Marijuana, discrimination bills on House’s September agenda, CR expected to avert shutdown

No appropriations deal in sight, Hoyer says

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks with reporters after attending a news conference on postal service outside the U.S. Postal Service headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaks with reporters after attending a news conference on postal service outside the U.S. Postal Service headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted August 31, 2020 at 2:48pm

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer laid out the chamber’s agenda for September, including marijuana legislation and anti-discrimination bills, but in a letter to colleagues Monday he acknowledged that there is no appropriations deal in sight as the end of the fiscal year approaches.

Committees will take the lead the week of Sept. 8, with floor action expected to resume the following week.

The House will vote on three bills focused on discrimination protections in workplaces and education, including a bill that would outline workplace protections and accommodations for workers whose ability to perform a job is limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. It cleared the Education and Labor Committee with bipartisan, but not unanimous support. The other measures are focused on diversity and equity in schools.

The House will also vote on a resolution from New York Democrat Grace Meng that would condemn anti-Asian bias and bigotry related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following week, the House will vote on a bill that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent federal cannabis convictions.

The measure would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances in all instances where it is referenced in current law, and apply this change retroactively. Schedule 1 controlled substances, which also include methamphetamine and heroin, are considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use.

[Congress faces tough call on spending stopgap]

The bill would also expunge federal offenses related to marijuana and require resentencing for those currently under any form of supervision.

To address communities affected by the set of policies known as the “War on Drugs,” it would establish a 5 percent tax on all cannabis products to be deposited into a trust fund to pay for job training, literacy and legal aid programs for affected communities, which are disproportionally minority.

A package of clean energy innovation and development measures are also on the agenda. Hoyer signaled that the House could take action on an intelligence reauthorization, but it is not yet on the official schedule.

September will also bring negotiations to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30, when the current fiscal year ends.

The House has passed 10 of its 12 bills in two packages, but the GOP-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee hasn’t yet taken up a single fiscal 2021 spending bill.

“At this rate, it is likely that we will have to pass a continuing resolution to keep government open past the end of this fiscal year,” Hoyer wrote. “While that is not ideal, the House will do its job to avert a shutdown that would only further damage our economy.”

Putting additional pressure on the talks, the government funding deadline is also the expiration for the $25 billion in aid commercial passenger airlines received in payroll support as part of the $2 trillion March coronavirus relief law (PL 116-136).

The length of a continuing resolution is among the major debates expected, a question complicated by election year politics. Congress could punt spending decisions to a lame-duck session after the election or put forth a longer CR that runs into 2021.

David Jordan contributed to this report.

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