This Week in Congress – March 27, 2017

Republican leadership in the House and Senate will need to refocus their efforts this week on their agenda for the 115th Congress, following the failure of the House leadership’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last week when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) was forced to cancel a much-anticipated vote on the GOP proposal after it became clear there was not enough Republican support for the measure in the House. The lead up to the cancelled vote highlighted the divisions within the Republican conference.  The long-term implications of the failure of the healthcare bill are uncertain, but the failure to advance the bill will no doubt have short-term implications for the agenda, including this week’s Senate floor schedule.  The Senate had planned to tackle the House-passed bill this week, but will now move to other matters.  Republican leadership and the President will be looking to regroup this week to consider the strategy for moving other legislative priorities in the months ahead.  Most pressing will be the need to keep the government funded and operating beyond April 28, when the current funding legislation expires.

In the meantime, legislative business will continue in both chambers for the next two weeks, after which both chambers will enjoy a two-week recess.

On Monday, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session to resume consideration of the ratification of the treaty for the accession of Montenegro as the newest member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. In order for Montenegro to join NATO, each of NATO’s 28 members must ratify its accession. The Senate will hold a procedural vote on Monday evening on the motion to invoke cloture on the Montenegro treaty, setting up a roll call vote on final passage.  The Senate floor schedule beyond the Montenegro accession measure is unclear, although the Majority Leader may move to consider nominations awaiting consideration. The nomination of Elaine Duke to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is pending, as are a number of military appointments reported by the Armed Services Committee.

The House is also scheduled to return to legislative business on Monday, when members will consider under suspension of the rules three bills related to emergency preparedness and response under the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

On Tuesday, the House will take up S.J. Res 34, a Senate-passed resolution under the Congressional Review Act to disapprove the Federal Communications Commission’s final rule relating to “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.” The privacy proposal, adopted by the FCC on March 31, 2016, would limit the ability of internet service providers (ISPs) to track the web history of subscribers and restrict their sharing of customer data with third parties.  If the disapproval resolution is passed by the House and signed by President Trump, the FCC would not only be barred from implementing this rule, but it would be banned from implementing similar rules in the future. Consideration of S.J. Res. 34 will be subject to a rule.

On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to take up H.R. 1430, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act of 2017.  This legislation aims to promote transparency at the Environmental Protection Agency by prohibiting the agency’s Administrator from proposing or finalizing any future regulations unless the underlying scientific data is public and based on the best available science. The bill reaffirms laws that prohibit the disclosure of confidential or proprietary information. Consideration of H.R. 1430 will be subject to a rule.

No votes are expected in the House on Friday.

Despite the light floor schedule in both chambers, congressional committees are heavily scheduled this week.

On Monday, following last week’s hearing on his nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Also on the agenda are the nominations of Rod Rosenstein to be Deputy Attorney General and Rachel Brand to be Associate Attorney General. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) has said he expects the committee will adhere to its traditional one-week hold-over on the nominations, and a final vote in committee is likely to place on April 3. Following the committee vote, Judge Gorsuch’s nomination is expected to see immediate consideration on the Senate floor, where Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has promised a Democratic filibuster.  Senate Republicans plan to confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court prior to leaving for their April recess.

The President’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor will also be the subject of a committee markup this week. On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is expected to vote on the nomination of Alexander Acosta to head the Department of Labor.  The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation also plans to consider the nomination of Jeffrey Rosen to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

Following the release of President Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget proposal, members of the President’s Cabinet continue to make appearances on Capitol Hill to discuss the requests for their specific departments in greater detail with members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees. The schedule this week includes a Wednesday appearance by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price to provide testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

Related to the budget, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are scheduled to receive a closed briefing Tuesday afternoon on the Department of Defense worldwide policy and strategy and the FY 2017 Defense Supplemental Budget Request. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford will provide the briefing to the committee.

Matters of international affairs dominate the hearing schedule this week, and Russian activities in particular are a focus. The House Armed Services Committee will hear from U.S. Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command, on Tuesday for a “Military Assessment of Russian Activities and Security Challenges in Europe.”  The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is scheduled to meet Thursday for a hearing on Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign. A morning panel will examine the “history and characteristics” of information campaigns by Russia. The afternoon panel will examine the “role and capabilities of cyber operations.” A scheduled open hearing of the House Select Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the U.S. election set for Tuesday morning was postponed.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a Tuesday hearing on U.S. foreign assistance in the national budget and the role it plays in diplomacy and development. Experts and academics are scheduled to provide testimony to the committee on ways to more strategically deploy foreign assistance programs at a time when budget resources are limited.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on U.S. policy towards Iran on Tuesday.  Members of the committee will meet again on Thursday to discuss U.S. foreign policy interests with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. This event follows an appearance by the pair before the House Armed Services Committee last week.

On Wednesday the House Armed Services Committee will hear a “Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Greater Middle East” from U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Subcommittee on Information Technology are scheduled to meet jointly on Tuesday to review Federal IT acquisition challenges and reform.

Two events related to cybersecurity are scheduled this week. The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies is scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning to examine efforts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to secure federal networks. Members will hear from government witnesses regarding DHS’ programs that administer operational cyber capabilities across the federal government and assist federal agencies and departments in protecting their unclassified networks. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday afternoon to examine cybersecurity threats to the U.S. electric grid and technology advancements to minimize such threats. The subcommittee will also receive testimony on S. 79, the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act.

The House Agriculture Committee continues to prepare for the development of the 2018 Farm Bill with hearings this week. Its subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management will hold the first in a series of hearings on commodity policy on Tuesday morning. The Subcommittee on Nutrition meets that afternoon to discuss the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The full committee meets Wednesday morning regarding the Farm Credit System.

Infrastructure updates and modernization issues are also a continuing effort of congressional committees.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment will meet on Tuesday regarding the Brownfields Program.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the potential for infrastructure improvements  through energy and mineral production in Alaska.

The full details for these events and other hearings scheduled throughout the week are included below:

 
Monday, March 27, 2017

Senate Committees

Supreme Court and DOJ Nominations
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Markup
12 p.m., SD-226

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

House Committees

The Smithsonian Institution’s Priorities
House Administration
Full Committee Hearing
11:30 a.m.

The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part I
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Budget Hearing – Corporation for Public Broadcasting
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

U.S. Central Command
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Hearing CLOSED
10:45 a.m.

Military Assessment of Russian Activities and Security Challenges in Europe
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Examining the Corporation for National and Community Service and Its Failed Oversight of Taxpayer Dollars
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Self-Driving Cars: Levels of Automation
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Examining FDAs Medical Device User Fee Program
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m.

