Rule votes are typically simple procedural measures that attract near-unanimity from the majority party. But with their confidence in Boehner waning, conservatives are increasingly indicating that they will oppose House rules on bills they find particularly onerous. Given that the OCO funds are not offset and break with the Budget Control Act's caps on defense spending, this could be their opportunity to strike down the rule. That would send Boehner and members of the Rules Committee back to the drawing board.
Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing for a lengthy and likely tense vote-a-rama this week under McConnell's new open-amendment strategy.
The upper chamber will debate the budget bill, which faces similarly strong opposition over defense spending, Monday through Wednesday, setting up an all-night vote session on Thursday. Senators are expected to begin voting on dozens of amendments to the budget bill from both sides of the aisle Thursday afternoon and will likely pass the final legislation late that night or in the early hours of Friday morning.
Senators will consider an amendment from Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Lindsey Graham that would also boost OCO funding to $96 billion—a potential agreement with the House.
As with the Keystone Pipeline bill, Democrats are planning to use the budget plan as a platform to get Republicans on the record on some of their top legislative goals, including raising the minimum wage, improving infrastructure, and approving the president's universal-preschool program. Expect measures on controversial policies targeting Republican members up for reelection in 2016—like climate change—as well.
After pushing back a bill requiring approval of any nuclear deal with Iran from March 25 to April 15, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a quiet week ahead, focusing on the nominations of ambassadors to Mali, South Sudan, and the Bahamas. But the House Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will move ahead with a hearing on Tuesday on Iran.
General John Allen will testify before the House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday to discuss America's strategy to combat ISIS. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its own hearing Tuesday examining U.S. policy in the Middle East more broadly. And also on Tuesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will testify before the House Homeland Security Committee to discuss "the fight against Islamist extremism at home and abroad."
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is spending the week focused on the border, with a Tuesday hearing on transnational crime and the drug trade and a Wednesday morning hearing on the influx of Central American migrants to the United States.
Actor Ben Affleck and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates will also testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee's State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Graham. The Thursday morning hearing is centered on "diplomacy, development, and national security."