Regular business, like your agency’s budget, is coming back to life in Congress

Committees in the House will take up two important issues this week: Agency budgets for 2024 and the next National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This will t...

Committees in the House will take up two important issues this week: Agency budgets for 2024 and the next National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This will transpire as Congress recovers from its exertions over the debt ceiling. For a look ahead, Federal Drive with Tom Temin  spoke with Loren Duggan, Bloomberg Government’s Deputy News Director.

Interview Transcript: 

Tom Temin And Loren, just give us the outlines of what the House will be doing here on some stuff that the deadline for which is really looming.

Loren Duggan Absolutely. You mentioned the two big things, the National Defense Authorization Act and the appropriations bills, both of which were supposed to start a couple of weeks ago. But they hit the pause button because of the debt limit negotiations that you referenced. So those processes are getting up and running again, in part because there’s more clarity with that debt limit deal in place. But the September 30th deadline, especially on spending, will continue to loom over the House and the Senate as they decide what to do with those bills and then other things that have deadlines like the farm bill and the FAA bill, where there hasn’t been the sort of progress you might think they need to get those things done by September 30th. So we’re so focused on the debt limit, but now everything has shifted towards these September 30th headlines that are really going to take the focus of attention of Congress.

Tom Temin And FAA is an authorization deal needed?

Loren Duggan That’s right. But there are some components that have to be in place because of trust funds and ticket taxes and things like that that needs to be either reauthorized or at least extended. We saw a bill come out on Friday from the House Authorization Committee that will lay the groundwork for that debate, 700 plus pages. So it’s a pretty big piece of legislation that will take up a lot of time over the coming weeks.

Tom Temin And I guess the administration has a new nominee for FAA administrator. They’ve been some time without a confirmed administrator, maybe it’s a year and a half now running. That’s kind of important for someone overseeing the safety of the air system. So that’ll be an extra debate and activity for the Senate.

Loren Duggan Absolutely. The full time administrator who had been nominated withdrew, and then the part time or at least acting administrator Billy Nolan stepped down. So we are with another acting and that is not a fill position, even as Congress weighs this really sweeping legislation about the agency. So summer travel season often brings focus to the aviation sector, and I’m sure that will be the case this year as well.

Tom Temin Yeah, especially with planes clipping each other on the ground all over the place. I mean, that’s an FAA. It’s not just the air that they have to keep the planes apart, but right next to each other a little shred in your car. You could keep going on vacation, a little tear in the skin of an airplane, you’re not going anywhere on that plane.

Loren Duggan Exactly.

Tom Temin For months, probably. All right. What’s the update on some bills dealing with gas stoves and some rulemaking gambits that the Republicans in the House are trying to deal with? Those issues are issues, but with respect to how they are affecting the rest of the lawmaking going on, what’s what’s the status there?

Loren Duggan Well, this is the other byproduct of the debt ceiling deal that allowed some things to move forward. But a group of Republicans last week banded together and prevented the rest of the Republicans and the leadership from adopting a rule that would have allowed debate on four different bills last week, two of them dealing with gas stoves, one dealing with requiring approval of major regulations instead of this negating process that they use now. And then the fourth would have changed that Chevron deference policy, where courts tend to defer to administration on their interpretation of regulations. So those were four big bills they wanted to do last week. All of them were swept aside, though, when they couldn’t adopt a rule for floor debate. This goes back to the way that Kevin McCarthy negotiated the deal and how he had to obtain Democratic support not just to pass the bill, but also in that case to adopt the rule to even allow the House to debate that. So this is the Republicans working some things out. As we recall from the beginning of the year, it was a tough process for Kevin McCarthy to become speaker. Some of the people who really didn’t want him as speaker are holding him to the fire now and demanding some changes to the way things run. So we’ll see, we’ll see what happens this week as they try again on those bills. But that is definitely a factor to to watch this week. Can they get things back going?

Tom Temin What’s the old saying? They used to fight one another over a hot stove. Now it’s literally fighting one another over a gas stove.

Loren Duggan Indeed.

Tom Temin All right. We’re speaking with Loren Duggan. He’s deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. What about the Senate? Some nominees there. We mentioned FAA, but there’s still a lineup behind that.

Loren Duggan Yeah they’re churning through nominations as they can. There’s an undersecretary for the State Department this week and then some of the, I think, Jared Bernstein to be the head of the CEA in the White House. That’s another position that requires confirmation. Charles Schumer teed up a lot of these votes before they left last week to make sure that they had a full slate to do this week. Judicial nominees will remain a focus. They’ll keep going through those. The president keeps sending them over and the Judiciary Committee will keep processing them now that they have Dianne Feinstein back in place and have the majority, they need to push forward with those. So it’s really a nomination factory there. The one interruption could come with another Congressional Review Act vote. The House is looking this week at one to overturn the ATF’s rule on pistol braces. The Senate wants to do that as well. So we’ll see if that’s something that can get through both this week or may take some time. Obviously, that’s been a big focus as well. The congressional review acts and the House, I think, is taking a vote this week on whether to override the president’s veto of another one of those. So that’s the other part of this factory that keeps moving fairly efficiently, even if it’s not affecting anything in the end.