The Arbitrary and Inconsistent Non-Bank SIFI Designation Process
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
March 28, 10 a.m.

The Budget Diplomacy and Development
House Foreign Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

The Current State of DHS Efforts to Secure Federal Networks
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Restoring Enforcement of our Nation’s Immigration Laws
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Oversight Hearing on ESA Consultation Impediments to Economic and Infrastructure Development
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1324 LHOB

Pending Business
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Markup
10 a.m.

Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Revitalizing American Communities through the Brownfields Program
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

The Next Farm Bill: The Future of SNAP Policy
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Nutrition
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Naval Strike Fighters: Issues and Concerns
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m.

The State of Bank Lending in America
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Human Rights in Venezuela
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

East Africa’s Quiet Famine
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

The State of Forensic Science in the U.S.
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
3 p.m.

Reviewing Challenges in Federal IT Acquisition
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations; House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Information Technology
Subcommittees Joint Hearing
2 p.m.

Senate Committees

Fostering Economic Growth: The Role of Financial Companies
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m.

Foreign Sources of Minerals Dependence
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Protecting Young Athletes From Sexual Abuse
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

The View from Congress: U.S. Policy on Iran
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
10:30 a.m.

Cybersecurity Threats to the U.S. Electric Grid
Senate Energy and Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy
Subcommittee Hearing
2:15 p.m.

Department of Defense Worldwide Policy and Strategy and the FY2017 Defense Supplemental Budget Request
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Briefing
2:30 p.m.

Pending Legislation
Senate Environment and Public Works – Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

House Committees

Review of the Farm Credit System
House Agriculture
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

US European Command Hearing
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Hearing CLOSED
10 a.m.

Budget Hearing – Department of Health and Human Services
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Public Witnesses Hearing
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Greater Middle East Security Challenges
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

H.R. 986, “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017”
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Realizing Nationwide Next-Generation 911
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Federal Energy Related Tax Policy and its Effects on Markets Prices and Consumers
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m.

Examining the Impact of the Volcker Rule on the Markets, Businesses, Investors, and Job Creators
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Pending Business
House Foreign Affairs
Full Committee Markup
10:30 a.m.

Terrorism in North Africa
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Federally Funded Cancer Research: Coordination and Innovation
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m.

Climate Science: Assumptions Policy Implications and the Scientific Method
House Science, Space and Technology
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Evaluating the Paperwork Reduction Act: Are Burdens Being Reduced?
House Small Business
Full Committee Hearing
11 a.m.

Pending Legislation
House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
8 a.m.

Military Pilot Shortage
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Military Personnel
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Testing the Limits: Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program Sanctions and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) After Safetrack
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Senate Committees

Review of the Defense Health Program and Military Medicine Funding
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m.

Closing the Skills Gap and Boosting United States Competitiveness
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Cold War Legacy Sites Clean Up
Senate Environment and Public Works
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

The U.S.-Mexico Relationship: Advancing Security and Prosperity on Both Sides of the Border
Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m.

Arlington National Cemetery: Current Operations and Future Plans to Honor the Fallen
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Field Hearing
2 p.m.

Civil Society Perspectives on Russia
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Health of the Department of Defense Industrial Base and its Role in Providing Readiness to the Warfighter
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
Subcommittee Hearing
2:15 p.m.

Air Force Modernization
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Airland
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Nomination
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

American Leadership in the Asia-Pacific, Part 1: Security Issues
Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy
Subcommittee Hearing
2:15 p.m.

The Effect of Borrowing on Federal Spending
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs – Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Native Youth: Promoting Diabetes Prevention Through Healthy Living
Senate Indian Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Examining How Small Businesses Confront and Shape Regulations
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Full Committee Hearing
3 p.m.

The Arch of Alzheimer’s: From Preventing Cognitive Decline in Americans to Assuring Quality Care for those Living with the Disease
Senate Special Aging
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Joint Committees

Threats to Space Assets and Implications for Homeland Security
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces; House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications
Subcommittees Joint Hearing
2 p.m.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

House Committees

The Current State of U.S. Transportation Command
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness
Subcommittee Hearing
9 a.m.

H.R. 1689 The Private Property Rights Protection Act
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice
Subcommittee Hearing
9 a.m.

SBA’s Entrepreneurial Development Programs: Resources to Assist Small Businesses
House Small Business – Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Senate Committees

Secretary of Labor Nomination
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Markup
TBA

The Road Ahead: U.S. Interests, Values, and the American People
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Disinformation: A Primer in Russian Active Measures and Influence Campaigns
Senate Select Intelligence
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Potential Infrastructure Improvements Through Energy and Mineral Production in Alaska
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Joint Committees

Consequences and Context for Russia’s Violations of the INF Treaty
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Committees Joint Hearing
10:30 a.m.

The Week Ahead in the European Parliament – March 24, 2017

Summary

Next week will be a political group week in the European Parliament.  Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) will hold meetings with their political party in preparation of the plenary week, to be held in Strasbourg from April 3 to 6.

Nevertheless, a few parliamentary committee meetings will take place.

On Monday, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (“ECON”) will vote on proposed amendments to the proposal for a Directive to tackle tax evasion practices using the differences between tax systems in EU Member states and third countries – the so-called Hybrid Mismatches Directive.  See the proposal for a Directive here, and the amendments tabled here.

On the same day, the Budgets Committee (“BUDG”) will consider and vote on its draft recommendation on the proposal for a Regulation amending the Multiannual Financial Framework Regulation for the years 2014-2020, as part of its mid-term evaluation.  This review aims to strengthen EU support for creating jobs, fostering growth, reinforcing security, and tackling the migration crisis.  In addition, the proposal aims to provide some budgetary flexibility to better cope with exceptional crises.  The BUDG Committee is expected to approve the proposal.  See the proposal for a Regulation here, and the draft recommendation here.

The Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, will also hold several meetings.  On Monday, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas; and on Tuesday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and Czech Republic’s Senate Speaker, Mr. Milan Štěch.

