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This week: House begins busy sprint to August recess, Senate tees up ‘chips-plus’ bill

House leaders look to cram in a list of votes before a five-week August recess

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and his Democratic caucus have a lot to do before the August recess begins.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and his Democratic caucus have a lot to do before the August recess begins. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected 8:32 p.m. | House leaders are cramming this week to finish a laundry list of legislative priorities before a five-week getaway from Washington.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., warned, though, that members may return early, likely in the last two weeks of August, if the Senate passes a reconciliation bill, sending it to the House for a vote.

Before Friday, lawmakers want to vote on a wildfire and drought package, additional fiscal 2023 spending bills, a semiconductor incentives and science research and development package known as “chips-plus” and possibly a renewed assault weapons ban.

Oh, and a “Tiger King” bill — because why not? — that would generally prohibit private individuals from owning big cats, like lions and tigers.

The House Rules Committee teed up the wildfire and drought package, based on dozens of bills, under a structured rule that would allow consideration of three amendments. Another Rules Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, meaning additional measures could head to the floor in the coming days.

Hoyer said lawmakers will also vote on a bill to extend certain pandemic-era authorities for telehealth under Medicare through 2024, or through the end of COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is longer.

And pending Senate action, the House could take up the “chips-plus” package.

If they can find time, Democratic leaders may also schedule a vote on bills related to banning semiautomatic assault weapons and the use of gun trace information in civil proceedings, reported out of committee last week after a lengthy partisan debate.

House Democrats still hope to pass more fiscal 2023 spending bills before leaving town, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. But that goal could fall off the pre-recess radar depending on the timing of other priorities. “A lot depends on when we get the chips bill; a lot depends on what will happen with reconciliation, how soon we can get that before the recess,” Pelosi said.

Hoyer’s forecast for the week didn’t mention the State-Foreign Operations, Labor-HHS-Education and Commerce-Justice-Science spending bills, which had previously been seen as measures lawmakers could vote on. But a written notice from his office left room to maneuver, noting that additional legislative items are possible.

Senate tees up ‘chips-plus’

Across the Capitol, senators have two weeks before their August recess, and this week’s top priorities are the “chips-plus” measure and a revote on a veterans benefits bill.

To clear those bipartisan priorities this week, Senate leaders will require cooperation from all 100 senators.

Democrats are working to lock in a time agreement to speed through procedural votes and pass the semiconductor chips measure by Tuesday. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., predicted that final passage would more likely come Wednesday.

The Senate is scheduled to vote to invoke cloture and cut off debate on a substitute amendment Monday at 5:30 p.m. But it’s possible for leaders to reach a deal early this week to speed that up.

Next, the Senate is expected to try to clear legislation to expand veterans health and disability benefits, which the House passed last week with revised language to deal with a snafu with the Constitution’s origination clause discovered after the Senate passed it earlier this summer. That would clear the measure for President Joe Biden’s signature.

The bill would make it easier for veterans with certain cancers and respiratory illnesses to obtain VA benefits by presuming they were exposed to burn pits or other toxic substances in Afghanistan, Iraq or Persian Gulf countries.

And before leaving town next week, Senate Democrats aim to pass a slimmed-down “Build Back Better” budget reconciliation package.

That legislation would extend more generous health insurance subsidies for two years and allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower costs on certain prescription drugs.

Timing depends on how long the Senate parliamentarian takes to issue an opinion on the legislative language. She heard arguments last week on whether drug provisions comply with the budget reconciliation rules, and may need to go through the same process for the subsidy language.

And even then, the measure could eat up lots of floor time because of the “vote-a-rama” process — in which senators can offer unlimited amendments — before final passage.

This report has been revised to reflect the length of a proposed extension for certain pandemic-era authorities for telehealth under Medicare.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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