The House’s legislative wheels are kicking into high gear this week.
After four months of mostly sleepy floor activity — not counting the protracted fiscal 2018 spending fight that led to two partial government shutdowns and a few other bills, like a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration — the House has enough major legislation coming out of its committees to fill the floor schedule for the next two to three months.
“It’s the culture that we want to have that you should be productive, we should do work and we just need to continue to work hard,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “We can always improve.”
Coincidentally — or maybe not — the next few months is the remaining time period Congress realistically has to be productive before lawmakers’ focus fully shifts toward their re-election campaigns.
Atop the House’s to-do list is the farm bill, which, in addition to agriculture policy programs, includes an overhaul to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. The measure would impose stricter work requirements for able-bodied adults seeking SNAP benefits and create new job training programs designed to help get people off government assistance and into the workforce.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan sees those policies as key to delivering on the GOP’s promise to overhaul welfare programs, the only plank of House Republicans’ 2016 “A Better Way” agenda that has yet to see legislative action.
“This is about giving Americans the right incentives and the right skills to get into the labor force. … This is the perfect time to do this in this kind of an economy,” the Wisconsin Republican said during his weekly press conference Thursday. “Of course, there’s a whole lot more that’s happening here in the House.”
While lots of things happening in the House has been a frequent talking point of Ryan’s — even through periods of legislative slog — he is not overstating it now.
The farm bill will be on the floor this week, along with a bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA measure includes funding to keep the Veterans Choice Program — which provides veterans access to private health care alternatives — running until the community care programs the bill would create are fully implemented. VA Choice funding is expected to run out by the end of the month.
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Next week the House will consider the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual measure Republicans will tout as a continuation of their efforts to rebuild the military.
Also before the one-week Memorial Day recess, the House is expected to take up the administration’s $15 billion rescissions request, which seeks to claw back authorized and unspent federal funding.
In June the House will spend at least a week processing dozens of bills designed to help combat the opioid epidemic and will likely begin moving fiscal 2019 appropriations measures.