Meetings and Agenda

Monday, March 27, 2017 

Committee on Budgets

18:30 – 20:00 

  • Consideration and adoption of Amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020 (APP)
    • Co-rapporteurs: Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL) and Isabelle Thomas (S&D, FR)

Committee on Budgetary Control

15:00 – 18:30

  • Adoption of draft report on Annual Report 2015 on the Protection of the EU’s Financial Interests – Fight against fraud (INI)
    • Rapporteur: Julia Pitera (EPP, PL)
  • Adoption of draft report on Annual Report on the control of the financial activities of the EIB for 2015 (INI)
    • Rapporteur: Nedzhmi Ali (ALDE, BG)

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs

15:00 – 18:30

  • Economic Dialogue and exchange of views with Zdravko Marić, Minister of Finance of Croatia (16.00 – 17.15)

Votes

  • Vote on a report Amending Regulation (EU) No 99/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European statistical program 2013-17, by extending it to 2018-2020 (COD)
    • Rapporteur: Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT)
  • Vote on a report on Hybrid mismatches with third countries (CNS)
    • Rapporteur: Olle Ludvigsson (S&D, SE)

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

15:00 – 19:00

  • Joint hearing with the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on “The EU accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence”
  • Discussion on Security Dialogue with Thomas De Maiziere (Federal Minister of the Interior of Germany) and Matthias Fekl (Minister of the Interior of France) (17.00 – 19.00)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 

  • No meetings scheduled Wednesday, March 29, 2017 
  • No meetings scheduled Thursday, March 30, 2017 

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

09:30 – 17:00

  • Presentation by the European Commission on Migration – EC recommendation on making returns more effective and renewed action plan
  • Presentation by the European Commission on the 5th report on progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement

 

 

 

China’s Two Sessions Set the Direction for the Year Ahead

Last Wednesday, the “Two Sessions” (see our introductory article here) officially came to a close as the National People’s Congress (“NPC”) wrapped up its final day (the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (“CPPCC”) concluded last Monday). Over the course of the past three weeks, various actors within the Chinese government have used the annual meeting as a platform for commenting on recent events, proposing policy changes, and, most importantly, conveying government policy for the coming year. (A comprehensive list of all work reports, budgets, and other documents from this year’s session of the NPC can be found here.)

Through the annual government work report, presented by Premier Li Keqiang to the National People’s Congress on its first day and ratified by NPC delegates at its closing, Beijing broadcast its overarching economic policies for 2017, such as a GDP growth rate of “around 6.5%” and a prudent, stable monetary policy, and touched upon certain themes that continually resurfaced during the Two Sessions, including housing reform, tackling air pollution, and a more prominent international role for China. (See our earlier article for a more detailed discussion of the annual government work report).

NPC delegates also passed the General Provisions on the Civil Code, effective October 1, which touch on individual privacy rights, minors’ rights, virtual asset and intellectual property rights, and more. The first step towards a new, unified Civil Code that is currently expected to debut in 2020, the General Provisions will overlay China’s existing Civil Law and other laws regarding civil affairs, such as laws on contracts and property. Where there is conflict, the General Provisions will supersede existing law, but where there is none, existing laws will remain in effect. Reviews have been mixed so far, with some commentators observing that the General Provisions do not go far enough on civil liberties and individual privacy and property rights. Work on five other areas of law that will be covered by the eventual, complete Civil Code—property, contracts, tort liability, marriage, and inheritance—is now underway.

The Two Sessions and surrounding events provided a clear sense that Beijing is increasingly assertive and confident on defense and international affairs. NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying announced early on in the Two Sessions that Beijing would continue deploying defense installations to the South China Sea. This was followed the next day by Premier Li’s statement while delivering the government work report that China would provide more “naval escorts on the high seas.” Later, at a news conference, Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China and the ASEAN countries had agreed upon a draft code of conduct for the South China Sea. Premier Li also announced during the government work report that China would become further involved with global governance, emphasizing the construction of a fair and equitable global economic structure. This statement was followed by the release of a cyber policy paper in which the Chinese government sets out major strategic goals regarding domestic and global Internet governance, including the establishment of a “multilateral, democratic, and transparent global Internet governance system,” as well as a “fair and reasonable international cyberspace order on the basis of state sovereignty.”

In other news, the outgoing Chief Executive for Hong Kong, Leung Chun-yin (“CY Leung”), was appointed to the post of Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC. In a prominent display, President Xi Jinping spent around a minute speaking with Leung after the closing session of the CPPCC before shaking his hand. Some observers perceived this as a signal from Beijing that it approves of Leung’s administration of the city, in addition to his firm opposition to the pro-democracy and Occupy protests that peaked in 2014. (The position of Vice-Chairman had also been given to the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Tung Chee-Hwa when he stepped down in 2005.) In conjunction with Li Keqiang’s refutation of “Hong Kong independence”—unprecedented for the government work report—this development may indicate a tougher stance from Beijing on Hong Kong issues going into the elections for the special autonomous region’s new Chief Executive.

While the Two Sessions have ended, a potential April visit to the U.S. by President Xi now looms on the horizon. At a press conference last Wednesday, Premier Li sought to project a more conciliatory tone on U.S.-China relations, relaying China’s desire to cooperate with the United States. This sentiment was reinforced by positive Chinese media coverage of Secretary Tillerson’s visit to China this past Sunday. Regardless, a number of issues could threaten any warming of bilateral relations, including trade tensions, North Korea, and the South China Sea. At his press conference, Premier Li also expressed China’s willingness to confront the U.S. if necessary, as in the event of a trade war.

Zhijing Yu of Covington & Burling LLP contributed to the research and preparation of this article.

This Week in Congress – March 20, 2017

It will be an ambitious week for Republicans on Capitol Hill, where the schedule includes the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, and in the House of Representatives a vote is scheduled on the GOP leadership proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The House is scheduled to return to legislative business on Monday, when members will take up 11 bills under suspension of the rules, including nine measures under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee. The Homeland Security suspension package was previously scheduled for consideration last week, but votes were postponed due to the winter storm that hit the mid-Atlantic and northeast.

On Tuesday, House members will turn their attention to health care reform legislation, which will consume the floor activity for the remainder of the week. First, the House will take up H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017, which was reported out of the Judiciary Committee. The legislation would restore the application of federal antitrust laws to the health insurance market by repealing the McCarran-Ferguson Act insofar as it applies to health insurance. This proposal was included in the Republican Study Committee’s early healthcare reform bill and in Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” white paper; GOP leadership intends for this proposal to play a role in the second phase of the Republican majority’s strategy for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Consideration of H.R. 372 will be subject to a rule.

On Wednesday, members will take up H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017, as reported by the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The legislation would allow certain small businesses to join together through association health care plans (AHPs) in order to provide more affordable options for those small businesses to offer health care coverage to their employees. Consideration of H.R. 1101 will be subject to a rule.

