This Week in Congress

The House is in session Tuesday through Friday. As of this writing, they are only considering bills under suspension of the rules, while the Senate works on nominations, but there may be other legislation this week as Congress figures out how to deal with the end-of-year appropriations bills and other expiring programs, such as the Violence Against Women Act, flood insurance, and the Farm Bill.

If a spending bill is not passed and signed by December 8, the government “shuts down.” Right now the big question is -- will President Trump sign a bill that provides less than $5 billion for his border wall. Few in Congress are willing to fight -- much less shutdown the government -- to cut spending.

The big drama of the week will be on Wednesday, when the House Democrats meet to select their new Speaker. A number of Democrats have said they will not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. Representative Pelosi is building support by promising wavering members committee assignments and votes on issues ranging from a broad infrastructure package to expanding Medicare to people between the ages of 50-65.

As of this writing, there is no announced challenger to Pelosi. The only representative who was considering it, Marsha Fudge (OH-11) , withdrew and endorsed Pelosi after being promised the Chair of the Subcommittee on Elections. Pelosi’s opposition seems to be disorganized, so she will likely prevail.

Among the bills scheduled for consideration under suspension of the rules are:

H.R. 5273 – Creates a new inter-agency task force comprised of the agency for international development, the Department of Defense, the Department of State and other “relevant federal agencies to “reduce global violence.” (The hubris behind this bill is breathtaking -- the US government can reduce violence with a new task force? And once again, we see a major foreign policy issue getting the same amount of debate as Congress gives to naming post offices.)

H.R. 1567 – Establishes three joint programs between the U.S. and Mexican governments -- one to coordinate infrastructure programs, one to encourage entrepreneurship through mentoring and training, and one to expand academic exchanges.

H.R. 6207 – Authorizes actions to help ensure democracy in the Congo (an area of strategic importance to the US) including sanctioning anyone interfering with the progress of democracy in Congo.

H.R. 4591 – Imposes sanctions on any Iranian attempting to destabilize Iraq. (Yes, Congress is taking a stand against intervention in Iraq. Congress lacks a sense of irony. And of course we have to have at least one suspension bill fanning the flames of war with Iran. . .)

H.R. 390 – Authorizes increased efforts to assist victims of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes in Iraq and Syria and prosecute those who have committed war crimes in Syria and Iraq. (Another case where Congress shows its lack of irony.)

S. 140 – Reauthorizes programs of the Coast Guard, including those related to the war on drugs.

H.R. 2422 – This bill amends the Public Health Service Act to re-authorize oral health promotion and disease prevention programs through FY2022.

H.R. 4254 – Establishes a new internship program at NASA and instructs NASA to encourage recruitment of women for scholarships. (This seems constitutionally problematic, since it gives one gender special treatment and could raise equal protection issues.)

S. 1768 – Reauthorizes the Earthquake Hazard Reduction program.

H.R. 2846 – Allows federal agencies to solicit comments from individuals regarding services and other assistance the agencies provide.

H.R. 5759 –Requires federal agencies to make sure their websites are up to current standards and, among other things, usable by people with disabilities.

HR 6777 – Requires creation of a database for the publication of settlement agreements, and for other purposes.

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