After a turbulent week, Congress is on recess, but some work continues

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Reeling from two highly controversial Supreme Court decisions and some revelatory hearings concerning the Capitol break-in, Congress is in recess this week. But not everything has stopped on the Hill. The Federal Drive with Tom Temin got more from Bloomberg Government deputy news director Loren Duggan.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Loren, what a week it’s been it’s there used to be that old TV comedy show That Was the Week That Was but two landmark and controversial, world shaking Supreme Court decisions, plus those hearings on the Trump administration and Jan. 6, 2021. Quite a week, what’s your take? And what do they be doing while on recess?

Loren Duggan: Well, I’m sure they’ll go home and react to these decisions for Democrats, in particular Friday’s ruling on Roe v. Wade and scrapping that and also the Casey decision from the 90s. That’s going to resonate hugely for them, they’re gonna go home and probably try to reassure voters in their states what they’re going to do to fight against it. On the other hand, you have Republicans and conservatives who have wanted this outcome for a long time, who were happy with it, thrilled with it, and going to, you know, go home and take that to their voters as well. So I think that this decision is going to be down not just this week, but in the weeks and months to come, including in the November elections.

In terms of how they respond legislatively on the Hill. Obviously, we won’t see much this coming week. But I think this will come up in the appropriations process. And then discussions about other votes that they might be able to take. The House passed a bill many months ago to try to codify provisions of Roe v. Wade and Casey into law, the Senate didn’t take that up because of the 60 vote requirement for most things, which will probably stop them from doing very much about it for the rest of the year. But we may see some more votes and some more discussion, at least. And on the gun issue. You did have this juxtaposition of a Supreme Court ruling that makes it easier potentially to carry guns in New York State and elsewhere, with this bipartisan deal to put some gun regulations in place trying to protect Second Amendment rights for Republicans as they would describe it, but at the same time, make a dent in changing some background check rules, providing funding. So again, those two issues, those court rulings are, are big.

Tom Temin: Well, I guess I’m hoping that members of both parties, regardless of what side you’re on, and the gun question, or the abortion question will maybe tone down the rhetoric, we’re not seeing that too much, so far. Neither gloating, nor threatening the Supreme Court or wanting to burn the whole place down over that decision. Neither side should be really fanning the flames. But I’m not sure we can count on that.

Loren Duggan: I think we’ll see some rhetoric that’s perhaps heated at times. But you know, this is a deeply felt position on both sides, people who were worried about this ruling after the leak, or the draft ruling was leaked to Politico and was out there and people who have wanted this outcome for a long time. And you know, what happens next? And what direction two things go, both federally, and at the state level? I think a lot of this discussion, obviously, is going to shift to states that have either trigger laws or maybe considering new legislation on either side of this question.

Tom Temin: All right. And getting back to Congress itself. You mentioned some committee work, maybe on the appropriations bills, they’ll try to grind out something during the recess. Is that possible?

Loren Duggan: That is possible. This is, it’s a two week floor recess, at least. And in the House they call it a committee work week. And the main action will come in the Appropriations Committee, which has been very busy the last three weeks. As of last Friday, they approved 12 bills through subcommittee and then another six of those made it through full committee, they’re going to try to do the other six this week, if they can get all that done. It was a pretty ambitious schedule to do get all of them done in three weeks and out and available for floor votes. Potentially, when they come back in July, they’d like to get that through. It’s important to remember these are written using a top line number that only House Democrats have agreed to, it doesn’t reflect a bicameral, bipartisan top line number which will be necessary for any sort of final version of these. But this is very much the House Democrats sticking out their position, both in terms of funding levels and policy and riders at this point. Earmarks are back in the mix again this year as they were last year. That’s a little bit more bipartisan, where you do have Republican members seeking earmarks and many of these bills. So we’ll see how that plays out this week. Again, it’s been a pretty ambitious timetable to get all these through. But it’s, it’s just the first chapter in the story because the Senate has to weigh in and then we’ll see if they can get a final deal or if we’re going to be talking about a continuing resolution around Oct. 1, because we may not be able to get a bicameral deal in place by then.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Loren Dugan, deputy news director at Bloomberg Government and getting back for a second to the earmark question. I’m wondering if earmarks will maybe in some way blunt the desire of the Republicans to slow things down and want a continuing resolution because they feel that they might be in the majority when it comes to the next session?

