Busy week ahead with infrastructure deadline

Wednesday is the latest turning point for Biden's agenda

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives in the Capitol for a vote on July. Both chambers are back this week for the first time since late June.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives in the Capitol for a vote on July. Both chambers are back this week for the first time since late June. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 19, 2021 at 11:47am

Both chambers of Congress are working in-person this week for the first time since late June, with senators facing a Wednesday deadline for an infrastructure deal and the House considering an array of measures, including addressing special immigrant visas for Afghan allies.

Monday time stamps

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and will vote at 5:30 p.m. on confirmation of Tiffany Cunningham to be a U.S. circuit judge for the Federal Circuit.

The House convenes at 2 p.m. to consider 14 bills under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure that limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

At the White House, President Joe Biden makes remarks on the economy and then hosts Jordan’s King Abdullah early this afternoon.

Senate to-do list

This week the Senate is juggling a likely vote on a Crime Victims Fund bill, procedural moves on the bipartisan infrastructure package and an off-the-floor deadline on budget reconciliation.

Sources expect the House-passed Crime Victims Fund legislation, which would direct revenue from out-of-court settlements to the fund, to come up for a vote this week. Money for the fund has been dwindling in recent years.

The bill is expected to pass — the Senate version has 63 listed backers. But some Republicans, including Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, say the fund is too often tapped by appropriators to pay for programs unrelated to crime victims without busting discretionary spending caps.

The Senate will vote on an amendment from Toomey that would set a minimum threshold for Crime Victim Fund spending, with a simple majority required for adoption.

With August recess approaching, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer set deadlines this week for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He plans to file cloture on the legislative vehicle for the bill today, with an initial procedural vote Wednesday.

Schumer also said Wednesday would be the deadline “for the entire Senate Democratic Caucus to agree to move forward on the budget resolution with reconciliation instructions” based on the $3.5 trillion outline.

House calls

The House is taking up a trio of bills dealing with Afghan special immigrant visas, chemicals known as PFAS and the aftermath of a Supreme Court decision on the Federal Trade Commission’s authority.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., introduced the bill to increase by 8,000 special immigrant visas for Afghans employed by the U.S. government or international security forces since 2001. The legislation builds on lawmaker concerns that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could endanger those military allies’ lives.

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday the bill would cost $869 million over a decade, as those visa holders and their family members would become eligible for U.S. benefit programs like health insurance and nutrition aid.

The House will also debate a bill that would require the EPA to designate PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as hazardous and make the chemicals eligible for cleanup under the Superfund program.

The last bill would give the FTC explicit authority to obtain monetary restitution for victims of consumer protection and antitrust violations. Lawmakers are circling back to the issue after the Supreme Court’s April 22 decision stripped away the authority.

Defense authorization markups

The Senate Armed Services Committee is marking up the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill this week, with several contentious topics on the table.

Those include a potential major reworking of the military code of justice, proposals to thwart extremism in the ranks and arguments over the number of jets and ships the Pentagon plans to buy.

The Strategic Forces and Cybersecurity subcommittees are marking up the bill in closed sessions Monday evening. The remaining five subcommittee markups are scheduled for Tuesday, and the full committee markup will begin on Wednesday.

Only two subcommittee markups are open — the Readiness and Management Support and the Personnel meetings. So most of the panel’s decisions won’t be made public until the committee publishes the bill and the accompanying report later this year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told reporters she’ll offer an amendment that would empower special prosecutors’ offices, rather than military commanders, to decide whether military servicemembers should be prosecuted for major crimes.

A majority of the panel has indicated backing for Gillibrand’s proposal, though at least one — Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine — may be reconsidering, according to a recent New York Times report.

Erin Bacon, David Lerman, Alexei Alexis, Andrew Clevenger and John M. Donnelly contributed to this report.