House leadership will then bring the “American Health Care Act,” the legislative vehicle to repeal and replace the ACA, to the floor for consideration on Wednesday and Thursday. The plan was met with tepid support upon its release, as the more conservative members of the conference argue the bill does not go far enough in repealing all of the provisions of the ACA. In addition, some Republican moderates, including four senators, and a number of governors have expressed concerns over the bill’s impact on the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. Confidence for the bill’s success further deteriorated when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released last Monday an analysis of the bill, which estimated that by the year 2026, 24 million more Americans would be uninsured than they would be under the ACA. On the other hand, Republicans took comfort in the estimate that the legislation would cut the federal deficit by $337 billion. The CBO analysis also indicated that that some older and low-income Americans could face major premium increases under the legislation. While some adjustments to the bill were made by the House Budget Committee during its markup last week, the committee vote to advance the measure was 19-17, with three Republican members of the House Freedom Caucus joining with all of the committee Democrats in voting against the bill. Substantive amendments to the bill are likely to be made in order for floor consideration by the Rules Committee this week when it decides how the bill will be considered and debated on the House floor. Press reports indicate President Trump and members of House leadership have been reaching out to members of the Republican conference over the weekend to whip votes on what is considered a critical part of the GOP agenda. The American Health Care Act will need the support of 216 members (due to five vacancies in the House) in order to pass the House; the math allows that Republicans can only afford to lose the support of 21 members of the conference, given that all House Democrats are expected to oppose the bill. The scheduling of the bill for a floor vote so promptly suggests that Republican leaders are confident they will be able to pass the bill. Once the bill makes it to the Senate, where reconciliation instructions would allow the measure to pass with a simple majority, further changes are expected in order to allow its passage because Senate Republicans can only stand to lose two votes, and, as noted previously, four Republicans have publicly opposed the American Health Care Act in its current form.

The Senate is scheduled to return to legislative business on Tuesday, when members will proceed to one roll call vote to confirm en bloc two nominees to the United States Sentencing Commission. The floor activity for the remainder of the week remains unclear, although the Majority Leader may move to consider other nominations awaiting consideration. The nomination of David Friedman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel is pending, as is the nomination of Elaine Duke to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Other measures available for Senate consideration are additional resolutions disapproving of Obama-era agency regulations pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. Majority Leader McConnell has not spelled out the Senate’s floor activities for the week after the vote on the U.S. Sentencing Commission nominees.

In addition to the high-profile legislative business on the House floor, there are a number of key events happening in congressional committees this week.

Although much attention will be focused on the House’s healthcare-reform debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will draw equal attention to the Senate. The nominee will provide testimony before the committee on Monday, and the hearing is expected to continue on Tuesday with outside witnesses. Majority Leader McConnell has publicly indicated his intent to schedule a vote on the nomination on the Senate floor before the start of the next congressional recess, which is currently scheduled to begin on April 8. To adhere to that schedule, a markup is likely to be scheduled for this week, so that the traditional one-week hold-over under the Judiciary Committee’s rules can be used, ensuring the Committee can vote on the nomination at a markup during the week of March 27, enabling the full Senate to consider the nomination the week of April 3.

The President’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, will make an appearance before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday as the Committee considers his nomination. This hearing will leave former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, nominated to serve as Agriculture Secretary, the lone Cabinet nominee awaiting a hearing. Jay Clayton, the President’s nominee to serve as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, will have his confirmation hearing before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Thursday.

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers will testify in an open hearing before the House Select Committee on Intelligence on the investigation into Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign.

Related to cybersecurity, the House Homeland Security Committee will meet Wednesday to hear testimony from cybersecurity experts on the evolving cyber threat landscape and the Department of Homeland Security’s civilian cyber defense mission. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is also scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss the impact of emerging technologies on the future of cybersecurity.

Following the release of President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget proposal last week, members of the President’s Cabinet will begin appearances on Capitol Hill this week to discuss the requests for their specific departments in greater detail with members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees. On Wednesday, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will hear testimony from Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on the Pentagon’s budget and readiness for FY 2018.

Military readiness and modernization is also the subject of other events this week. The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the state of the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday. A Senate Armed Services Subcommittee will receive testimony on Army modernization on Wednesday. That afternoon, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene a hearing on the state of the U.S. Coast Guard, where the sole witness will be Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft.

On matters of international affairs, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a Tuesday hearing on “America’s Role in the World,” with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley scheduled to provide testimony. That same morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on U.S. policy and strategy in Europe. The Senate Armed Services Committee will convene again on Thursday to receive testimony on U.S. European Command from its Commander, General Curtis Scaparrotti.

Congressional committees continue to host hearings related to infrastructure improvements and modernization efforts throughout this week. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will meet on Tuesday to discuss broadband infrastructure deployment. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing on Thursday to examine airport infrastructure issues and reforms to improve U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace for aviation products and manufacturing. The Senate Energy and natural Resources Committee will hold a Tuesday hearing regarding federal lands infrastructure. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources is also scheduled to meet this Tuesday regarding the importance of domestically-sourced raw materials for national infrastructure projects.

Members of the House Agriculture Committee continue their preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill with several events this week. The Subcommittee on Nutrition is scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning to discuss nutrition distribution programs. The Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture will meet Tuesday afternoon to hear livestock producer perspectives. The full committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss U.S. dairy policy in the next farm bill.

The full details for these hearings and other congressional hearings scheduled throughout this week are included below:

 

Monday, March 20, 2017

House Committees

Russian Active Measures Investigation
House Select Intelligence
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 1100 LHOB

Senate Committees

Nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Senate Judiciary Committee
Full Committee Hearing
11 a.m., SH-216
Tuesday, March 21, 2017

House Committees

The Next Farm Bill: Nutrition Distribution Programs
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Nutrition
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1300 LHOB

America’s Role in the World
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2118 RHOB

Improving Federal Student Aid to Better Meet the Needs of Students
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Broadband Infrastructure
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Fentanyl: The Next Wave of the Opioid Crisis
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2123 RHOB

The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Unconstitutional Design
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 RHOB

Private Immigration Bill Rules of Procedure
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
Subcommittee Markup
10 a.m., 2141 RHOB

Examining Systemic Management and Fiscal Challenges within the Department of Justice
House Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
1 p.m., 2141 RHOB

Oversight Hearing on The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1324 LHOB

125 Billion in Savings Ignored: Review of DoDs Efficiency Study
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2154 RHOB

National Science Foundation Part II: Future Opportunities and Challenges for Science
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Research and Technology
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2318 RHOB

Roundtable on Emerging Railroad Technologies
House Transportation and Infrastructure
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

