House Democrats Push Gun Violence Amendments in Labor-HHS Markup
By Kathleen Hunter & Erik Wasson
(Bloomberg) -- Although Democrats can’t get the full House to take up a gun violence bill, they were able to spark an impassioned gun debate during today’s marathon Labor-HHS-Education markup in the Appropriations Committee.
The debate over guns came on the first two of 32 amendments being considered. The markup is likely to drag on until late afternoon when committee members join their colleagues on the House floor to vote on dozens of remaining amendments to the Interior-Environment bill.
The skirmish started with two related amendments offered by Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey of New York and Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro. They sought to remove language, originally sponsored by former Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey, that has been c! arried for decades in the Labor-HHS bill. The rider prevents the Centers for Disease Control from researching gun violence as a disease.
"How many more attacks is this committee willing to sit through without acting?" Lowey said.
Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that committee members were complicit in gun deaths if they voted "no." She cited the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot and killed in Washington’s Bloomingdale neighborhood as he walked home early Sunday morning.
Labor-HHS cardinal Tom Cole of Oklahoma said that the bill is "not the right place" to debate gun violence and argued that money already exists to research suicide, which is the leading cause of gun deaths.
"Deaths from gun violence is down 50 percent since 1995 according to the FBI," Cole said.
"Funding th! is would be a grave mistake because it would be used improperly to deny our Second Amendment rights," Virginia Republican Scott Rigell said.
"That is far astray from curing disease," Maryland Republican Andy Harris said. "Gun violence is a crime not a disease."
Both amendments failed on 18 to 31 votes.
The committee has also rejected Democratic attempts that would increase the top-line spending level, strike policy riders, reverse a cut to tobacco prevention programs, increase lead contamination prevention funding and restore cuts to Title X family planning.
The House Labor-HHS-Education bill for fiscal 2017 would eliminate money for existing Affordable Care Act programs and prohibit the use of any new discretionary funding to further implement the 2010 law.
It would provide $161.6 billion in discretionary funds, a $569 million decrease from the current year and $2.8 billion less than President Bar! ack Obama requested. Education Department spending would be cut by $1.3 billion.
Policy riders in the measure would block the Labor Department’s rules regarding financial advisers’ fiduciary duties, as well as the Obama administration’s new expansion of the number of people eligible for overtime pay. The big winner in the bill would be the National Institutes of Health, which would receive a $1.25 billion increase to $33.3 billion.
INTERIOR: Proposals to block the EPA from taking retaliatory action against states that don’t meet the agency’s Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load goals and to bar enforcement of prevailing rate wage requirements are among the several dozen amendments to the fiscal 2017 Interior-Environment spending bill that are still awaiting a vote.
Lawmakers worked into the early hours of this morning on the measure, completing about half of the 131 amendments made in order. Another late night is possible, as House leaders plan to complete work on the measure today.
The $32.2 billion package, H.R. 5538, already faces a White House veto threat because the administration says it underfunds the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, and would roll back climate and safety rules. A few Republican amendments adopted last night are sure to exacerbate the administration’s complaints.
Among them is a proposal by Louisiana Republican Charles Boustany that would prohibit the Interior Department from implementing or enforcing a proposed rule on gas and oil leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf, and a proposal by Georgia Republican Barry Loudermilk that would block a proposed emissions standards rule for medium- and heavy-duty trailers.
Other amendments scheduled for a vote today include one by Republican Bradley By! rne of Alabama that would block funding for the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy and another by Boustany that would block implementation of the Interior Department’s Well Control Rule, slated to go into effect later this month. The rule, which provides new standards for controlling offshore oil and gas wells, was developed to prevent a repeat of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
OPIOIDS: The Senate voted 90-2 to advance the conference report on legislation intended to combat abuse of opioid drugs af! ter Democrats backed off their objections to the measure.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this morning that he anticipated the chamber could clear the measure, S. 524, "soon." Under Senate rules, a final vote would occur tomorrow if all debate time is used.
The legislation would authorize the Justice and Health and Human Services departments to issue grants to states, localities and Indian tribes for opioid abuse programs and would expand treatment services for veterans. For more details, see the BGOV Bill Summary by Michael Smallberg.
FAA REAUTHORIZATION: Senators have agreed to a vote this afternoon on the House-passed Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization. It would extend the FAA’s operating authority through Sept. 30, 2017 and tighten airpor! t security following terrorist attacks on the Istanbul and Brussels airports.
The FAA’s current authority runs through Friday. The House passed the measure July 11 by voice vote. For details on the legislation, H.R. 636, see the BGOV Bill Summary by Adam M. Taylor.
ENZI BUDGET PLAN: Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi this morning released a set of principles for overhauling the federal budgeting process and renewed his call for a biennial budget system. Enzi plans to follow up with a legislative proposal as a later date, said a Senate Republican aide.
PLANE TAXES: The House Ways and Means Committee plans a markup this afternoon of several measures, incl! uding a bill, H.R. 3608, that aims to clarify how air transportation excise taxes apply to privately owned planes. The legislation, sponsored by Ohio Republican Pat Tiberi, would exempt most payments for plane management and maintenance from the excise tax. Some aircraft management companies, including NetJets Large Aircraft Inc., have disagreed with the Internal Revenue Service over whether the tax applies, Bloomberg BNA’s Laura Davison reports.
ZIKA ON ICE: Democrats have “exhausted” efforts to work with Republicans on Zika funding, Senate Minority leader Harry Reid said in floor remarks this morning, adding that McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan refused an inv! itation from Obama to work on Zika funding. Reid called for the Senate to postpone a recess scheduled to begin Friday to reach compromise.
DON’T WORRY, KBW SAYS: Investors “should not be too concerned” that inclusion of a financial transaction-tax proposal as part of the Democratic Party platform will help speed its adoption, as party platforms can be “quickly forgotten and have little impact on policy,” KBW analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a note.