Congress is in session this week.
When the House returns Tuesday, gun control measures will dominate much of the three-week legislative session before the July 4 holiday break. In a Thursday primetime address, President Joe Biden outlined several ideas for tackling gun violence, including raising the age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21, strengthening background checks, instituting safe storage and red flag laws, repealing immunity for gun manufacturers, and addressing mental health. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) shared a Dear Colleague letter calling the upcoming work session “a pivotal one for the future of our country.” Hoyer noted that the House would address several pieces of legislation on guns. This week, the House will vote on the Protecting Our Kids Act (HR 7910), which features a package of eight gun-related bills, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee following an emergency hearing last Thursday. The vote on these items will happen this week. House Democratic leadership, however, is still working out the mechanism in which the vote will occur. Leadership is considering splitting up the package into individual votes after a letter from 21 House Democrats, led by Rep. Abagail Spanberger (D-VA), circulated stating that the members believe the best path forward in the Senate are stand-alone votes on each measure in the package, maximizing the chances for passage in the upper chamber. The eight bills feature much of what President Biden mentioned in his address. Many of these items have no chance of receiving 10 or more Republican votes to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. The House will also vote on the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2022 (HR 2377), which creates a “red flag” mechanism for families or law enforcement officials to file petitions requesting extreme risk protection orders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) promised a vote on an assault weapons ban, although skepticism exists about whether the vote would garner the 215 votes from her party needed for passage. In addition to gun-related measures, the House will also vote on 12 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (HR 7776).
Senate bipartisan gun legislation talks led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) remain ongoing in the hopes for compromise and common ground. Many believe no legislation will garner enough votes to reach the total needed. However, optimism remains around the working group of Senators to create a bill focused on expanded background checks and mental health measures. Separately, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are discussing a potential reconciliation package. Sen. Manchin wants a deal to include action to ease inflation, raise corporate taxes, lower prescription drug prices, and address climate change. The specifics are very much in the air, although negotiations have gone on for several weeks. Many also question if there is enough time and political will to complete a package of this size. Congress has until September 30, 2022 to pass a budget reconciliation package. The Senate will also vote on the House-passed Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 (HR 3967), which addresses health care matters for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service.
For the remainder of the week, the House and Senate will hold several committee hearings, including a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry subcommittee hearing on “The Western Water Crisis: Confronting Persistent Drought And Building Resilience On Our Forests And Farmland;” and a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing on “Addressing the Roadway Safety Crisis: Building Safer Roads for All.”
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