay it into Wednesday. After that they could be forced to run through 30 more hours before a final vote to pass the bill.

It remains unclear if House Republicans will accept the Senate bill as is or try to force changes — a move that could cost it support among Senate Democrats.

“We have had conversations with members of the House. … [But] we'll simply have to wait until we move further forward in the process to know the answers to what we can get done there,” Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTrump, Senate GOP discuss effort to overhaul legal immigration Dems propose fining credit agencies for data breaches Mueller fails to break stalemate on election meddling crackdown MORE (R-Idaho) told reporters.

The legislation divides Democrats, with progressives arguing it goes too far to deregulate larger financial institutions.

“Senate Republicans voted unanimously for the #BankLobbyistAct. But this bill wouldn’t be on the path to becoming law without the support of these Democrats,” Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHere are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Sanders unveils education plan that would ban for-profit charter schools Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE (D-Mass.) said after an initial vote late last week.

Government funding

The House could move a mammoth government funding bill as soon as this week as lawmakers try to avoid a third shutdown this year.

Lawmakers have less than two weeks to meet the March 23 deadline and prevent another partial closure.

While Congress normally takes the funding fights down to the wire, a GOP lawmaker told The Hill that the bill could get a vote in the House this week in an effort to “beat the shutdown clock.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulUS ambassador to Germany ruffles State Department with budget stand Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Rand Paul: Bolton is a 'malign influence' MORE (R-Ky.) was able to force a brief, hours-long closure last month by dragging out the Senate’s rulebook. Under Senate rules, leadership needs the consent of every lawmaker in order to speed up votes and skip over procedural hurdles.

Lawmakers are still crafting the bill, which will be hundreds of pages long. Any last-minute fights over “poison pill” riders — policy provisions viewed as non-starters by one side of the aisle — could delay the bill.

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton Hoyer5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations GOP lawmaker: Trump has engaged in multiple actions that 'meet the threshold for impeachment' Maxine Waters: Parts of Trump immigration plan are 'very racist' MORE (Md.), the Democratic whip, urged Republicans to put together a bill that could get wide bipartisan support.

Democrats are signaling they are willing to leave two of their biggest priorities — gun control and a solution for protecting immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — out of the funding legislation.

But lawmakers will need to navigate around the White House’s opposition to including money in the bill for a rail and tunnel project in the Northeast.

The White House is unofficially threatening to veto the massive funding bill if money is included for the project, considered a top priority for New York and New Jersey-area lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

“The administration has been very clear that we don’t think this is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” a senior administration official said in a statement. “Any official position on the legislation would be issued through a Statement of Administration Policy.”

Sex trafficking

The Senate could take up legislation making it easier for internet platforms to be held liable for content posted on their platforms as soon as this week. The bill would let state attorneys general prosecute the sites for violating federal sex trafficking laws.

A notice from McConnell’s office detailing what is on the chamber’s agenda before a two-week recess pointed to the bill to combat online sex trafficking, as well as the government funding legislation.

A group of internet companies is urging last-minute changes to the bill over concern that the legislation will hurt their online platforms.

"We are eager to work with the Senate to improve the bill, particularly to make it feasible for smaller companies to implement," the letter from tech companies including Twitter and Yelp reads.