Administration’s Regulatory Agenda Signals Continued Push to Align Visa Programs With “Hire American” Goals

On December 14, 2017, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released the Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, which is a report on the rulemaking efforts U.S. administrative agencies intend to pursue in the near- and long-term.

If enacted, several items in the agenda have the potential to impact employers’ immigration programs. The relevant proposals include the following items:

  • U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing to issue a rule that would eliminate the ability of certain H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization documents (EADs).
  • USCIS is proposing to issue a rule (originally introduced in 2011) that would establish an electronic registration system for H-1B petitions that are subject to the annual quota (H-1B cap filings). DHS notes that the rule is “intended to allow USCIS to more efficiently manage the intake and lottery process” for these petitions. USCIS notes that this rule may include a provision for a modified selection process, as outlined in the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, such that “H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”
  • USCIS is proposing to issue a rule that would revise the definitions of “specialty occupation,” “employment,” and “employer-employee relationship” in the H-1B context. USCIS notes that the purpose of these changes would be to “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded only to individuals who will be working in a job which meets the statutory definition for [H-1B eligibility].” The rule may also contain provisions regarding the payment of appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.
  • The Department of State is proposing and finalizing several rules that would enact various modifications to the exchange visitor (J-1) program. These changes include arrangements relating to the administration of the J-1 program, provisions to help ensure the safety and well-being of foreign nationals who enter the U.S. as exchange visitors, and efforts to reinforce the cultural exchange and public diplomacy aspects of the program. Changes may also include an expansion of the types of jobs that are prohibited under the summer work travel category.
  • As a “long term action,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proposing a rule that would clarify the criteria for admission to the United States as a temporary visitor for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). CBP also notes that the proposed revisions would “make the criteria [for entry as a temporary visitor] more transparent.”
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is proposing to issue a rule that would effectuate a comprehensive reform of the practical training options (OPT) available to nonimmigrant students. The proposed provisions include increased oversight over the schools and students participating in the program. The stated purpose is to “improve protections of U.S. workers who may be negatively impacted by employment of nonimmigrant students.”

Employers may want to keep in mind that although the abstracts listed in the agenda seemingly have the potential to impact many areas of the immigration system, it is premature to draw conclusions about the effect of these proposed changes without first seeing the text of the rules themselves—none of which have been released, and some of which may not even be drafted. Additionally, both the agenda itself and the timing for the rules, are aspirational; in prior years, only a select number of proposals have actually turned into rules, and ever fewer have actually followed the stated timelines. As noted previously, for example, a proposed regulation on the electronic registration system for H-1B quota petitions was originally introduced in 2011, but no further action occurred.

Should a proposed rule actually be issued, the agencies must conform to the notice-and-comment protocols of the Administrative Procedure Act. Effectively, this requires the agency to issue a proposed rule that explains the agency’s plan to accomplish a certain goal or address a problem.  This is followed by a comment period, during which time any interested parties can submit comments about the proposed rule. Prior to issuing the final rule, the agency must review all comments and indicate its reasoning for either modifying the rule on account of a comment or explain why the proposed comment does not merit a revision to the rule. Rulemaking is typically a prolonged process that takes a minimum of several months to accomplish. In other words, a proposed rule (which is different than most of the abstracts found in this agenda, which only state the intent to issue a rule) would be the first step in what could be a complex and lengthy rulemaking process that may take many months before promulgation of any final rule.

Finally, employers may want to take note that many of the administration’s prior attempts to enact changes to the immigration system have been subject to lengthy and robust legal challenges. Any such litigation on a proposed rule could increase the timeline for implementation, assuming the rule survives the legal challenge at all.

In summary, although the agenda provides some insight into the goals of the administration on employment-based immigration, the publication of the agenda itself does not alter the status quo.

© 2017, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C

This post was written by Jacob D. Cherry of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

For more information check out the National Law Review’s Immigration page.

Trump Continues Focus on State Prosecutorial Experience in United States Attorney Nominations

On June 29, 2017, President Donald Trump made his second group of nominations of prospective United States Attorneys. With the eight lawyers he nominated earlier in June, this group brings the current number of Trump’s United States Attorney nominations to seventeen – around 20% of the total number of positions. The nine lawyers he nominated last week are:

  • Kurt Alme, the President and General Counsel of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Montana.

  • Donald Q. Cochran, a Professor of Law at Belmont University College of Law, to be the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

  • Russell M. Coleman, a member of the Frost Brown Todd law firm, to be the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

  • Bart M. Davis, the Majority Leader in the Idaho State Senate since 2002, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Idaho.

