Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
April 8, 2024

Congress returns to Capitol Hill this week following its two week Easter recess and having wrapped up a turbulent fiscal 2024 appropriations process but still staring down a host of pressing priorities.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) bipartisan wish-list, which he laid out Friday in a Dear Colleague letter to Senate Democrats, is extensive and ambitious, with much of it carrying over from last year.   Toping that list is rail safety legislation, a cannabis banking package and potential work on Big Tech, including a kids’ safety bill and on the future of TikTok.  Complicating completion of that work however is a series of must-pass items — including FISA renewal later this month and FAA reauthorization in May — and an expected supplemental package to deal with the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month. While the federal government is expected to cover a large part of the recovery using existing emergency funds, Congress still needs to play a role in approving additional dollars for rebuilding the bridge and helping to cover the economic loss that the Port of Baltimore has experienced.

Most of the action this week will be working on a resolution to Ukraine funding.  Just five months into the job, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) is once again in the hot seat, facing enormous political and international pressure to make good on his word to pass new aid for Ukraine. While the Speaker has vowed to put billions in foreign aid on the House floor once lawmakers return, doing so could trigger a vote to oust him from the speakership led by one of his most vocal critics, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, (R-Georgia), a Donald Trump ally who opposes Ukraine aid and wants to focus instead on the U.S. border.  The Senate in February previously approved a $95 billion supplemental aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, however Johnson rejected that bill but hasn’t yet released text of his own package.  Senate and House Democrats and the White House have rejected a Johnson pitch to tie Ukraine aid to a reversal of President Joe Biden’s pause on new liquified natural gas export terminals. But linking aid to the proposed REPO Act — which would seize assets of Russian oligarchs and use proceeds to help pay for the Ukrainian war effort — is gaining steam.  The speaker has insisted for months that he won’t approve fresh Ukraine aid without passing tough border policies and likely will have to make good on that promise or risk a vote to oust him.

For today, the Senate will reconvene at 3:00 P.M. and is expected to start work by taking up the Motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Susan M. Bazis to be United States District Judge for the District of Nebraska.

The House will reconvene at noon tomorrow with votes will be postponed until 6:30 P.M.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.