The Next Farm Bill: Livestock Producer Perspectives
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 1300 LHOB

Military Social Media Policies
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Military Personnel
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m., 2118 RHOB

Ending the De Novo Drought: Examining the Application Process for De Novo Financial Institutions
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 RHOB

Pressuring North Korea: Evaluating Options
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 RHOB

Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach?”
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 210 HVC

Examining GAO Findings On Deficiencies At The Bureau Of Safety And Environmental Enforcement
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and the Environment
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 RHOB

H.R.1461, the “Veterans, Employees, and Taxpayers Protection Act of 2017
House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 334 CHOB

Senate Committees

U.S. Policy and Strategy in Europe
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SD-G-50

Staying A Step Ahead: Fighting Back Against Scams Used to Defraud Americans
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Federal Lands Infrastructure
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

FDA User Fee Agreements: Improving Medical Product Regulation and Innovation for Patients Part I
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-430

Gorsuch Nomination
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
TBA

Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis
Senate Special Aging
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

House Committees

The Next Farm Bill: Dairy Policy
House Agriculture
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General Oversight
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

The Evolution of Hybrid Warfare and Key Challenges
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2118 RHOB

The Need for More Responsible Regulatory and Enforcement Policies at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Workforce Protections
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2175 RHOB

Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 RHOB

Anti-Semitism Across Borders
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2172 RHOB

Examining FDA’s Prescription Drug User Fee Program
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2322 RHOB

Examining Results and Accountability at the World Bank
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 RHOB

A Borderless Battle: Defending Against Cyber Threats
House Homeland Security
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., HVC-210

The Status of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Restructuring Support Agreement
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Law Enforcement’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
9 a.m., 2154 RHOB

Social Security’s Representative Payee Program
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules; Subcommittee on Social Security
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1100 LHOB

The ISS (International Space Station) after 2024: Options and Impacts
House Science, Space and Technology – Subcommittee on Space
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 RHOB

Making Washington Work For America’s Small Businesses
House Small Business
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2360 RHOB

Social Security’s Representative Payee Program
House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Social Security; House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Oversight
Subcommittees Joint Hearing
10 a.m.

Healthy Hiring: Enabling VA to Recruit and Retain Quality Providers
House Veterans’ Affairs – Subcommittee on Health
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 334 CHOB

State of the U.S. Air Force
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2118 RHOB

The JOBS Act at Five: Examining Its Impact and Ensuring the Competitiveness of the U.S. Capital Markets
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 RHOB

U.S. Policy Toward the Baltic States
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Examining the Impact of Voluntary Restricted Distribution Systems in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
House Oversight and Government Reform — Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 RHOB

Senate Committees

Defense Readiness and Budget Update
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m., SD-192

Promises and Perils of Emerging Cybersecurity Technologies
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-106

Flashing Red: The State of Global Humanitarian Affairs
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-419

Secretary of Labor Nomination
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
9 a.m., SD-430

Perspectives from the DHS Frontline: Evaluating Staffing Resources and Requirements
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-342

Army Modernization
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Airland
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m., SR-222

State of the Coast Guard
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SR-253

Conflict Minerals Progress Report
Senate Foreign Relations – Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SD-419

Joint Committees

Veterans Service Organizations
House Veterans’ Affairs; Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Committees Joint Hearing
10 a.m.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

House Committees

High Consequences and Uncertain Threats: Reviewing Department of Defense Strategy, Policy, and Programs for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction for Fiscal Year 2018
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m., 2118 RHOB

Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law
Subcommittee Hearing
9 a.m., 2141 RHOB

The Future of Small Family Farms
House Small Business – Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2141 RHOB

Senate Committees

U.S. European Command
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SD-G-50

SEC Nomination
Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SD-538

FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Improving Airport Infrastructure and Aviation Manufacturing
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., SR-253

Department of Defense Civilian Personnel Reform
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Personnel
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SR-232-A
Friday, March 24, 2017

House Committees

Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

The Week Ahead in the European Parliament – March 17, 2017

Summary

Next week will be a committee week in the European Parliament.  It is also an important week for the EU as Saturday, March 25, will mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community.  In addition, it may see the UK formally begin the two-year process for leaving the EU.

On Monday, the Committee on International Trade (“INTA”) will hold a meeting with the Committee on Foreign Affairs (“AFET”), in association with the Delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries and the Arab Maghreb Union, during which Members of the European Parliament (“MEPs”) will discuss the impact and implementation of the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) ruling in case C-104/16 P, Council v Front Polisario.  In its ruling in appeal, delivered on December 21, 2016, the CJEU found that the Association and Liberalization Agreements concluded between Morocco and the EU does not apply to Western Sahara. See the full judgment here.

On Tuesday, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (“ENVI”) will vote on its position, in second reading, on the proposal for a Regulation on medical devices, and amending Directive 2001/83/EC, Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009.  The revision of the Medical Device Regulation pursues various objectives, including adapting the regulation to the Continue Reading

Tensions Heighten on the Korean Peninsula

Following President Trump’s call to China’s President Xi Jinping on February 9, it appeared that U.S.-China tensions, particularly over U.S. policy vis-à-vis Taiwan, had abated for the time being. Trump reaffirmed the U.S. “One China Policy” during the call, and Beijing celebrated that they were able to get Trump back on track on this issue of “core interest” to China (specifically after Taiwan President Tsai’s call to Trump before his inauguration and Trump’s subsequent tweet raising questions about the “One China Policy”).  Some Chinese analysts even noted rising anxieties in Taiwan about a general perception that Trump may in fact have been using Taiwan as a “bargaining chip” and is now willing and ready to deal with China more broadly on a range of bilateral issues to “strike a grand bargain.”

This celebration may be premature, however, as Trump had simply reiterated the longstanding U.S. policy of support for the status quo that calls for the “peaceful resolution” of cross-Strait relations but still leaves open the question about Taiwan’s future political status. Secretary of State Tillerson had elaborated on this U.S. position in written testimony to Congress earlier by not only affirming the U.S. “One China Policy” but also the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) that commits the United States “to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”  In fact, he went further to affirm President Reagan’s “Six Assurances” that the United States would not revise the TRA nor exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with Beijing.

More generally, Secretary of Defense Mattis’ first trip abroad to Korea and Japan in early February strongly reaffirmed U.S. commitment to its allies in Northeast Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Abe also underscored the strength of U.S.-Japan’s “unshakable” alliance during his subsequent visit to the United States.  In their Joint Statement, Trump and Abe even affirmed that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty “covers the Senkaku Islands” (contested by China and Japan) and that they “oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”  So, even putting aside the many difficult bilateral trade issues that remain to be addressed, it appears that U.S.-China relations will remain contentious for some time to come.