  • Halsey B. Frank, an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maine, to be the United States Attorney for the District of Maine.

  • J. Cody Hiland, the District Attorney in Arkansas’s 20th Judicial District, to be the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

  • D. Michael Hurst, Jr., the director of the Mississippi Justice Institute and General Counsel for the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, to be the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.

  • William C. Lamar, an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Mississippi, to be the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.

  • R. Trent Shores, an Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Oklahoma, to be the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

So far, thirteen of Trump’s seventeen nominees have come from states with two Republican Senators where the “blue slips” approving Presidential nominations are likely easier to come by. Thirteen of Trump’s nominees are also from small or medium districts as DOJ categorizes them. Small and medium districts are those with fewer personnel resources (especially given the DOJ hiring freeze currently in effect), so adding Presidentially-appointed United States Attorneys to these districts will free up the acting United States Attorneys (career prosecutors who were already in the office) to return to prosecuting cases and other matters – no small addition in offices that may only contain twenty or thirty lawyers.

This batch of Trump nominees is very similar to his initial group, as well as similar to the Obama nominees as a whole:

  • Trump’s first batch of nominees had around 26 years of legal experience on average. Reverting to the mean, Trump’s seventeen nominees as a whole average around 23 years of legal experience – the same as the average Obama nominee.

  • Sixteen of the seventeen Trump nominees have prior state or federal prosecutorial experience (everyone but Idaho’s Bart Davis), compared with the more than 80% of Obama nominees who had prosecutorial experience prior to nomination. Eleven of Trump’s nominees have federal prosecutorial experience, consistent with the approximately 60% of Obama nominees who served as federal prosecutors prior to nomination.

  • Two of Trump’s seventeen nominees are former Congressional staff members: Donald Coleman for current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and D. Michael Hurst, Jr., for former Representative Chip Pickering of Mississippi and for the House Judiciary Committee. This is also consistent with the Obama nominees, of which around 10% had service as staffers on the Hill. These types of relationships are thought to be helpful when issues involving DOJ are being decided by Congress.

Despite the similarities, Trump continues to emphasize state prosecutorial experience in a way that Obama did not. While less than a third of the Obama nominees had state prosecutorial experience, over half of Trump’s nominees to this point do. Furthermore, three of Trump’s nominees are elected District Attorneys; while three of Obama’s more than 100 total United States Attorney nominees had prior service as an elected District Attorney, none were serving in that capacity at the time of nomination. As noted before, studies have shown that violent crime is more often addressed by state courts than by federal courts. Trump’s continued focus on lawyers with state prosecution experience is still in keeping with his recent executive order emphasizing DOJ efforts to fight violent crime.

A couple of stray observations:

In 2015, Donald Cochran wrote a research paper for the American Journal of Trial Advocacy about how Malcolm Gladwell’s teachings in his book The Tipping Point can be helpful to lawyers during jury trials, which probably upped his “cool factor” among the law students he taught.

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Halsey Frank wrote an editorial in the southern Maine newspaper The Forecaster arguing in part that “President Trump is appointing some able people” – a nifty coincidence, that (or maybe an indicator he thought he might get the nomination?).

And a final note: This batch of nominees puts the pace of Trump’s United States Attorney nominations slightly ahead of Obama’s – Trump began July 2017 with seventeen nominations, while at the end of June 2009 Obama only had nine. Given that Obama finished July 2009 with nineteen total United States Attorney nominations, it is not unlikely that Trump’s nominations will continue to move along somewhat more quickly than Obama’s, at least in the short to medium term.

This post was written by Ripley Rand of  Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC.

President’s FY18 Budget Proposes Historic Cuts to EPA Funding and Staffing

On May 23, 2017, the White House unveiled the full version of President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2018 entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.”  As signaled in the President’s “skinny budget” released earlier this year, the proposed budget would fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at $5.7 billion — a more than 30 percent decrease from the current funding of nearly eight billion.  EPA’s congressionally enacted budget has remained relatively flat since 2000, other than a significant boost in 2010 to $10.3 billion.  The proposed FY18 budget also calls for an EPA staffing level of 11,611 — a thirty year low.  The proposed decreased staffing level equates to a 20 percent reduction in the overall EPA workforce, which would eliminate approximately 3,000 employees.  A portion of the staff cuts would come from programs proposed for elimination, including the Center for Corporate Climate leadership, the Coalbed Methane Outreach group, and greenhouse gas reporting programs.  Some of the staff cuts may be accomplished by early retirement and lump sum voluntary separation payment incentives.  On June 1, 2017, EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn sent an e-mail to EPA employees providing preliminary details and next steps on early retirement and separation incentive offers.  Employees who accept offers will leave EPA by early September 2017.

