Washington Weekly
Jun. 1, 2015

Last Week

The House and Senate were in recess.More

This Week

The Senate started its workweek early, with a rare Sunday evening debate over reauthorizing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The provisions of importance include Section 215, which has generated the most controversy because it allows the National Security Agency to conduct so-called bulk collection of telephone records of millions of Americans not suspected of any crime. Legislation to reauthorize and reform the Patriot Act and the federal government's surveillance activities is expected to pass as early as Tuesday, but as of today is currently expired.

The Senate returns today to continue debate on the Patriot Act. The House will take up its fourth appropriation for FY 2016, legislation funding the departments of Justice and Commerce, as well as federal science programs.

The $51.4 billion measure will likely attract a multitude of amendments aimed at the Justice Department. Debate is expected to consume hours of floor time since it will be considered under a process allowing an unlimited number of amendments. Potential amendments could include increasing the $15 million allocation for a program that would provide law enforcement with body cameras, preventing the Justice Department from barring states’ implementation of medical marijuana laws and lifting restrictions on transferring detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility.

If there is time, the House may also consider a fifth appropriations bill this week funding the departments of Transportation as well as Housing and Urban Development. More

Item of Interest

Last week, the EPA finalized the controversial Waters of the United States rule. Dubbed by many the “WOTUS” rule, the proposal would allow waters traditionally off-limits to federal regulation to be subjected to the dictates of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.

For decades the term "Waters of the United States" has been applied to mean "navigable waters" upon which boats or ships could operate. The administration's WOTUS rule would end this traditional understanding and would greatly extend the reach of federal authority. The rule is believed to give Washington unprecedented powers to regulate virtually any place that water flows or accumulates anywhere in the United States. It would allow regulation of a host of land features, including minor wetlands and typically dry streambeds that only occasionally carry storm water. ASA joined with over 350 business groups in submitting comments to the EPA regarding our concerns over this rule, click here to see our comments. More

The Patriot Act just expired. Here's what happens now.
National Journal
The Senate packed up Sunday evening without extending the expiring surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act, meaning that — for now, at least — the U.S. intelligence community is without tools that it says are vital to national security, including the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. call data.More

Democrats in pressure cooker on trade
The Hill
House Democrats are in a pressure cooker ahead of a high-stakes vote on a vital piece of President Obama's ambitious trade agenda. The White House, joining the powerful business lobby, is applying a full court press in an effort to rally lawmakers behind contentious fast-track legislation that would grant the administration new powers to seal enormous international trade deals that would rank atop Obama's economic achievements.More

GOP hits another roadblock on Obamacare repeal
The GOP's months-long debate over when and how to send a repeal of Obamacare to the president's desk now appears to have an answer. They can't do it all at once. Repealing the law "root and branch" is probably out of the question, the chamber's parliamentarian is hinting, because some parts of Obamacare don't affect the federal budget. That's a must in order to use the obscure procedure known in Senate parlance as reconciliation, which allows lawmakers to avoid the 60-vote filibuster hurdle and pass bills on a simple majority vote. More

It's Rand Paul vs. almost everyone on Patriot Act
Roll Call
Rand Paul's presidential campaign wants to portray his fight to block any Patriot Act extension as a faceoff against President Barack Obama. But the Kentucky senator is waging an increasingly lonely battle. Some of his usual tea party allies are abandoning him. House Republican leaders are not pleased with his antics. And then there’s Paul's feud with the senior senator from Kentucky and the most prominent Republican to endorse his presidential campaign, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.More