Congress has a lot to cram in this week before the House goes on recess.

Immigration and what to do about the Southern border will occupy Congress this week. Lawmakers hope to actually read the purported bill and maybe get the issue ...

Immigration and what to do about the Southern border will occupy Congress this week. Lawmakers hope to actually read the purported bill and maybe get the issue off the dime. For a look ahead on Capitol Hill, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan.

Interview Transcript:  

Tom Temin  Is it going to be immigration, immigration, immigration this week because the House is on recess after this week? Fair to say?

Loren Duggan Well, I think that’s going to be one of the big themes, for sure. And the bill that will be before the Senate that they hope to vote on sometime this week, at least hold a procedural vote. It’s something that’s been in the works for a long time, with members behind closed doors trying to hammer out some sort of agreement, take it back to the full Senate and see what they can get done. But there are a lot of things working against it. Both the former president, Donald Trump, who has said he doesn’t like it, and Mike Johnson, who even before the text had been released, said it was dead on arrival in his chamber. So, we’ll be watching to see what they can get done. The Senate changed its schedule, came back a little early. Democrats said they weren’t going to go to their retreat down in Mount Vernon so that they could focus on this bill and on this issue.

Tom Temin Well, so no one really knows the details of the bill then at this point.

Loren Duggan Well, they’ll be reading over what they have and trying to figure that out. I mean, one of the things that’s been a dynamic is people have been reacting to a bill that, frankly, doesn’t exist on paper. Ideas do, concepts do. People are talking. But how this is written is really important. And a comma here, they’ve said or a word there can change the meaning. And I think that’s what will be key is people reading this, seeing what it does and deciding how to vote with these political pressures surrounding it.

Tom Temin And from what I remember of the immigration reform so many years ago, I think when the Reagan presidency was there, it’s much more visible, like the southern border, the endless loops of footage on cable television and so forth paints a very different picture for people than maybe they were aware of 40 years ago. And so is that driving some of the thinking, just the fact that this is politically explosive and there’s lurid pictures coming over all the time on TV.

Loren Duggan So I would say yes to that with visits the politicians have been making to the border, including Speaker Johnson and a group of Republicans earlier this year. But then also, we’ve seen these efforts to send people coming across the border elsewhere in the country, and that seem to have had an impact as well, whether it’s in the New York City area or Chicago area. I think people are seeing it differently because it’s closer to their area, which is one of the things that the southern politicians and southern border politicians were thinking and helping to create that. So, I do think there’s more understanding about this. There’s more focus on it. It is rising in the consciousness as an issue in the election. So, all that is factoring in to make it top of mind for lawmakers who haven’t really done much on this question in a big way in a long time.

Tom Temin Yeah. And there’s a lot of pieces of immigration. There’s how you operate the courts. That’s who it is that you want to come in. It’s asylum policy. It’s also border security, which is only a piece of immigration. So, I don’t pity them for trying to get all that everyone satisfied and something right there. And there’s a few other things that are going on. The house is doing a health bill. Tell us more what the prospects there are.

Loren Duggan Yeah. This is a piece of legislation that is coming up under, you know, pretty normal circumstances where they’re trying to prohibit federal health programs from using cost effective measurements for medical treatments that place different values on patients lives. So, I think they call it quality adjusted life years, which is a concept that’s been out there for a little bit. So, this is, you know, slowly chipping away at things that House Republicans would like to see run differently. They think that the federal government can do this without using these sorts of values, especially when it comes to seniors or people with disabilities. That’s what some of the proponents of the legislation have said. So that’s a bill we’ll see moving at some point this week.

Tom Temin We’re speaking with Loren Duggan. He’s deputy news director at Bloomberg Government and the appropriations. Of course, people would like to see that done. And already we’re, you know, getting into the second week of February, and we only have until the first week in March until the current CR expires. The question comes up over and over again in this week. What will we see? If anything.

Loren Duggan We may not see anything in front of us, but we’ve seen some progress behind the scenes. The top appropriators on the House and the Senate agreed on how to divvy up that top line that they’ve had for a while to each of the 12 bills that lets the people in charge of those 12 bills write them. They have four. They need to get done by March 1st, which if they got to it and really worked hard, they could probably make that happen and then see if they could process it through the House and the Senate. They’d have one more week to do the other eight. So, we’ve heard the people in charge of these bills may not be happy with their allocation, but they’re trying to work through them, trying to work with their counterparts in the other chamber to get things done.

Tom Temin And that’s right. There are two deadlines. There’s March 2nd, I believe it is, and March 9th. And so, there’s only a week more between the two of them. So really they have 12 bills in four weeks, you might say.

Loren Duggan Right. It’s a heavy lift. And I think that’s what appropriators have said. The sooner you get to stop lines and then lines for each bill, we could get this done. But there’s still a lot of details to work out on these 12 bills, what to include and then what else might ride along with it.

Tom Temin And there are things that have to do with the District of Columbia. A committee vote on the RFK Stadium bill.

Loren Duggan People are watching.

Tom Temin All the sports team changeovers that are happening now. What’s going on there?

Loren Duggan Right. I mean, there’s been efforts here because of the way that the land under RFK basically is controlled and who controls it and interest in doing something to help revitalize that space. Longer term, that could lead to a new stadium, maybe in D.C., which may not be possible in their current arrangements. This was stalled for a long time because of the Washington Football Team’s ownership, which changed obviously last year. And now there’s a new coach, too. So, this is a bill that has a little bit of a path to go. But interesting to see this vote scheduled.

Tom Temin Yeah. And that coach came from the Cowboys. And so maybe the new stadium will have an even bigger jumbotron than the Cowboys have, which I think is acres and acres of real estate hanging there. So, we’ll see if that could happen. And also, the tax bill. Now the House, you know, did something on the R&D tax write offs that companies can have of changing it back to the one year write off instead of 20% per year write off. What are the prospects there for the Senate?

Loren Duggan So that bill passed with a wide bipartisan margin under a procedure that didn’t allow changes. So, it was a take it or leave it. The house took it, send it over to the Senate. Now, senators do want to maybe make changes here, whether that’s in the committee or on the floor. We’ll have to see if they are able to make changes that they want to make on different areas. The house also is looking at some point holding a vote on the salt cap, which was a big issue not addressed by the bill. That’s how much in state and local the tax deductions you can take, which in high tax areas like the D.C. area can affect your tax bill quite significantly. So, we may see action on that as well. Whether that gets through the Senate, we’ll have to see.

Tom Temin I remember when salt stood for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. I guess that’s I’m dating myself on that one. And I wanted to check in two on FAA reauthorization is kind of important, but it gets lost in the shuffle sometimes.

Loren Duggan It has been it was one of the big bills coming into this Congress, and the House has passed a version. The Senate has been stalled at the committee level for quite some time. We’ve heard positive signs that this might be the week it finally gets out of the committee with Tammy Duckworth, who oversees the aviation portion of the Commerce Committee, thinking that she might have a path forward on that. That’s another March 8th deadline to do something about that authorization. They’ve extended it two times already. They would potentially do that again if the big bill isn’t ready or doesn’t get through both chambers. But that is an issue that’s been important and lingering out there for a bit.

Tom Temin Yeah. Tammy Duckworth was a helicopter pilot during the Iraq war. So, she’s interested in aviation. And aviation itself, has been in the news so much lately with the need for more air traffic controllers and the need for modernizing oversight of aircraft manufacturing apparently is needed when doors fly off. So, a lot riding on the FAA, you might say.

Loren Duggan Absolutely. The Boeing incident has definitely drawn more attention to the agency and has, I think, kind of given more impetus for Congress to do something here.

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