Funding for state and tribal assistance grants (STAG) and other funds for state and regional initiatives is markedly decreased or zeroed out in the proposed budget, with cuts totaling $482 million, or 45 percent below the current enacted levels.  According to the Environmental Council of the States, which represents state departments of environment, STAG monies support approximately 27 percent of state departments of environment annual budgets.

In the area of federal enforcement, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance’s (OECA) budget would decrease by nearly 25 percent below current funding.  This decrease would reduce civil and criminal enforcement by 18 and 16.5 percent, respectively.  Funding for laboratory and forensics costs that support enforcement cases, including monitoring, would decrease by over 40 percent.  The corresponding reduction in enforcement efforts is likely to result in increased litigation from environmental advocates, particularly for matters governed by the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act which authorize citizen suits.

The budget requests $65 million for chemical risk review and reduction efforts under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), an increase of nearly $3.8 million from the current level.  EPA’s budget document notes that TSCA fee collections, set to begin in the second quarter of FY18, will fund approximately 53 full-time employees to support the chemical review process that were previously funded by federal appropriations. This small boost in funding may not be sufficient enough to support the implementation of “new TSCA,” however, and the implementation could still result in delays.

skinny budget donald trumpThe President’s budget provides $99.4 million in appropriated funding to support EPA’s pesticide registration review and registration program, including implementation.  This amount would decrease funding by $20.4 million from current enacted levels.  In addition to budget appropriations, EPA’s pesticide program is supported by Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) maintenance fees and Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA) registration application fees.  These fees combined typically generate approximately $40-45 million in additional funding per year. Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of PRIA, which would increase application fees.  Together, however, the total amount of funds available to operate the pesticide program (appropriations and industry fees) have declined over the past years and present a threat to the pesticide program’s ability to meet application review deadlines.

EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Back-to-Basics agenda includes addressing hazardous waste clean-up of the sites that have remained on the Superfund National Priorities List for decades.  In spite of this priority action item, the proposed budget would fund the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account at $762 million, $330 million below the 2017 level.  Instead of relying on the Superfund account to finance remediation, EPA instead would use existing settlement funds to clean up hazardous waste sites.

EPA’s Office of Water’s overall funding would decrease by nearly 20 percent. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) funding levels would remain funded at current levels. The SRFs support states’ administration of their drinking water and surface water programs and related infrastructure projects.  Steep cuts to STAG grants, and zeroing out of the Section 319 Nonpoint Source program and regional initiatives like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay programs will be felt at the state level. The Section 319 program targets nonpoint source pollution, including runoff from agricultural working lands. States use 319 program funds to support watershed improvement projects and incentivize voluntary installation of best management practices on farms (e.g., grass waterways and buffers).

EPA’s FY18 Budget in Brief provides more details on proposed budget allocations and priorities.  The President’s budget is likely to face steep opposition in Congress, which has until September 30, 2017, to pass a budget for FY18, although this timeline will likely be extended through the use of continuing resolutions.  The House is slated to finish its work on appropriation bills before the July 4, 2017, holiday break, which should provide more insights on how much influence the President’s budget will have with appropriations leadership.

This post was contributed by the Government Regulations practice group at Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

Business and Employee Groups Oppose Merger of OFCCP with EEOC

President Trump’s 2018 budget, released on May 23, proposes to merge the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by the end of FY 2018.  The proposed merger purports to result in “one agency to combat employment discrimination.”  The Trump administration asserts that the merger would “reduce operational redundancies, promote efficiencies, improve services to citizens, and strengthen civil rights enforcement.”

Both business groups and employee civil rights organizations have opposed the measure, albeit for different reasons.  The OFCCP is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, while the EEOC is an independent federal agency.  Although both deal with issues of employment discrimination, their mandates, functions and focus are different.  The OFCCP’s function is to ensure that federal government contractors take affirmative action to avoid discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and protected veteran status.  The OFCCP, which was created in 1978, enforces Executive Order 11246, as amended, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1975.  The EEOC administers and enforces several federal employment discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, gender identity, genetic information, and retaliation for complaining or supporting a claim of discrimination.  Its function is to investigation individual charges of discrimination brought by private and public sector employees against their employers.  The EEOC was established in 1965, following the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Business groups oppose the OFCCP’s merger into the EEOC due to concerns that it would create a more powerful EEOC with greater enforcement powers.  For example, the OFCCP conducts audits, which compile substantial data on government contractors’ workforces, while the EEOC possesses the power to subpoena employer records.  Combining these tools could provide the “new” EEOC with substantially greater enforcement power.  Civil rights and employee organizations oppose the merger, believing that overall it would result in less funding for the combined functions currently performed by each agency.

