Legislative Activity

House GOP Drafts Immigration Principles

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and House Republican leadership are drafting a set of broad immigration principles to be discussed at the party’s annual retreat on Thursday, January 30 and Friday, January 31. The leaders hope to use the principles to determine the party’s appetite for immigration reform in 2014, and to try to reach consensus on more popular issues such as border security, employment visa verification, and interior enforcement – all of which fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, the party remains split on whether to tackle the legalization process for the over 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Chairman Goodlatte has recently suggested a compromise for up to 6 million undocumented immigrants who could remain living and working in the U.S. if they paid back taxes, passed background checks, and applied for citizenship using existing processes. Even if the House GOP reaches consensus on a path forward, no legislation is expected to progress in the lower chamber until the 2014 spring primaries are over. At that point, it is most likely that the Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417), introduced by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) would be the first bill to be considered.

Flood Insurance Legislation Gains Momentum

Supporters of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013 (S. 1846), introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and co-sponsored by nearly 30 Democrats and Republicans, argue that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should delay the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) planned rate increases for up to four years. While the Senate could not reach a unanimous consent agreement before adjourning for recess, the upper chamber has agreed to pass the bill by unanimous consent this evening. However, the bill’s prospects remain uncertain because House leaders pulled the related Flood Insurance Relief and Transparency Act of 2013 (H.R. 3693) from the floor in late December amid criticism from House conservatives over using federal funds to support the program.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 28: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will hold a hearing titled “Examining TSA’s Cadre of Criminal Investigators.”
  • Tuesday, January 28: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Use and Abuse of Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime at the Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Wednesday, January 29: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing titled “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Executive Branch Activity

FEMA Improves Flood Insurance Program

As the Senate plans a unanimous consent agreement on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that FEMA has largely addressed the contractor management issues that caused GAO to list NFIP as a high-risk program. Because contractors perform many of NFIP’s core functions – including handling financial and statistical data, overseeing policy sales and implementation, and supervising the updating of flood maps – GAO concluded it is crucial that FEMA has implemented a contractor management directive in line with DHS guidelines and best practices. However, GAO recommended that FEMA continue to improve its monitoring mechanisms to insure quality assurance.

DHS Records Increased Travel to U.S. in 2013

Before House Republicans discuss immigration reform on their annual retreat, including addressing concerns about visa overstays, they will have the opportunity to review DHS’s FY 2013 traveler entry reports. In particular, DHS noted that 362 million travelers entered the U.S. in FY 2013, over two-thirds of whom entered via land ports. This represents a nine-year peak in travelers to the U.S., including more than 12 million more travelers than entered the U.S. in FY 2012. Of these travelers, over 200,000 non-citizens were denied entry and nearly 25,000 were arrested based on outstanding warrants.