Stephen Boyd’s weekly Capitol Hill briefing for Alabama’s business, financial, defense and government affairs executives.
This is the 25th Edition. Thanks for reading.
Washington is a great place to live or visit—except in August, when the heat and humidity rival anywhere in the deep South. People than can leave town… usually do.
Congress is no exception, and the traditional August break starts as soon as final votes wrap up this week. With just four legislative days remaining before Members spend five consecutive weeks at home, the next few days will be jam packed.
Most Members will start their week with a staff briefing to get up to speed. Here’s some of what they’ll hear:
The House returns to action tomorrow, with the Rules Committee meeting to prep H.R. 4366, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill, for consideration. On the other side of the Capitol dome, Senators will try to wrap up work on their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). More on each below.
Congress Takes Steps Forward on Major Legislation, but September 30 Deadlines Loom…
FAA Reauthorization Takes Off… The House last Thursday approved legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, a bill that also serves as a vehicle to address challenges and technological developments in the aviation industry. H.R. 3935, the “Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act,” would make changes at the FAA to increase efficiency, enhance aviation workforce development efforts, address a number of emerging safety issues, raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial pilots to 67 from 65, and provide $4 billion per year for the Airport Improvement Program—a go-to resource for community leaders looking to upgrade local airports.
- House lawmakers declined to add additional flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, a controversial issue in the nation’s capital that has become the subject of intense lobbying by the airlines.
- The legislation was successfully shepherded through the House by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), himself a pilot whose Capitol Hill office is covered in aviation photos and memorabilia.
- The bill passed in a bipartisan 351-69 vote. Alabama Reps. Aderholt, Carl, Palmer, Rogers, Sewell, and Strong voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Moore voted against passage.
- The Senate is expected to take up its version of the bill after the August recess. Congress faces a September 30 deadline to reauthorize the FAA.
PAHPA, pronounced “Pappa,” Passes Panels… Congress is making incremental progress on reauthorizing a key law intended to better prepare the nation for pandemics and other national health emergencies.
- On party line votes, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved bills (H.R. 4420 and H.R. 4421) that together represent a reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). Democrats on the committee balked when Republicans did not include amendments aimed at ongoing prescription drug shortages.
- In the Senate, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions—known on Capitol Hill as “HELP”—also approved its version (S. 2333) of a reauthorization bill. That vote was 17-3. A focus of the HELP committee’s legislation is to better identify drug shortages and supply chain problems.
- The current PAHPA law expires on September 30 absent reauthorization. This will be a tough negotiation on a tight timeline, so expect a temporary extension of the current law to buy more time to get PAHPA done.
The Coming Appropriations Clash... To put it bluntly, the appropriations process is a complete mess. With the House in session just 15 days between today and the end of the fiscal year, neither chamber has, as of today, approved a single bill—much less started negotiations with the other chamber on a product that could be passed and sent to the president for signature.
- In May, Speaker McCarthy and President Biden struck a deal to raise the national debt limit. That legislation—which Congress approved—also set discretionary spending levels for Fiscal Year 2024. Love or hate the compromise, the spending agreement seemed to put the appropriations process on a path toward enacting at least a handful of the 12 annual appropriations bills before the September 30 deadline. Flash forward just two months and that optimism has eroded for several reasons.
- First, in the Republican-led House, appropriators are conceding to right wing demands to draft bills below agreed upon spending levels.
- Second, last week appropriators in the Democratic-led Senate went the other direction, announcing that they would spend more money than planned in the form of $14 billion in emergency spending. (Tip: when you hear “emergency spending” in Washington, assume it’s borrowed and adding to the national debt.)
- Third, eventually there will be a fight over additional emergency funds for Ukraine that is likely to spill over into the larger spending debate.
- Members and staff might go ahead and cancel personal plans leading up to October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. At best, this process will come down to the wire with a last-minute stop-gap Continuing Resolution—at worst, a government shutdown.
National Defense Authorization Act Inches Forward… Senate leaders hope to wrap up consideration of the “must pass” National Defense Authorization Act, S. 2226, before August recess starts. We’ll see.
- The Senate resumes consideration of the $886 billion NDAA Tuesday after considering 11 amendments to the bill last week.
- Reportedly, there is an effort to force a vote on the Credit Card Competition Act as part of NDAA consideration. (In the Senate, most amendments need not be related to the subject of the underlying bill.) Debate on that amendment, which is controversial in the banking sector, could eat up valuable floor time.
- The House cleared its version of the NDAA earlier this month, but only after a number of “culture war” provisions were added.
- Expect a lengthy reconciliation process that could drag into November or December before final approval. THE MONDAY BRIEF will take a deep dive into the NDAA after the Senate finalizes its legislation.
Representative Under Fire After Hearing Stunt… Abbe David Lowell, attorney for Hunter Biden, called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after Greene last week displayed at a public committee hearing pictures that allegedly depict Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, nude and engaging in various sex acts.
- The Representative’s attention-grabbing stunt was unnecessary to advance any real debate regarding allegations of criminal conduct that surround the President’s son.
- In a letter, Lowell wrote that Greene “has lowered herself, and by extension the entire House of Representatives, to a new level of abhorrent behavior.”
Trump’s Legal Problems Expand… According to Donald Trump—the former president and current leader in the race for the 2024 Republican nomination—the Department of Justice notified him last week that he is now a target in its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
- Generally speaking, if you’re caught up in a Department of Justice criminal investigation, you’re either a “witness” (you have information that the government believes is important), a “subject” (your prior conduct is within the scope of an active investigation), or a “target” (the government has substantial evidence that you may have committed a crime).
- Though not guaranteed, receiving a “target letter” often means an indictment on federal charges is looming. That could happen as early as this week.
- In a separate case, federal Judge Aileen M. Cannon set a trial date of May 20, 2024 for Trump’s federal trial relating to charges of retaining classified national security documents. That date comes after most primary contests, but before the Republican nominating convention in Milwaukee.
- Also, Trump already faces a March 2024 trial on criminal charges in New York related to hush money payments to a porn star. And, in Fulton County, Georgia, the District Attorney is reportedly wrapping up an investigation into election interference that some believe may result in additional charges for Trump.
- Those legal fees sound expensive? The New York Times reported last month that “Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees. The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials…”
E.P’s Daylight Savings Time Update… Nothing new on the “Sunshine Protection Act of 2023.”
Stephen E. Boyd is a Partner at Horizons Global Solutions. Previously, he served as a Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Chief of Staff for Alabama members in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and as a Communications Director of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Opinions expressed herein are his own. This news report is not intended to influence or persuade. Email Stephen at [email protected].