The budget proposal is consistent with the Trump administration’s goal to reduce costs and redundancies through a reorganization of governmental functions and elimination of executive branch agencies.  In light of opposition from both employers and employees, however, the measure lacks a powerful proponent; as a result, it is unlikely that the administration will succeed in effecting a combination, at least as it is currently proposed.

This post was written by Salvatore G. Gangemi of Murtha Cullina.

“Hello, Newman" Government Continues to Litigate Reversed Insider Trading Convictions

Barnes & Thornburg LLP Law Firm

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, has decided not to go down without a fight. Following a Second Circuit panel’s reversal of Bharara’s signature achievement, the insider-trading convictions of former hedge fund managers Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson, the U.S. Attorney’s office has petitioned the court for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also weighed in on the U.S. Attorney’s side, arguing in an amicus brief that the panel seriously erred in its decision. Meanwhile, in other cases, particularly outside the Second Circuit, the Justice Department, and the SEC have argued strenuously that the Second Circuit’s panel decision should not be followed.

In the Second Circuit, the battle lines are being drawn. Bharara’s office has asked both the panel and the full Second Circuit to rehear the case. The US Attorney’s office has argued that the panel erred by imposing two requirements that are purportedly contrary to law– first, that a tipper act for a “personal benefit” of financial consideration, or something at least akin to monetary gain; and second, that the tippee know that the tipper supplying the inside information acted for such a benefit. The SEC has concurred with this assessment, elaborating on Newman’s conclusion that evidence of friendship between tipper and tippee is insufficient to prove the “personal benefit” necessary for tipping liability. The Commission contends that this contradicts Dirks v. SEC, the Supreme Court’s seminal insider trading decision. Both the U.S. Attorney and the SEC contend that, if Newmanremains the law, it will seriously threaten the integrity of the securities markets, and government regulators will be dramatically limited in their ability to prosecute “some of the most common, culpable, and market-threatening forms of insider trading.”

In opposition, Newman and Chiasson, along with various law professors, the criminal defense bar, and even Marc Cuban, have argued that the Second Circuit panel got it right when it imposed an important, objective outer bound to an otherwise amorphous illegal activity. The defendants even engaged in ad hominem criticism of Bharara, analogizing him to a “Chicken Little” complaining that the sky is falling, or more precisely, a “petulant rooster whose dominion has been disturbed.” Those supporting the opinion assert that any perceived difficulty created by the decision can, and should, be rectified by Congress.

Even as the Newman case continues forward, its repercussions are being felt within the Second Circuit and beyond. In the Southern District alone, at least a dozen defendants, who were convicted or pleaded guilty underpre-Newman law, have argued that their cases need to be revisited in light of Newman. No court yet has agreed with that argument, but most of these motions remain pending.

Outside the Second Circuit, the Government is looking to ring-fence the Newman decision and limit its applicability elsewhere. Federal prosecutors, for example in North Carolina, have argued that Newman is not the law in the Fourth Circuit and therefore should not be followed. Meanwhile, defendants in other jurisdictions are invokingNewman in pending, and even resolved, insider trading matters, both civil and criminal.

Defendants are even arguing Newman’s applicability within the SEC’s administrative courts – with success. In In re Peixoto, an SEC administrative proceeding related to Herbalife, the Commission voluntarily dropped its case against Peixoto after Newman. Other cases in the agency’s courts (including against SAC founder Steven Cohen) remain on holding pending final resolution of Newman. And in In re Ruggieri, the administrative law judge said that he would require the SEC to demonstrate the Newman standard of “personal benefit.”

Clearly, the Newman saga has not reached its conclusion, but the fall-out already demonstrates what a momentous decision the Second Circuit panel made.

