Legislative Activity

Budget and Appropriations

Last Thursday, June 6 the House approved the FY 2014 Homeland Security appropriations bill by a vote of 245-182, which provides $38.9 billion in discretionary funding to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Both Republican and Democrat amendments successfully transferred funds from the Office of the Undersecretary for Management to pay for a variety of agency operations.  Based on steep cuts to the bill, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget issued a veto threat. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), however, has pledged to use the higher $1.058 trillion spending cap when her committee begins marking up its spending bills the week of June 17.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

On May 21 the Senate Judiciary Committee approved by a vote of 13-5 the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), which included a number of amendments to address some Republican concerns about adequate border security. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expects to begin floor debate the week of June 10 and plans to hold a vote on the bill by the end of June. Efforts continue to secure the 60 votes needed to move ahead with the bill. The bipartisan Gang of Eight in the House has reached an agreement in principle on a comprehensive bill, but there are still hurdles to reaching a final deal, including that the Gang of Eight has become the Gang of Seven with the departure of Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) from the group last week. In the meantime, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) is planning to hold hearings on portions of the immigration bill in his committee.

Disaster Relief

Despite the Oklahoma tornadoes, the U.S. Disaster Relief Fund could end the year with $3.5 billion in surplus, which could prevent another bitter fight over emergency aid offsets.  However, lawmakers from hurricane-hit regions are gaining support for legislation to prevent flood insurance rates from rising.  Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are drafting proposals to tweak the current law, which was enacted to keep the federal flood insurance program out of debt by requiring property owners to pay sufficiently high rates to cover increased flood risks.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, June 12: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence will hold a hearing titled “Protecting the Homeland against Mumbai-Style Attacks and the Threat from Lashkar-e-Taiba.”
  • Thursday, June 13: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) (HR 2278).
  • Friday, June 14: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold a hearing titled “Why Can’t DHS Better Communicate with the American People?”
  • To Be Determined: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence has announced that it will reschedule the March 13 hearing titled “Is U.S. Homeland Security Threatened by the European Union Not Designating Hezbollah as a Terrorist Organization?” for a date and time to be determined.

Executive Branch Activity

Air Travel Safety

The Transportation Security Administration also announced that it would abandon its controversial proposal to allow air travelers to carry small knives, but pledged its commitment to implementing other risk-based security measures in the future to allow screeners to focus on higher threat items.  Relatedly, the House backed an amendment by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) to add $12.5 million to the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, which trains pilots to carry arms.