More recently, North Korea’s launching of four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on March 6 has produced an even more urgent and potentially more dangerous crisis in the region. According to news reports, three of these missiles landed within Japan’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.  Just prior to this, during Abe’s visit to the United States, North Korea had test-fired a new type of solid fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile that also landed in the Sea of Japan.  Given that North Korea is now expected to achieve the goal of completing its nuclear development by the end of the year, its successful testing of these nuclear capable missiles poses a near-term existential threat to both South Korea and Japan.  Moreover, North Korea has clearly indicated its intention to target U.S. military bases in these countries as well as to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) nuclear capability that will directly threaten the U.S. mainland.

The urgency of this looming crisis has also sharply exacerbated the fundamental differences between China and the United States in how to address the North Korean nuclear threat. Beijing continues to argue that Washington needs to accommodate the North Korean demand that the United States cease its joint military exercises with South Korea, reduce and remove its military presence in South Korea and eventually negotiate a permanent peace treaty with North Korea in order to be able to persuade Pyongyang to freeze and eventually halt its nuclear development program.  This would allow China to continue managing its relationship with North Korea while simultaneously advancing its own long-term goal of preventing the nuclearization of the Korean peninsula as well as reducing U.S. military presence in South Korea and the region as a whole.

The U.S. response has been precisely the opposite, however, arguing that North Korea cannot be trusted to relinquish its nuclear weapons and that China should support and comply with international efforts to increase pressure on North Korea to freeze its nuclear development by imposing even stronger economic sanctions on North Korea. Meanwhile, the United States argues it has no choice but to start the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems in South Korea to defend against potential missile attacks from the north.  This has alarmed the Chinese who warn that the deployment of these defensive weapons destabilizes the strategic balance and would require Beijing to respond in some form that will result in an arms race between China and the United States in the region.  Meanwhile, the United States and South Korea have continued their ongoing two-month military exercise (“Foal Eagle”) and may ultimately be compelled to consider the possibility of undertaking a first strike against North Korean nuclear and ballistic missiles facilities as the crisis escalates.

So the stakes and the risks are very high on the Korean peninsula at this time. As Tillerson prepares for his upcoming trip to Japan, Korea as well as China at the end of the week, Beijing and Washington face a dangerous quandary on how we should work together to confront the North Korean nuclear threat.  As Mattis announced during his recent visit, the United States is moving ahead quickly to complete the deployment of THAAD missiles in South Korea.  While the recent removal of South Korean President Park Guen-hye from office and upcoming elections may delay and perhaps even eventually halt deployment, the United States will almost certainly seek to deploy these missiles elsewhere in the region, probably in Japan, given the dire threat to U.S. forces and civilians in the region.

At the same time, the United States will likely be pushing for even stronger UN-mandated economic sanctions that may include seizure of North Korean assets abroad and debilitating trade prohibitions against North Korea that will essentially threaten its economic and possibly even regime survival. Such measures will require Chinese cooperation since China and Chinese companies continue to serve as North Korea’s primary economic lifeline and financial conduit to the world.  Beijing, however, is likely to continue resisting these measures and to press for concessions by the United States and its allies to get North Korea back to the negotiating table.

At this point, it is very difficult to envision how Beijing and Washington, along with the other members of the “Six Party Talks,” will be able to arrive at an agreement to address this issue. Nonetheless, it is critical that the United States and China, despite the diversion of domestic politics, focus on developing a solution to this looming crisis at the highest levels.  The upcoming summit between Xi and Trump in Mar-a-Lago in April will offer such an opportunity.  Failure to do so could be costly.

This Week in Congress – March 13, 2017

Much of the attention on Capitol Hill this week will remain focused on activity surrounding the House Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plan so far has been met with mixed reviews, with a number of Republican members in both chambers expressing their opposition to the legislation in its current form. The conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held a press conference last week stating the bill did not go far enough in repealing all of the provisions of the ACA. On the other hand, four more moderate Republican senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to express their opposition to the House bill in its current form because of its impact on the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. Despite this opposition, the bill is advancing through the legislative process. The House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Ways and Means Committee held marathon markups on the provisions under their jurisdictions last week, and both committees reported the legislation favorably on Thursday. This week, the House Budget Committee, under the new leadership of Chairman Diane Black (R-TN), who succeeded the former chairman and now Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price upon his confirmation to his new role, is scheduled to hold its markup of the bill on Wednesday in the form of a reconciliation measure. Once out of the Budget Committee, the bill will be ready for floor consideration of the measure. In addition to the Budget Committee markup, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to produce its score of the legislation on Monday; the nonpartisan agency’s estimate of the costs and consequences of the bill on the federal budget could play a critical role in dictating the fate of the current bill and the momentum behind the repeal and replace efforts in Congress.

Meanwhile, legislative business in the Senate will resume on Monday afternoon, when a confirmation vote is expected on the nomination of Seema Verma to serve as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The floor activity for the remainder of the week remains unclear, although the Majority Leader may move to consider other nominations awaiting consideration. Last week the Senate Intelligence Committee favorably reported the nomination of former Senator Dan Coats to serve as Director of National Intelligence. Also pending is the nomination of David Friedman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Other measures available for Senate consideration are additional resolutions disapproving of Obama-era agency regulations pursuant to the Congressional Review Act. Majority Leader McConnell has not spelled out the Senate’s floor activities for the week after the vote on Ms. Verma.

The House will resume legislative business on Tuesday, when members will consider three measures under suspension of the rules coming from the Natural Resources Committee. On Wednesday, the House will take up another suspension package consisting of nine measures under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee.

Members will then turn to consideration of three bills related to veterans affairs. The first bill, H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act, will come to the floor under a rule. The measure would modify an existing requirement that certain individuals determined to be mentally incompetent by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) be prohibited from purchasing or possessing legal firearms. Under current law, the VA is required to provide information to the Department of Justice when the agency deems individuals to be mentally incapacitated, mentally incompetent, experiencing an extended loss of consciousness, or otherwise unable to manage their own affairs. These individuals are currently included on the list of those prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms. Under H.R. 1181, a judicial authority would have to determine that veterans are dangerous before VA would be required to report them to the Justice Department.