ARTICLE BY

OF

“Hello, Newman” Government Continues to Litigate Reversed Insider Trading Convictions

Barnes & Thornburg LLP Law Firm

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, has decided not to go down without a fight. Following a Second Circuit panel’s reversal of Bharara’s signature achievement, the insider-trading convictions of former hedge fund managers Todd Newman and Anthony Chiasson, the U.S. Attorney’s office has petitioned the court for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also weighed in on the U.S. Attorney’s side, arguing in an amicus brief that the panel seriously erred in its decision. Meanwhile, in other cases, particularly outside the Second Circuit, the Justice Department, and the SEC have argued strenuously that the Second Circuit’s panel decision should not be followed.

In the Second Circuit, the battle lines are being drawn. Bharara’s office has asked both the panel and the full Second Circuit to rehear the case. The US Attorney’s office has argued that the panel erred by imposing two requirements that are purportedly contrary to law– first, that a tipper act for a “personal benefit” of financial consideration, or something at least akin to monetary gain; and second, that the tippee know that the tipper supplying the inside information acted for such a benefit. The SEC has concurred with this assessment, elaborating on Newman’s conclusion that evidence of friendship between tipper and tippee is insufficient to prove the “personal benefit” necessary for tipping liability. The Commission contends that this contradicts Dirks v. SEC, the Supreme Court’s seminal insider trading decision. Both the U.S. Attorney and the SEC contend that, if Newmanremains the law, it will seriously threaten the integrity of the securities markets, and government regulators will be dramatically limited in their ability to prosecute “some of the most common, culpable, and market-threatening forms of insider trading.”

In opposition, Newman and Chiasson, along with various law professors, the criminal defense bar, and even Marc Cuban, have argued that the Second Circuit panel got it right when it imposed an important, objective outer bound to an otherwise amorphous illegal activity. The defendants even engaged in ad hominem criticism of Bharara, analogizing him to a “Chicken Little” complaining that the sky is falling, or more precisely, a “petulant rooster whose dominion has been disturbed.” Those supporting the opinion assert that any perceived difficulty created by the decision can, and should, be rectified by Congress.

Even as the Newman case continues forward, its repercussions are being felt within the Second Circuit and beyond. In the Southern District alone, at least a dozen defendants, who were convicted or pleaded guilty underpre-Newman law, have argued that their cases need to be revisited in light of Newman. No court yet has agreed with that argument, but most of these motions remain pending.

Outside the Second Circuit, the Government is looking to ring-fence the Newman decision and limit its applicability elsewhere. Federal prosecutors, for example in North Carolina, have argued that Newman is not the law in the Fourth Circuit and therefore should not be followed. Meanwhile, defendants in other jurisdictions are invokingNewman in pending, and even resolved, insider trading matters, both civil and criminal.

Defendants are even arguing Newman’s applicability within the SEC’s administrative courts – with success. In In re Peixoto, an SEC administrative proceeding related to Herbalife, the Commission voluntarily dropped its case against Peixoto after Newman. Other cases in the agency’s courts (including against SAC founder Steven Cohen) remain on holding pending final resolution of Newman. And in In re Ruggieri, the administrative law judge said that he would require the SEC to demonstrate the Newman standard of “personal benefit.”

Clearly, the Newman saga has not reached its conclusion, but the fall-out already demonstrates what a momentous decision the Second Circuit panel made.

ARTICLE BY

OF

This Week in Congress – February 2, 2015 re: 2016 Budget Proposal, DHS, and more

Covington_NL

President Obama will release his Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget proposal today, requesting roughly $4 trillion in spending for the upcoming year and specifying the Administration’s views on how and from what sources the federal government should be raising money and how and on what it should be spending it for the fiscal year beginning October 1.  The President’s budget sets off a fiscal showdown with the Republican-led Congress, whose members generally view the Administration’s proposals as higher taxes and higher government spending.  Many of President Obama’s cabinet members will be on Capitol Hill this week and in the coming weeks, testifying before House and Senate committees as to the merits of the budget proposal and highlighting areas of potential compromise as Congress develops its own budget for FY 2016.  Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will be before the House Ways and Means and Senate Budget Committees on Tuesday, while IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will be before the Senate Finance Committee.  On Wednesday, Shaun Donovan, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, is scheduled to appear before the House Budget Committee and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, appears before the Senate Finance Committee.  In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold the confirmation hearing this week for Ashton Carter to serve as Secretary of Defense.  With Committee Chairman John McCain’s strong desire for increased defense spending, the budget will no doubt be front and center in that hearing as well.

