Morning Action: Immigration, Debt Limit & Farm Bill Take Center Stage, Gun Legislation Behind the Scenes

GUNS. It was a victory for conservatives that the Schumer-Toomey-Manchin anti-gun bill did not pass last month.  But that was just one battle.  Liberal Senators are already gearing up to try to erode our rights yet again.  The legislation they produced before would have done nothing to reduce gun related violence:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told The Hill in an interview on Tuesday that he remains “very hopeful” that the Senate will reconsider and pass a bipartisan bill on background checks that failed to get the 60 votes it needed to move forward earlier this year.

Manchin co-sponsored the background checks bill with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and while the measure was supported by a majority of the Senate, it failed to break a Republican filibuster.

Manchin has said he’s continuing to work behind the scenes to revive the legislation, and is considering cosmetic changes to “clarify” language that some lawmakers were uncomfortable with. For instance, the bill does not require background checks for private gun sales, only commercial sales, but some said the bill didn’t go far enough in delineating that distinction.

IMMIGRATION.  The House will likely not pass a comprehensive immigration bill like the Senate’s immigration bill as quickly as originally intended.  Instead, they may produce smaller pieces of legislation on areas of agreement (sub. req’d):

A bipartisan group in the House has gotten bogged down in its efforts to craft an immigration proposal, even as a similar group is moving its bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After spending most of the winter promising that the bill’s release was imminent, the House immigration group may now stop short of unveiling a comprehensive immigration overhaul and instead settle on releasing only those provisions on which it can reach agreement, according to aides and advocates following the talks.

The four Republicans and four Democrats in the group have been unable to overcome divisions on a low-skilled guest worker program and on the bill’s treatment of health insurance for immigrants. Their inability to come to an agreement has frustrated advocates and staffers, and focused attention on the process in the Senate.

The secretive House group has been working on legislation for months, boosting the hopes of immigration advocates with occasional announcements that it was making progress. The mood these days is a little more subdued.

If they do not reach an agreement on legislation, it is possible that the House will consider the Senate bill, which would violate the Hastert Rule:

If the House group can’t agree on comprehensive legislation, immigration advocates say they would pressure Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to put the Senate bill on the floor, even though the majority of his caucus would oppose it, a violation of the so-called “Hastert Rule.” Boehner has already violated this rule several times this year and could do it again, they say.

DEBT LIMIT.  House Republicans are seeking more spending cuts in their debt limit strategy (sub. req’d):

Looking to up the ante on debt limit negotiations, House conservatives will push to enact spending changes included in the House-passed budget in exchange for an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.

The House Republican Conference will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss the way forward on debt limit negotiations, and a conservative aide said that instead of making cuts to discretionary spending, members are seeking a structural overhaul.

“We do expect many conservatives to make the point that the debt ceiling needs to be tied to reforms from our House-passed budget that get us on a path to balance in 10 years, especially via mandatory spending that drives our debt,” the aide said.

Some lawmakers are still trying to tie tax reform to the debt limit deal.

  [A] plan has already been floated to tie the debt limit to an agreement that a tax overhaul be taken up.

Heritage has explained that tax reform and the debt limit are both important issues, but they should be considered separately.  This will allow Congress to get to the heart of the problem that precipitated debt limit debate, namely excessive spending.

FARM BILL.  Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) attempt to meddle in the price of crops by including target prices for peanuts and rice has evoked complaints from senators from the Plains states who “raised concerns that the provisions could distort markets and hurt trade.” (sub. req’d):

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow won the support of most Southern members on her committee Tuesday with the inclusion of target prices for rice and peanuts in the panel’s farm bill. But senators from the Plains states raised concerns that the provisions could distort markets and hurt trade.

Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking Republican Thad Cochran of Mississippi presented a united front on the issue and got the five-year bill through markup in about three hours with a 15-5 vote. She said later that the bill (S 10) could be on the floor as early as next week.

The five-year bill would spend $955 billion over 10 years, although that number may change once the Congressional Budget Office reviews a managers’ package of amendments, Stabenow said.

The House Agriculture Committee meets Wednesday to mark up its draft bill. Each committee hopes to move its respective bills to the floor by June.

As we’ve explained, this is a burden taxpayers cannot and should not be required to bear.

WATER BILL.  Democrats dropped their demand for an amendment to freeze flood insurance premiums for five years.  (sub.req’d):

Louisiana’s senators reluctantly dropped demands for a vote on an amendment to freeze flood insurance premiums for five years, allowing the Senate to move toward passage Wednesday on an authorization of flood control, navigation and environmental restoration programs.

Republican David Vitter and Democrat Mary L. Landrieu agreed allow the bill (S 601) to proceed, after Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey blocked a vote on their flood insurance amendment.

Toomey said suspending the premium increases would undermine a flood insurance overhaul enacted last year.

The Senate will move toward passage of the water bill today (sub. req’d):

Senators on Tuesday reached a deal on a finite list of amendments to a water resources bill, paving the way for final passage on Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the Senate adopted by unanimous consent a batch of 20 amendments and teed up votes on several other proposals, which started Tuesday evening.

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The House's efforts at "comprehensive" immigration have gotten bogged down.

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The House is seeking more spending cuts in their debt limit strategy.

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