Washington Weekly
Mar. 23, 2015

Last Week

The Senate continued to debate legislation addressing human trafficking, but the majority could not end a filibuster, even after five separate votes in an attempt to get to 60. Both Republicans and Democrats have dug in their heels on the confirmation battle for the next attorney general and cannot agree on bipartisan human trafficking legislation. The House voted on measures previously debated such as reauthorizing the Scientific Advisory Board and preventing the EPA from "proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible."More

This Week

Both houses will attempt to move to the budget, with neither majority fully pleasing both budget and defense hawks, leaving much work to do. The House is expected to offer an amendment creating a $96 billion war fund, preventing the need to find offsets, but it remains very unclear if it will keep budget hawks onboard. With no Democrats expected to support the Republicans budget, it could be a long week for the majority getting to final passage. The House is expected to also attempt to pass a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate or SGR, which is the formula by which the government reimburses doctors who serve Medicare patients. The Senate is expected to hold one of its rare "vote-a-ramas," during which senators can offer an unlimited number of amendments to the budget. The back-to-back votes on amendments are likely to go all night, possibly Thursday. Senate Democrats have pledged to block any attempt to increase defense spending without also increasing spending for nondefense programs. We also may see a nonbinding vote on the Marketplace Fairness Act, as the key champion of the legislation is Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy.More

Item of Interest

On Friday, the Department of Interior proposed stringent new rules related to hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The rules announced Friday set standards for well construction to minimize the risk of groundwater or other contamination, strict requirements for disposal of the fluid that flows back out of the well and a mandate to publicly disclose the chemicals drillers use in them. In addition, disposal fluid must be stored in covered, above-ground tanks. A number of industry groups have pushed back on the unnecessary proposal, and ASA will be adding this issue to our portfolio of issues we will be talking about with our elected officials on April 15 at ASA's Annual Legislative Fly-in.More

John Boehner Defies Conservatives, Goes Bold on Budget
Speaker John Boehner's newest tack is to go big. Over the next week, the Ohio Republican and his top lieutenants plan to jam two big-ticket items through the House — a show of strength for a leadership team stung by a string a defeats and facing doubts about whether it even can govern. First, to get a budget approved, the Republican leaders intend to employ a parliamentary maneuver to boost defense spending by $20 billion without any corresponding spending cuts. They're betting the move will help break a stalemate between fiscal hardliners and defense hawks. More

Obama Cracks Down on Fracking
The Hill
The Obama administration is setting new standards for the controversial hydraulic fracturing process, the first major federal effort to crack down on the practice that has largely been behind the nation's oil and natural gas boom. The fracking standards only apply to drilling on leased federal land and land owned by American Indian tribes, which account for less than a quarter of the country's oil production and 17 percent of its gas. The vast majority of fracking happens off federal land, regulators said.More

Is Immigration a Poison Pill?
National Journal
Jeb Bush has committed himself to testing a critical question that each of the GOP's past two presidential nominees would not: whether support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship is a poison pill in the GOP primary. In the process, Bush is forcing a debate that will gauge how much the party's current coalition is willing to change its agenda to court new voters.More