On Thursday, members will consider H.R. 1259, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. The goal of H.R. 5620 is to increase accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs by providing the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee for performance or misconduct. The bill would also provide improved protections for whistleblowers. Additionally, H.R. 1259 would give VA the authority to recoup all or part of bonuses and awards paid to employees and grant the authority to recoup amounts spent to relocate VA employees if the department determines the employee engaged in misconduct. A previous version of this legislation passed the House in September 2016. Consideration of H.R. 1259 will be subject to a rule.

Finally, on Friday the House will take up H.R. 1367, legislation intended to improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain qualified physicians and other employees. The bill would establish a recruiting database to make high-quality potential employees aware of positions at VA and create opportunities for career training and advancement for current VA employees through a fellowship program. It also would require VA to measure and collect certain information regarding hiring effectiveness. Consideration of H.R. 1367 will be subject to a rule.

Off Capitol Hill, the Federal Reserve Board is scheduled to meet next week and could well raise interest rates. Any such action is likely to provoke responses from members in support of and in opposition to the move. The Fed’s action would take place against the backdrop of the notice, overlooked amid the disputes over health care reform, sent last week by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin that the country is expected to hit its debt ceiling this week, although the Treasury is able to take extraordinary measures that should keep the government functioning until the fall.

In addition to the Senate floor activity on the Verma nomination and possibly the other ones pending, this week will see two Senate committees review the qualifications of the President’s appointees to Executive Branch agencies. On Tuesday, the Finance Committee will hear testimony from Robert Lighthizer on his nomination to serve as U.S. Trade Representative. On Wednesday, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Elaine Duke to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee had planned to hold a hearing this week on Alexander Acosta’s nomination to be Secretary of Labor, but that hearing has been postponed until the week of March 20.

The House Armed Services Committee will hear from General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command, on Wednesday regarding the military assessment of operations and challenges in the Middle East. General Votel’s appearance in the House follows his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week in which he outlined a number of challenges in the fight against ISIS and operations in Afghanistan.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to examine public policy issues related to the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in the national airspace system. The hearing will explore practical applications for the technology, and navigating economic, privacy, and safety implications. Experts, academics, and representatives from the private sector are scheduled to provide testimony to the committee alongside Earl Lawrence, the Director of the Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Also on Wednesday, the Coast Guard Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on the Coast Guard. With the President’s budget submission reportedly planning to include steep cuts to the Coast Guard in order to fund more aggressive enforcement efforts against illegal immigration (both the immigration enforcement authorities and the Coast Guard are part of the Department of Homeland Security), this hearing could become a forum for Democratic criticism of that impending proposal; Republicans too have not received the proposed Coast Guard cuts warmly.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a Thursday hearing on fraud in the K-1, or fiancé(e), visa program. The State and Homeland Security Departments have been considering reforms to the K-1 visa since 2015 when one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California massacre was found to have emigrated to the U.S. as the wife of the other shooter on a K-1 fiancé visa.

A number of committees continue to host hearings related to infrastructure improvements and modernization efforts throughout this week. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will meet on Tuesday to receive testimony on opportunities to improve American energy infrastructure. The witness panel includes individuals from the private sector of the energy industry as well as experts and a labor union representative. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss opportunities for hydropower expansion in the United States. On Thursday the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands will meet to discuss innovative infrastructure ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service. A hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on Thursday is scheduled to cover reinvestment and rehabilitation of the nation’s drinking water systems. The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled for a Thursday hearing to review the infrastructure needs of the Nuclear Security Enterprise.

The House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittees continue their preparation for the 2018 Farm Bill with two hearings on Thursday morning. The Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research will meet to discuss agricultural research advancements while the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry will meet to review forestry initiatives.

The full details for these hearings and other congressional hearings scheduled throughout this week are included below:

 
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Senate Committees

Information Surrounding the Marines United Website
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Briefing
10 a.m., SD-G-50

Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, Part I
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-538

Improving Energy Infrastructure
Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-366

U.S. Trade Representative Nomination
Senate Finance
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-215

Arlington National Cemetery: Current Operations and Future Plans to Honor the Fallen
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m.

Continuing to Improve Truck Safety on our Nation’s Highways
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation – Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SR-253

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

House Committees

Tax Reform and Rural America
House Agriculture
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 1300 LHOB

Budget Hearing – Corporation for Public Broadcasting
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2358-C RHOB

Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Greater Middle East
House Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2118 RHOB

Improving Federal Student Aid to Better Meet the Needs of Students
House Education and the Workforce – Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Modernizing Energy Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities to Expanding Hydropower Generation
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Energy and Power
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 RHOB

Disrupter Series: Advanced Materials and Production
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2322 RHOB

The JOBS Act at Five: Examining Its Impact and Ensuring the Competitiveness of the U.S. Capital Markets
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 RHOB

Oversight Hearing on Examining the Creation and Management of Marine Monuments and Sanctuaries
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 3124 LHOB

Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency
House Oversight and Government Reform
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., 2154 RHOB

FAST Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Authorization of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs
House Transportation and Infrastructure – Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m.

Reauthorization of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program
House Ways and Means – Subcommittee on Human Resources
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1100 LHOB

Crafting an Information Warfare and Counter-Propaganda Strategy for the Emerging Security Environment
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m., 2118 RHOB

Ending the De Novo Drought: Examining the Application Process for De Novo Financial Institutions
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 RHOB

Venezuela’s Tragic Meltdown
House Foreign Affairs – Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2172 RHOB

Reviewing Challenges in Federal IT Acquisition
House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Government Operations; House Oversight and Government Reform – Subcommittee on Information Technology
Subcommittees Joint Hearing
2 p.m., 2154 RHOB

Senate Committees

STEM Education
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10:30 a.m., SD-138

Ballistic Missile Defense Program Update
Senate Appropriations – Subcommittee on Defense
Subcommittee Briefing (CLOSED)
10:30 a.m., SVC-217

Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SR-253

Examining Innovative Solutions to Control Invasive Species and Promote Wildlife Conservation
Senate Environment and Public Works
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-406

Six Years of War in Syria: The Human Toll
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
11 a.m., SD-419

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Nomination/Pending Legislation
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Markup
10 a.m., SD-342

Vows for Visas: Investigating K-1 Fiancé Fraud
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-226

All Arms Warfare in the 21st Century
Senate Armed Services – Subcommittee on Airland
Subcommittee Hearing
3:30 p.m., SR-323A

The Modus Operandi and Toolbox of Russia and Other Autocracies for Undermining Democracies Throughout the World
Senate Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism
Subcommittee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SD-226

Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis
Senate Special Aging
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SD-562

GAO’s High Risk List and the Veterans Health Administration
Senate Veterans’ Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
2:30 p.m., SR-418

Thursday, March 16, 2017

House Committees

The Next Farm Bill: Agricultural Research
House Agriculture – Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1300 LHOB

The Next Farm Bill: Forestry Initiatives
Committee on Agriculture – Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry
Subcommittee Hearing
10:00 a.m., 1300 LHOB

Investing in the Future – Early Childhood Education Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2358-C RHOB

Member’s Day
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., HT-2

Oversight Hearing – Department of Transportation & Department of Housing and Urban Development
House Appropriations – Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2358-A RHOB

Current State of the U.S. Navy
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Readiness
Subcommittee Hearing
8 a.m., 2118 RHOB

Honoring Our Commitment to Recover and Protect Missing and Exploited Children
House Education and the Workforce
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m.

