Update – The Week Ahead

December 8, 2014 – 7:30 a.m.

This is the last scheduled week of session for the 113th Congress, and Congressional leaders have a plan for finalizing all of the legislative business of Congress by this weekend, if all goes well.  (“Legislative business” excludes the confirmation of nominations, which are Senate-only, and there exists an outside chance that Democrats would keep the Senate in after the House leaves in order to clear a few more nominations before they lose control of the chamber.)  However, nothing in the Constitution prevents them from working all the way up until noon on January 3, 2015 if they can’t get their work done.

Most House Members will not be returning to DC until Tuesday (while certain non-controversial bills will be debated on Monday, there are no roll call votes scheduled until Tuesday).  Senators will be back by 5:30 p.m. today for roll call votes on confirming more nominees.  The House can afford to show up late, because they have already passed two of the four big-ticket items in the “must pass before this Congress ends” department – the tax extenders bill and the defense authorization bill.  The other two items – the omnibus FY 2015 appropriations bill and a terrorism risk insurance extension – are on the House schedule for this week, but the text of the items has not been released.

With regards to the appropriations bill, if all goes well, the appropriators will release the text of the final bill tonight (to be posted on the House Rules Committee website) for consideration in the House on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Since the Senate has not passed any FY 2015 appropriations bills at all, (or any regular FY 2014 bills for that matter), the Rules Committee will have to recommend attaching the omnibus appropriations package to some unrelated House-passed bill that has been amended by the Senate and sent back over to the House.

(Despite the partisan sniping that goes on between House GOP leaders and Senate Majority Leader Reid, the two sides actually work together closely at times like this, and the House has been framing legislation to make Reid’s life easier.  In the Senate, for the Leader to bring up a new Senate bill or a House-passed bill requires a two-step, multi-day procedure (unless the legislation is uncontroversial enough to get the unanimous consent of all 100 Senators).  But bringing up a House amendment to Senate amendment to a House bill only require a one-step procedure in the Senate and saves Reid at least one day of precious floor time.  This is why the defense authorization bill was attached by the House to a Senate amendment to an unrelated employment compensation bill (H.R. 3979) and why the omnibus appropriations bill will likely be attached to an unrelated bill as well.)

(Ed. Note: Sometimes, when in a hurry, Congress forgets to change the official title of a bill when substituting unrelated bill text.  This is why, when looking through the table of contents of the U.S. Statutes at Large for the Inland Waterway Revenue Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-502), which established the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, you have to look for the law “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 to provide that income from the conducting of certain bingo games by certain tax-exempt organizations will not be subject to tax, and for other purposes”.)

For Majority Leader Reid, less time is better, as Senators really want to leave town for the year, and it is actually easier for Reid to push major legislation through the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body without any real debate when facing a tight deadline than it is for him to get the legislation through when there is more time.  This will particularly effect the appropriations bill, which needs to be enacted by Friday in order to prevent a partial government shutdown.  (Also note that with regards to the tax extenders bill, which will get 70+ votes in the Senate but which has a few Senators bitterly opposed, the House has not even sent the House-passed bill to the Senate yet.  Reid cannot start the procedure of bringing up the bill until the House sends it over, and the later the House waits (presumably in concert with Reid), the easier it will be for Reid to get a unanimous consent agreement to bring the bill to the floor quickly and without amendment.)

Anything that is not part of those big four bills (tax extenders, defense authorization, omnibus appropriations, and terrorism risk) has to be almost completely non-controversial because it will have to get unanimous consent for passage in the Senate and will need to pass by voice vote (after Thursday) or unanimous consent in the House as well.  Hopefully, in the Senate, this will include the Coast Guard reauthorization (H.R. 5769) passed by the House last week.

With regards to nominations, the usual practice for the Senate is to have one gigantic year-end package of dozens of noncontroversial or horse-traded nominations confirmed by unanimous consent as the last item of business prior to adjournment.  But the bad feelings prompted by the nuclear option, coupled with the imminent GOP takeover of the Senate, will make that more difficult this year, which is why the Senate has been spending so much floor time of late confirming nominations by roll call vote.


Tuesday, December 9 – Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – full committee business meeting to consider pending nominations – time and room TBA.

Wednesday, December 10 – House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Aviation – subcommittee hearing on U.S. unmanned aircraft systems – 10:00 a.m., 2167 Rayburn.

Wednesday, December 10 – Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security – subcommittee hearing on intercity passenger rail – 2:30 p.m., SR-253 Russell.

Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill


Related Articles

Getting Back on Track: Intercity Passenger Rail

Wednesday, November 29 - The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials met to discuss...

DOT Establishes Multimodal Freight Office

December 1, 2023 - The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the establishment of its new Office of Multimodal...

Govt. Shutdown Now Postponed to Jan.-Feb.

November 17, 2023 - The earliest that the federal government will close for a lapse-of-appropriations shutdown is now January 19,...