Road Ahead: Congress Returns Ahead of Hurricane Florence

House and Senate still expected to hold hearings, votes despite impending storm

A "wet floor" sign stands next to bins placed to collect rain water leaking from the roof of the Hart Senate Office Building on Sept. 11, 2018. The Washington area is expected to see heavy rainfall over the next few days due to Hurricane Florence. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers are scheduled back at the Capitol on Wednesday, but they are sure to be keeping an eye on the weather — and their flight schedules.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California issued a scheduling update around lunchtime Tuesday informing members that despite the expectation of Florence making landfall as a major hurricane along the Atlantic coast, there were no plans to change the legislative schedule.

The week for both chambers had already been truncated because of Rosh Hashanah, with first votes scheduled on both sides of the Capitol on Wednesday evening.

If the schedule is not scrapped, there is plenty to be done during the short week.

The House and Senate are both seeking to take up the first conference report on a package of three fiscal 2019 spending bills, which funds agencies including the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, as well as military construction projects and Congress itself.

The conference committees for the next two packages of spending bills are scheduled to hold their meetings Thursday.

Bipartisan House and Senate negotiators have also worked out a deal on reauthorizing water infrastructure projects, with the House scheduled to take up that compromise bill before the end of the week.

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The first vote of the week for the Senate is on a motion to break a potential filibuster of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Charles P. Rettig to be in charge of the Internal Revenue Service. And the House has votes planned on suspension bills.

There’s no shortage of committee activity, either.

That is headlined by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Thursday morning markup of the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

It will be Kavanaugh’s first appearance on the agenda for the Judiciary panel’s regular business meetings, meaning that under established committee rules, the Democrats are certain to request the nomination be held over for a week. That would set Kavanaugh up for a committee vote on Sept. 20, in line with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for a floor vote the last week of September.

The most intriguing Senate hearings on the schedule might be a Thursday meeting of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on “Evolving Threats to the Homeland” that will feature testimony from witnesses including the senior vice president of security at the NFL, Cathy Lanier. She is a former chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C.

On the House side, the Ways and Means Committee will be busy on and off the floor.

The committee is planning to mark up a set of tax bills, which are being dubbed “Tax Reform 2.0,” and the House floor schedule includes legislation that would impose a moratorium on the employer mandate for health insurance coverage under the 2010 health care law, as well as rolling back a number of related taxes. 

But the schedule is in flux, with lawmakers not wanting to be caught in D.C. because of cancelled flights.

American Airlines, which has major operations at Reagan National Airport, has warned of anticipated issues at its hub at Charlotte Douglas in North Carolina, and other airlines expect the storm will lead to cancellations throughout the nation.

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