One more week of business on Capitol Hill before the craziness sets in

With the Fourth of July behind them, and the Republic convention ahead of some of them, Congress spends this week in session.

With the Fourth of July behind them, and the Republic convention ahead of some of them, Congress spends this week in session. Now the Senate will join the House to splash around in the budget pond. But that’s not all, as we hear from Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview Transcript: 

Loren Duggan
The Senate is holding its first markup on Thursday with three of the 12 appropriations bills, plus setting the top lines that they want to spend on all 12, which will be a really useful indicator of where some of the flashpoints will be between the two chambers. And the House side, the committee has already wrapped up work on six, and they’re aiming to get the other six done this week before they head out to the GOP convention. So a lot to watch in two different places, plus one House floor vote later in the week, too. So a lot happening on the spending front.

Tom Temin
Right. So does that mean that they’ll come to reconciliation at some point before Sept. 30?

Loren Duggan
No. There’s already talk about a stopgap and when it would run through. That’s not the focus right now, they’ll probably do that when they get back from the August recess, which they’ll still be taking. But that certainly the post election period is when this will get resolved. After everyone understands who the President will be, if there’ll be the partisan makeup there. And then who’s going to control both chambers of Congress. You kind of want to get that picture in mind before you figure out if you’re going to try and wrap it up this year, or let it extend into next year, maybe when there’s new people in charge.

Tom Temin
Yeah, the whole presidential picture is such a murky thing right now, we won’t even get into that one. But I wanted to ask you about also the Chevron ruling from the Supreme Court, which seems to change the dynamic among the branches of government to some earlier period when laws were more specific, agency rulemaking was maybe less broad than it is now. What does it look like the Hill will be doing next? Do you think.

Loren Duggan
I’m not sure that they’ll do anything this week about it. But it does change the dynamic longer term and a lot of ways. As you noted before this ruling, agencies were given deference when the law wasn’t clear about what powers they had. Now, the courts are going to have more deference. So Congress, if they want to achieve a policy goal, are going to have to be more specific in the legislating. And that could come in two different ways. We may see more staff or different types of staff brought into Capitol Hill who have deeper experience, or perhaps more time in the regulatory space or whatever. So that could be a big hiring boost, or at least hiring change going into the future. And then lobbyists may also have a bigger role to play here too. Because if they know the rules, and they know the details, they might have more things to write. But as one lobbyists said, if the 1,000 page on the business you see now give you pause, think about the 5,000 page ones you may need in the future to make sure that all your policy goals are spelled out. So this really is a big change. It’s something our newsroom, which covers the law of tax government, across the board is very focused on and thinking about all the ways it could affect lawmaking and regulating going into the future.

Tom Temin
Do you think it could affect this year’s appropriations for the congressional branch that they might even vote on ahead of everything else?

Loren Duggan
That bill is scheduled to go on the House this week. And it’s one of the three that the Senate committee is looking at. Not clear, if they’ll attack that yet. That could be one of the things that when it gets to a final version later this year, they put more funding in there. But certainly those questions are going to be going around. And it could also be to create more offices in the capitol to help. There’s this office of technology assessment that existed before 1995. And there’s been pushes a time to bring that back. Could that be something that comes in now, because if you think about it technology and regulating it is really hard, because what you write into law today may be surpassed by developments, 10, five, three years into the future, as we’ve seen with AI and other things.

Tom Temin
Right. So the big question, then long term is Congress’ capacity to deal with Chevron, if it does have to be more specific in legislating this chemical, or that social media thing. They have to actually know the details.

Loren Duggan
They may, and that’s something I think we’ll see play out over time and how the courts also absorb this, because it could change their workload if they’re reviewing more decisions like this. So all three branches are affected by this and all the things that go around it like K Street in the lobbying world too.

Tom Temin
We’re speaking with Loren Duggan, deputy news director at Bloomberg Government. And a couple of topical issues, the Senate, one of the committees is going to be looking at the Francis Scott Key missing bridge. What’s going on there? Could there be some federal money sooner rather than later for it?

Loren Duggan
Well, Congress has to digest the requests that the administration sent up during their little break here where they asked for, I think it was about $4 billion, primarily through the transportation department to help with the actual rebuilding, but then also some other agencies to help with the cleanup and some of the shipping things that the Army Corps of Engineers has helped with. But this hearing is about looking at what the federal and state government have already done to date. I think there’s a Federal Highway Administration official coming in, and then somebody from Maryland at least. And they’re just going to review where things stand and what they need to do. The timing of when they act on this request could come down to what FEMA needs as well, because some of the disaster relief funds are going to be tapped. This latest hurricane is just hitting the US. And if another hurricane does in August, that could expedite things are. So we’ll be watching that. But it could be a stopgap spending or CR writer as well in September, if they need to move this money faster.

Tom Temin
All right. And then a couple of, again, specific things, and this maybe relates to that bigger question of Chevron, but the EPA will be before House Oversight.

Loren Duggan
Michael Regan will be before that committee. Again, the House Oversight Committee can oversee anything at once, and this time they’re bringing him in, and we’ll probably have a lot of questions about Chevron and some of the other court rulings, perhaps that affected what the EPA can do. And then just what his general plans are, I think it’s a chance to try and draw contrast between what Republicans won and what a democratic EPA has been doing.

Tom Temin
Right. Because the EPA has been the focus, not in this particular Chevron case, that was actually the Commerce Department. But the EPA has been the subject of a lot of court battles over specific regulations. And they’ve won some, they’ve lost some. So I think Chevron has more for them than maybe the Commerce Department, even though that was the sparking case here. And at the same time, the refrigerators and dishwashers standards, here we go coming up for a vote, what’s going on there?

Loren Duggan
These bills were talked about a few months ago, they did a broader, making it harder to change efficiency standards, unless there were real reasons. But these are going out to the specific ones. You mentioned refrigerators and dishwashers. And just making it a little harder to change the standards to try and keep appliances where they are. Democrats will push back on these. These are being driven by Republicans. But, yet again, it’s part of this regulatory push and I think trying to have maybe some division going into that convention week that’s coming up.

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