Pope Francis's eminently quotable encyclical on the environment couldn't have been better timed for floor debate this week in the House, as the chamber takes two swats at the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants.
The rule forms the tentpole of President Obama's climate agenda, which Republicans dislike. Expect Democrats who support the climate change initiatives to bring up Francis's descriptions of the Earth turning to "filth" and his disdain for unchecked growth.
The House is first slated to vote on a bill from Rep. Ed Whitfield and others that would allow states to opt out of the EPA rule and delay its effective date until all legal challenges are settled. That rule is also blocked under a rider in the $30.17 billion-Interior Department and EPA appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, which slashes $718 million from last year's EPA's budget and includes riders scaling back regulations on Clean Water Act authority, ground level smog and fracking.
The House also will debate on the floor a bill that would reform the nation's chemical management system, potentially amending the chemical law that has not seen a significant Congressional upgrade since its passage in 1976.
The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to pass early in the week one of the president's highest priorities, a trade promotion authority bill paving the way for free-trade deals such as the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. Obama will have to rely upon about a dozen Senate Democrats who want to make sure that other trade-related bills, including one helping workers displaced by such deals, will be taken up and passed afterwards. They'll have to trust Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to ensure that the separate trade adjustment assistance bill, or TAA, won't fall by the wayside. McConnell said Thursday that even though his fellow Republicans have major reservations about TAA, "the votes will be there to pass it" in order to get TPA done. The goal is for President Obama to sign both bills by the July 4 recess.
After that, McConnell has to decide how hard to push back on Democrats who have insisted that they will block all federal spending bills until there is a new summit on the budget. Last week, Democrats followed through on their threat to block a Defense Department appropriations bill, which met with the expected "how dare you?" reactions from GOP supporters. McConnell could schedule another vote on the DOD bill or other spending bills to drive home the point.
There are also some bipartisan measures waiting in the Senate wings. There is a cybersecurity bill prepped and ready for the full Senate that would encourage companies to share data about breaches with federal investigators. The legislation needs at least a week of floor debate for amendments but has an excellent chance of passing afterwards. There is also an education bill, carefully crafted by two highly respected negotiators, Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander, that would update the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. Like cybersecurity, the education bill needs some vetting by the full Senate before final passage, but once that is over, it could set the benchmark for a long-overdue education reauthorization.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will weigh its own bill attacking the climate rules at a Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subcommittee hearing on how the rule will affect electricity costs. Similarly, a House Science Committee subcommittee is holding a hearing examining a federal report that said coal plant retirements could more than double under the plan.
Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta will run the gauntlet this week as she attempts to defend her agency's cybersecurity practices in the face of consternation on Capitol Hill over the ever-widening hack of federal employee data. Archuleta will appear before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday to discuss IT spending and data security before enduring a second encounter Wednesday with the House Oversight Committee, where multiple lawmakers, including Chairman Jason Chaffetz, already have called for her resignation. On Thursday she will face the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Chairman Ron Johnson already has set the tenor: "Americans should be outraged by this."
A Supreme Court decision on King v. Burwell draws nearer, with the next batch of opinions scheduled to be announced Monday and a decision expected by the end of the month.
Following last week's Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill released in the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a subcommittee markup of the Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies appropriations bill on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee's oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing on rising health insurance premiums under Obamacare. Witnesses have yet to be released, but the discussion will almost certainly center on double-digit premium increases reported by some insurers for next year and will provide ample opportunity, yet again, for a larger debate over Obamacare.
Kevin Kennedy, the executive vice president of the manufacturing firm Takata, will come before the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday to accept his share of the wrath that comes from multiple vehicle recalls as a result of company's defective airbags. Sen. Bill Nelson, the committee's ranking member, has been particularly critical of Takata's response to reports of defects, which have resulted in several car-accident deaths. The heads of Honda and Fiat Chrysler, two of Takata's big customers, also will address the committee.
The panel will also hear from Mark Rosekind, the head of the Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel III.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will delve into another sensitive safety issue involving train commuters Wednesday at a hearing on the status of positive train control implementation along the nation's thousands of miles of tracks. Current law requires the feedback warning system between trains and track sensors to be in place by the end of the year. Several lawmakers have been open to extending that deadline because rail companies have met bureaucratic barriers in setting up the system.
President Obama begins his week hosting an Iftar dinner to celebrate Ramadan at the White House. He'll attend various meetings there Tuesday.
Wednesday, Obama will host a reception for LGBT pride month at the White House.
Obama will attend meetings at the White House Wednesday and Thursday.
Caitlin Owens, Alex Rogers, Dustin Volz, and Rebecca Nelson contributed to this article
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