Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
January 23, 2023

The Senate returns today for the first vote of the 118th Congress, while the House returns at noon tomorrow for morning hour and at 2:00 P.M. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 P.M.

Along with twelve suspension votes, the House is set to vote this week on the Strategic Production Response Act, legislation that would prevent the secretary of Energy from tapping the strategic petroleum reserve for nonemergency reasons until the government creates a plan to increase domestic oil and gas production on federal lands. The White House is against the measure, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm saying the bill would lead to higher gasoline prices.  The bill comes after President Joe Biden in October announced a drawdown from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve after authorizing the release of 180 barrels over a number of months in March amid elevated gas prices. The October drawdown was the last of that release.  The vote will be the first real test of the new Republican majority’s amendment process. The GOP will advance the bill under a modified-open rule, allowing members to offer any amendment, with few restrictions. Members will need to submit their amendment at least one day before the House considers the bill.  It will be the first time the chamber considers a bill under a modified-open-rule process in seven years. The change is part of the deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and members of his conference to gain their support for his tough bid for the gavel.

This week is the first time the House and Senate will meet after the U.S. hit its debt ceiling last week, setting off a roughly six-month sprint for Congress to either raise the borrowing limit or risk economic catastrophe.  But there’s no clear path for a debt limit deal, with Republicans on Capitol Hill pushing for spending cuts and the White House insisting on a no-strings-attached increase.  Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told congressional leaders in a letter on Thursday that her office would begin to use “extraordinary measures” to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt, which would last until June 5th.  The White House last week signaled that President Biden will have a meeting with Speaker McCarthy in the coming weeks but has also said that “raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation.”  President Biden is scheduled to meet with Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss among other items, the debt ceiling.

Also of note, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is slated to hold a hearing on competition in the ticketing industry after Ticketmaster’s website experienced service failures and delays when tickets went on sale for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour.  The hearing is titled “That’s The Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment.”  Live Nation has repeatedly denied that it’s a monopoly and defended the competitive nature of its industry in a lengthy statement following reports of the DOJ’s active investigation against the company.  Outside of the regulatory concerns, Live Nation’s garnered significant backlash since the Swift on-sale. Fans filed a class-action lawsuit last month over the way the sale was handled, alleging that Ticketmaster “misled” them.

For today, the Senate will begin its work with a confirmation vote in the evening of Brendan Owens to be an assistant secretary of Defense.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.