Tom Temin Yes. So that ATF pistol brace rule, I’m presuming the House Republicans don’t want it. And the Senate Democrats, or all Democrats, do want it.

Loren Duggan Right. And we’ll probably see it pass the House. Now, in the Senate, there’s always maybe a Democrat or two or three even who might side with that. So it’s not a foregone conclusion. That’s the way that these CRA resolutions, as we refer to them, have gotten through, is that there has been enough Democratic support to give it the simple majority it needs in the Senate to get over the line to the president’s desk.

Tom Temin And the other hoary issue that’s kind of raised its head again is, where will the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, move to? And interesting, there seems to be some clamor from coming within the agency itself.

Loren Duggan Yes, WUSA nine, I think it is, got this letter that the FBI had written saying that the proximity to Quantico should be something that’s taken into consideration when you locate this headquarters. That would mean Virginia would win if that was the quantity there, the quality that they were looking for. The Maryland delegation and the Maryland governor is obviously pushing hard to get the headquarters there. They talk a lot about equity and how it’d be better to have it there. So this is very much still a live issue. On the congressional side, you have in the Maryland delegation two people with some something of a say, Chris Van Hollen, who leads the Financial Services subcommittee in the Senate. And then Steny Hoyer, the former majority leader, is now the ranking member of that subcommittee in the House. So they’re both going to have a big say in the bill that funds the GSA. And obviously the GSA will make the final decision here, taking the FBI’s interests into account. So this is very much a live issue, something Steny Hoyer, I think, really wanted that job he took so that he would have a say in some influence over that decision.

Tom Temin And I guess beyond that, we’ll see if they really fund the headquarters in a way that it can be built with some degree of alacrity. As we saw with the Homeland security headquarters. It was a 15 year effort.

Loren Duggan Absolutely. They’ll need money and they’ll need speed and they’ll want to get out of the current building, which is part of the reason motivating this is that I don’t think they want to stay in the Hoover Building much longer if they can avoid it.

Tom Temin But it’s still too soon to start putting Cigarets out on the carpet because you got to live with the place for a little while longer, probably ten years, I’m guessing.

Loren Duggan Those processes do take a long time. So. Yeah.

Tom Temin All right. And Supreme Court ethics, that’s coming up in the Senate. We don’t cover the court system a lot, but this has all to do with Clarence Thomas and the allegations around him.

Loren Duggan That’s right. There’s still a push in the Senate among Democrats to have some sort of code of ethics on the Supreme Court. There are some rules and ethics guidelines that Supreme Court justices do abide by, obviously. But there’s some interest in strengthening those or having underway or on top of that. So there’s a bill that there will be a hearing led by Sheldon Whitehouse and the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, continuing the drumbeat on that issue, which hasn’t gone away. And I don’t think will, because there’s a lot of interest and this is obviously a big month for the Supreme Court, a lot of big rulings coming. So it’s a fine time for them, I think, to keep that in the spotlight. And that’s probably why they’ll take that opportunity this week.

Tom Temin Yeah, And some of their rulings have been surprises, which means this court is not as easy to pin down as people might have thought.

Loren Duggan Yeah. The Alabama redistricting case last week is a big deal and could mean a lot for the 2024 election. As we wrote about last week, that it’s shape shifted not just in Alabama but in other states as well. So Democrats actually were buoyed a little bit by the way that case came down, whereas they were dreading it going in, to be quite honest.

Tom Temin Yeah. And just another question about the Senate. What have you noticed up there? I mean, they have two senators who are at marginal levels of being able to perform their duties, John Fetterman and Dianne Feinstein, God bless her, she didn’t look so good when she got back to the Senate. What do we know about them and their ability to be on top of the issues? And can they vote? I mean, I guess they can vote because somebody can raise their hand.

Loren Duggan Right. That’s that’s the literally the bare minimum. Can you make it to the chamber to raise your hand and vote? And both of them have been doing that since their return. Dianne Feinstein did say she’d be on a lighter schedule as she continues to recover from the shingles effects. Fetterman has been doing press conferences and he’s even led a subcommittee hearing since he returned from his inpatient treatment for depression. So they’re both back in some ways. And then there’s other senators who are gone as well. We saw Patty Murray was away for a couple of days last week dealing with the health issue. So it’s there’s always somebody sick in the office, I guess. It’s just that with a 50-50 or 51-49 set up right now, any departure can really wreck with the system, especially if Republicans can get Democrats to come on their side and really upend a vote. So it does matter who shows up and who’s able to be casting a vote any day.


Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    Congress Debt Limit

    Regular business, like your agency’s budget, is coming back to life in Congress

    Read more
    Congress Debt Limit

    Congress is twisted in debt ceiling knots, and it only gets worse this week

    Read more