Scheduling

This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure

Greg Nash

House Republicans are regrouping after conservatives tanked the farm bill and raised new questions about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ability to manage his caucus.

They’re bracing for a busy week after the dramatic turn of events, which saw conservatives revolting over the farm bill and moderates bucking leadership by backing a discharge petition on immigration.

When, or if, the farm bill is revived will likely depend on if Ryan and his leadership team are able to meet the demands from the House Freedom Caucus, who broke with leadership after they didn’t get a vote on a conservative immigration bill spearheaded by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) before the farm bill was taken up.

{mosads}The two issues will likely dominate the caucus’s weekly closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

The failure of the farm bill marked a setback for GOP leadership as well as for the Trump administration; the White House had publicly urged Republicans to back the legislation because of new work requirements for food stamps.

The legislative fiasco brought out the knives against Ryan, who is retiring but insisted he will retain his position as Speaker until the end of the year.

“It’s difficult to close deals when you are a Speaker who’s announced you are leaving in a few months. … A lot of people are not going to care what you have to say,” a senior GOP source told The Hill late last week.

The House’s farm bill is largely a symbolic win for Republicans and Trump because it’s considered dead on arrival in the Senate, where a bill will need 60 votes including the support of Democrats. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is working on his own bill with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

The House bill became inextricably linked with immigration after the Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the conservative measure as moderates neared the 218 signatures needed to force a vote on a separate immigration plan that falls well short of the proposal pushed for by the White House.

Despite leadership offering the group of conservative hard-liners a vote on the immigration measure in June, the members refused to back the legislation.

“It was not fully clear,” Meadows said of the offer from leadership.

Immigration talks are expected to continue as both moderates and conservatives continue to push for action on the floor.

Veterans Affairs

The Senate is poised to take up a House-passed Department of Veterans Affairs reform bill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) teed up the legislation, with an initial vote possible as early as Tuesday.

The sweeping, $52 billion reform bill would overhaul medical care options for veterans, including giving them more access to private doctors and hospitals. Critics argue it goes too far toward privatizing veterans’ health care.

It also includes funding to extend the VA’s choice program — otherwise scheduled to run out of money at the end of the month — for another year.

Senate action comes as Trump gave Congress until the Memorial Day recess to pass the legislation.

“The President encourages members of the Senate to put the needs of our nation’s veterans over partisan politics, and pass this necessary legislation before Memorial Day to ensure that our Nation’s bravest do not have to wait in never-ending lines to receive the care they rightfully deserve,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement late last week

With top members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee supporting the legislation — including Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the panel’s chairman, and Jon Tester (Mont.), the top Democrat — it’s expected to easily clear the chamber.

The House is also expected to take up a slate of veterans-related legislation on Monday, including bolstering oversight of the VA’s electronic records plan.

NDAA

The House Rules Committee is expected to meet Monday to debate the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 (NDAA). Debate on amendments to the legislation will take place Tuesday.

The $716 billion bill authorizes roughly 16,000 additional active-duty troops while providing a 2.6 percent salary increase, the highest in nine years. It also authorizes more than $25 billion for equipment maintenance and nearly $40 billion for upgrades to aviation.

The bill also allocates funding for two additional Virginia-class submarines and littoral combat ships, 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and the upgrade of thousands of vehicles.

The Senate is expected to bring its defense policy bill to the floor next month. 

Prison reform

A fight over prison reform is coming to a head in the House.

The chamber is expected to vote this week on a prison reform bill considered a key priority for President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The bill provides funding for programs aimed at reducing the likelihood of inmates committing new crimes once released from prison.  

House Republicans have an ally in GOP Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who has urged the chamber to take up prison reform because of engrained opposition from the Trump administration to broader criminal justice legislation.

But the effort faces fierce opposition from other corners of the Senate, where influential members want broader reforms that include changes to mandatory minimum sentencing.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants any prison reform bill to be paired with sentencing reform.

“[We’re going] to try to convince the White House that we’re right,” Grassley said earlier this month. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the president to have a bipartisan victory and to sign it, and that’s exactly what he needs for the midterm election.”

Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) joined with Reps. John Lewis (Ga.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) to send a letter to the House and Senate Democratic colleagues warning that the prison reform bill was a “step backwards.”

“We are unwilling to support flawed prison reform legislation that does not include sentencing reform,” the Democratic lawmakers added in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) hit back at his fellow Democrats for their opposition to the bipartisan prison reform in his own letter late last week.

“We have a Republican President. Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate. While the Senate authors of the opposition letter support the all or nothing approach, the Majority Leader apparently does not. Those are the facts,” he said.

Dodd-Frank overhaul

The House is expected to take up a Senate-passed measure exempting dozens of banks from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law this week.

The bipartisan legislation — spearheaded by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — aims to mitigate the impact the Obama-era regulatory bill has on small banks and credit unions.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act is expected to easily make its way through the lower chamber despite some conservatives pushing stronger deregulation.

Under the legislation, banks with less than $250 billion in assets wouldn’t be subject to yearly Federal Reserve stress tests or higher capital requirements. The current threshold is set at $50 billion.

The measure also exempts banks that extend 500 or fewer mortgages a year from reporting certain home-loan data to federal regulators in addition to broadening the definition of qualified mortgages.

Nominations

The Senate will work through several of Trump’s nominees this week.

McConnell has teed up a procedural vote on Dana Baiocco’s nomination to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Monday evening, setting up a final vote for Tuesday.

The Senate is also expected to take up Jelena McWilliams’s nomination to be chairperson of the board of directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and James Rudolph Evans to be ambassador to Luxembourg. 

Rachel Roubein, Sylvan Lane and Ellen Mitchell contributed.

Tags 2018 farm bill Bob Goodlatte Chuck Grassley Cory Booker Debbie Stabenow Department of Veterans Affairs Dick Durbin Dodd-Frank financial reform Donald Trump Hakeem Jeffries Immigration Jared Kushner John Cornyn John Lewis Johnny Isakson Jon Tester Michael McCaul Mike Crapo Mitch McConnell Pat Roberts Paul Ryan Sheila Jackson Lee trump nominees

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