Loren Duggan: We’d have to see how that plays out. I mean, obviously if you lock in a continuing resolution into next year, it’s the amounts that were agreed to last year but that could lock in both sides of the equation defense and non-defense There is a general upward pressure right now on defense spending going much higher than President Biden wanted. We saw that with the defense authorization markups in both chambers where they came in with increases in both the House and the Senate on that. So there may be real interest in getting something locked in before the end of the calendar year, if not the fiscal year to try and lock higher amounts in place, and also clear the decks for the next group of leaders, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is the Appropriations chairman, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who’s the vice chairman in the Senate, I think they’d both like to in their last time doing this, as the top leaders in the appropriations process, get it done, clear the decks and leave it to the next chamber’s leadership to figure out what to do for fiscal 2024 when they get to that, but I think we’re gonna see some interesting discussions around that. Earmarks are accepted by some Republicans, but by not all means not all. But some of the ones who are invested in are the appropriators themselves, we saw Richard Shelby get a number of earmarks in last year’s bills, and I assume he’ll be aiming for the same this year.

Tom Temin: And also, before the break, there was action on the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act in the committee’s. Can that continue in this committee work so called period?

Loren Duggan: Well, they because the House in the Senate have both approved those committees, at least they’re going to be ready for floor action at some point. So I don’t think we’ll see much more on those until maybe July or maybe even September, if they need to wait to do that. Again, one of the big questions there is just what are you going to set the defense top line at? And what does that mean for the systems that funds and the personnel expenses that are out there. That bill is an important one, it’s been enacted for what, six decades now. No chairman wants to be the one that doesn’t finish that on their watch. So I assume they’ll be working to finish that bill by the end of the year, again, maybe not fiscal year, but probably by the end of the calendar year, trying to wrap that one up as well.

Tom Temin: And once upon a time before Ukraine before the gun ruling before the abortion debate. Before all of these things, there was worry about competition with China. And a big bill on that one, what’s going on with that one that was kind of active for a few weeks?

Loren Duggan: It was that has been sent to a House Senate Conference Committee, which includes I think, all told about a fifth of the membership of Congress or something like that. Because of all the committee’s involved in the sweeping packages that came out of the house in the Senate. There was work before this two week break to try to narrow the list of issues and maybe even jettison some topics that they couldn’t come to an agreement on to try and get a deal on that. July 4 had been a target for finishing that, obviously they haven’t done that. But they are going to try to use this next work period to come to an agreement. At the core of it is money for semiconductor manufacturing in this country. But then there’s all sorts of other provisions dealing with trade and tax and natural resources and things that would improve even science funding in the country authorizing money for National Science Foundation, NIST, groups like that. So we’ll have to see if they can narrow and come to an agreement on a bill that can get through both chambers. But that will be one of their priorities when they come back.

Tom Temin: And it seems strange to discuss nominees. Here we are almost to the midterm elections. But the administration not quite as new as it was a year ago. But there’s still lots of nominees out there pending out there?

Loren Duggan: There are both administration positions, and then still the courts because the vacancies come up. And Democrats are definitely trying to use this window where they know they have control of the Senate to push through as many nominees as they can for President Biden, there’s some key administration jobs, they’re still trying to fill and we’ll see some votes. And one of the big ones is the vice chair for supervision at the Fed the nominee there, Barr will get a vote at some point it seems like when they come back, but you know, they’ve they’ve really tried to be efficient here and schedule a lot of nominations every week, even as they work on legislation, get some nominees in there as well. So there’s no slowdown in that activity.

Tom Temin: Loren Duggan is Deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. As always, thanks so much.

Loren Duggan: Thank you.

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