Congress, Waiting for an Omnibus to Arrive

Senate staying on banking legislation, House looks at votes on guns

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 12, 2018 at 11:25am

Keep an eye out for the release of a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill this week. Negotiators are aiming to complete work on the sprawling bill and pass it before March 23, when the fifth stopgap funding measure of the fiscal year expires.

The bipartisan budget deal enacted last month freed up an additional $143 billion for discretionary programs in fiscal 2018 — $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for nondefense accounts.

Many of the spending bills have essentially been agreed to by appropriators in both parties and both chambers, at least as far as funding levels. But there are still disagreements to be sorted out ahead of release.

Guns on the floor

The House is set to vote this week on a bill aimed at curbing gun violence at schools. The move comes nearly four weeks after a gunman killed 17 at a high school in Florida and the subsequent mobilization of students across the country calling for more stringent gun control.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., would amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 in order to focus on “training to prevent student violence against others and self, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students,” as well as “the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence,” which would include mobile apps, hotlines, and websites.” It would also reauthorize the Community Oriented Policing Services Secure Our Schools grant program through fiscal 2028 and increase the grant amount to $50,000 from $30,000.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is facing pressure to schedule a vote on gun-related legislation backed by President Donald Trump and enough senators to clear the Senate. The bill from Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., that would enforce existing law related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System had 60 additional co-sponsors as of Friday, an aide confirmed.

The White House on Sunday unveiled its priorities for legislation designed to prevent additional gun massacres at schools, but excluded an increase in the minimum age to purchase assault rifles as Trump has endorsed.

The administration’s priorities list includes using federal dollars to give “interested” teachers firearms training and the creation of a blue-ribbon commission headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study school safety and violence.

Administration officials, who briefed reporters in a conference call, said Trump is calling on Congress to send him two Senate bills. The first is a the Cornyn-Murphy measure. The second is a bill by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, that would provide federal grant funding to train teachers in identifying threats, technology such as door locks and metal detectors, and development of threat assessment teams, according to Andrew Bremberg, Trump’s Domestic Policy Council director.

Senate stays on banking deregulation

Work continues this week in the Senate on a bipartisan financial deregulation measure that got held up last week as Republicans and Democrats fought over which of the 141 amendments filed so far will be heard. Bill sponsor Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, is seeking to manage additions to the legislation without losing the votes of a dozen Democratic co-sponsors, reports Doug Sword.

What’s in the bill? Besides changing the asset threshold for more stringent Fed regulation from $50 billion to $250 billion, the legislation would exempt banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the Volcker rule, which bars federally insured banks from trading with depositors’ money. One of the most criticized features of the bill was its exclusion of financial institutions that have made fewer than 500 mortgages a year for the past two years from a Dodd-Frank requirement to provide additional data to regulators. Some of that data was meant to help determine whether a bank used discriminatory lending practices.


House Energy and Commerce leaders Greg Walden and Michael C. Burgess on Saturday released a revised version of a bill laying out the pathway for patient access to experimental drugs that have not cleared clinical trials.

The bill avoids further committee action and heads toward a House vote on Tuesday.

The Senate version, dubbed “Right to Try,” championed by Sen. Ron Johnson, broadly allows access for someone with a “life threatening disease or condition.”

The House bill revises the definition of an eligible illness, plus offers clarification of other provisions. Trump touted the bill in his State of the Union address earlier this year.

John T. Bennett and Joe Williams contributed to this report.

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