The House of Representatives returns to legislative business on Monday taking up three bills concerning programs at the Department of Homeland Security.  On Tuesday, the House will vote on H.R. 596, a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act while directing House committees to develop alternatives.  Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, Congress has voted 54 times on measures to repeal, revamp, or make technical changes to it.  On Wednesday, members will consider H.R. 50, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx.  This legislation, which passed the House in 2014 by a vote of 234-176, would impose stricter requirements for how and when federal agencies must disclose the cost of federal mandates and equips both Congress and the public with tools to determine the true costs of regulations.  On Thursday, the House will vote on H.R. 527, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015, sponsored by Representative Steve Chabot, which requires federal agencies to consider the economic effects of regulations on small business before imposing overly burdensome mandates that prevent growth and job creation.  This legislation has also passed the Republican-controlled House in the two previous Congresses.

The Senate returns on Monday and is expected to vote on H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, a bill that the House passed unanimously.  The bill would require annual evaluations of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ mental health and suicide prevention programs.  The Senate will then seek to turn to H.R. 240, an appropriations bill that will fund the Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of 2015; the current budget for DHS expires  Feb. 27. While the bill provides $40 in funding for DHS, it also blocks any of the funds from being used to carry out President Obama’s new immigration and deportation policy announced in an executive order last November.  President Obama has pledged to veto the measure if the immigration rider is included.  Leader McConnell is unlikely to be able to get the 60 votes needed on cloture on the motion to proceed to the appropriations bill.  Once the cloture vote fails, he will need to figure out an alternative means of considering the legislation.  He has put a clean Democratic DHS appropriations bill on the Senate Calendar under Rule 14, so moving to that bill after the failed cloture vote is one possibility.

In addition to the hearings focused on the President’s budget and on the Defense Secretary nomination, a list of other key congressional hearings this week is included below:

 Feb. 3

 House Committees

Global Threat Assessment
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Flu Preparation and Prevention
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S. Interests in Western Hemisphere
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 11 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Immigration Law Assessment
House Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 11 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Inspectors General Oversight
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10:15 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

NSF Research Facility Oversight
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Oversight; House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology
Committee Joint Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Bldg.

Energy and Transportation Issues
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Budget Issues – Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
House Ways and Means
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

Airport Access Control Measures
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Transportation Security
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 2 p.m., 311 Cannon Bldg.

Wounded Warrior Program
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Military Personnel
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Budget – Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
Senate Budget
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 608 Dirksen Bldg.

U.S.-Cuba Relations
Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 419 Dirksen Bldg.

IRS Fiscal 2016 Budget Request – John Koskinen, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10:30 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

No Child Left Behind and Student Needs
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 3, 10 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Joint Committees
Veterans Affairs Issues
House Veterans’ Affairs; Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Committee Other Event
Feb. 3 TBA, Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave. NW

Feb. 4

House Committees

Military Compensation and Retirement Commission
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 2118 Rayburn Bldg.

Fiscal 2016 Budget Issues – Shaun L.S. Donovan, Director, Office of Management and Budget
House Budget
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10:30 a.m., 210 Cannon Bldg.

U.S. Schools and Workplaces
House Education and the Workforce
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

HUD Ethical Oversight
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

U.S.-Cuba Policy Assessment
House Foreign Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Legal Workforce Act
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 4, 1 p.m., 2141 Rayburn Bldg.

Palestinian Authority and International Criminal Court
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 4, 2 p.m., 2172 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Secretary of Defense Nomination
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Confirmation Hearing
Feb. 4, 9:30 a.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.

HHS Fiscal 2016 Budget Request – Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Cybersecurity and Private Sector Issues
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Implications of Immigration Action
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

Vessel Discharge Regulations
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 4, 2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Indian Affairs Legislation
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Markup
Feb. 4, 2:30 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Loan Leveraging Issues
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Oversight Hearing
Feb. 4, 2:30 p.m., 628 Dirksen Bldg.

Financial Exploitation of Seniors
Senate Special Aging
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 4, 2:15 p.m., 562 Dirksen Bldg.

Joint Committees

Proposed Waters Rule
Senate Environment and Public Works; House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee Joint Hearing
Feb. 4, 10 a.m., HVC-210 Capitol Visitor Center

Feb. 5

House Committees

Drinking Water Protection Act
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy
Subcommittee Hearing
Feb. 5, 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

Senate Committees

Treasury Fiscal 2016 Budget Request – Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 5, 10 a.m., 215 Dirksen Bldg.

Joint-Employer Standard
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
Feb. 5, 10 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Judiciary Issues

Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Business Meeting
Feb. 5, 10:30 a.m., 226 Dirksen Bldg.

Kaitlyn McClure, Covington & Burling LLP Policy Advisor, co-authored this post.

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