Disrupter Series: Smart Communities
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2123 RHOB

Reinvestment and Rehabilitation of Our Nations Safe Drinking Water Delivery Systems
House Energy and Commerce – Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy
Subcommittee Hearing
10:15 a.m., 2322 RHOB

Sound Monetary Policy
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2128 RHOB

Immigration Benefits Vetting: Examining Critical Weaknesses in USCIS Systems
House Homeland Security – Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency
Subcommittee Hearing
9:30 a.m., CVC-210

Bringing Justice Closer to the People: Examining Ideas for Restructuring the 9th Circuit
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 2141 RHOB

Oversight Hearing on Identifying Innovative Infrastructure Ideas for the National Park Service and Forest Service
House Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Federal Lands
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m., 1324 LHOB

Cafeteria Plans: A Menu of Non-Options for Small Business Owners
House Small Business – Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access
Subcommittee Hearing
10 a.m.

Oversight Review of Infrastructure Needs and Projects Ready for Immediate Implementation in the Nuclear Security Enterprise
House Armed Services – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2212 RHOB

Flood Insurance Reform: A Community Perspective
House Financial Services – Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance
Subcommittee Hearing
2 p.m., 2128 RHOB

Combating Crimes Against Children: Assessing the Legal Landscape
House Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations
Subcommittee Hearing
1 p.m., 2141 RHOB

The Week Ahead in the European Parliament

Summary

Next week, there will be a plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Several significant debates, votes and committee meetings will take place.

On Tuesday, the plenary will vote on a text on long-term shareholder engagement in corporate governance. The European Parliament had previously adopted, with 556 votes to 67, amendments to a proposal for a directive on the topic. The matter had been sent back to the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee for consideration. The amendments will facilitate shareholders’ engagement in the longer term, develop shareholder transparency and put in place new rules concerning directors’ remuneration. See the previously adopted text here.

On the same day, the Parliament will debate a report on the “waste package”, a proposal aimed at enhancing the circular economy, whereby the share of recyclable waste to should rise to 70% by 2030, from the 44% it is today. The report, adopted by the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety  (ENVI), aims to disconnect waste generation from economic growth. It further provides that the share of landfilling should be restricted to 5%, and food waste should be reduced by 50% by 2030. The draft report can be found here.

On Wednesday, MEPs will discuss the conclusions of the European Council, which took place on March 9-10. Further, they will consider the “Rome Declaration”, marking the  60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

On the same day, the plenary will vote on a recommendation from the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) on food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products. The Committee recommended that the Parliament adopt the Council position without  amendment. The objective of the legislation is to enhance enforcement and control tools regarding food inspections, traceability and official controls along the agri-food chain. The recommendation can be found here.

On Thursday, the Parliament will vote on a draft report on an integrated European Union Policy for the Arctic. The Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted the own-initiative report by Sirpa Pietikäinen (European People’s Party, Finland) and Urmas Paet (The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Estonia). The report provides that both the effects of climate change and tensions arising from growing competition for access to the Arctic’s natural resources have increased environmental and human security risks in the region. The report further calls for enhanced protection for the ecosystem through banning the extraction of Arctic oil and gas. The draft report can be found here.

Meetings and Agenda

Monday, February 13, 2017

Plenary:

17:00 – 23:00 (Debates)

  • Mercury
    • Rapporteur: Stefan Eck (NGL, DE)
    • Committee: ENVI
  • Long-term shareholder engagement and corporate governance statement
    • Rapporteur: Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D, IT)
    • Committee: JURI
  • Joint debate on gender equality
  • Equality between women and men in the EU in 2014-2015
    • Rapporteur: Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA, ES)
    • Committee: FEMM
  • Equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services
    • Rapporteur: Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz (EPP, PL)
    • Committee: FEMM
  • EU funds for gender equality
    • Rapporteur: Clare Moody
    • Committee: FEMM
  • Short presentation of the report: Fundamental rights implications of big data
    • Rapporteur: Ana Gomes (S&D, PT)
    • Committee: LIBE
  • Short presentation of the report: An integrated EU policy for the Arctic
    • Rapporteurs: Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI), Urmas Paet (ALDE, EE)
    • Committees: AFET, ENVI
  • Short presentation of the report: Minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits
    • Rapporteur: Stefan Eck (NGL, DE)
    • Committee: AGRI
  • Short presentation of the report: Responsible ownership and care of equidae
    • Rapporteur: Julie Girling (ECR, UK)
    • Committee: AGRI

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Plenary:

9:00 – 11:50 (Debates)

  • Control of the acquisition and possession of weapons
    • Rapporteur: Vicky Ford (ECR, UK)
    • Committee: IMCO
  • Joint debate on circular economy
  • End-of-life vehicles, waste batteries and accumulators and waste electrical and electronic equipment
    • Rapporteur: Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT)
    • Committee: ENVI
  • Landfill of waste
    • Rapporteur: Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT)
    • Committee: ENVI
  • Waste
    • Rapporteur: Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT)
    • Committee: ENVI
  • Packaging and packaging waste
    • Rapporteur: Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT)
    • Committee: ENVI

15:00 – 17:00 (Key Debate)

  • White Paper on the future of the EU

17:00 – 23:00 (Debates)

  • Debates on foreign affairs issues in the presence of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
  • Short presentations of the following report: Constitutional, legal and institutional implications of a Common Security and Defence Policy: possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty
    • Rapporteurs: Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES)
    • Committees: AFCO, AFET
  • Addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU external action
    • Rapporteurs: Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (EPP, ES), Elena Valenciano (S&D, ES)
    • Committees: AFET, DEVE
  • 2016 Report on Montenegro
    • Rapporteurs: Charles Tannock (ECR, UK)
    • Committee: AFET
  • 2016 Report on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
    • Rapporteur: Ivo Vajgl (ALDE, SI)
    • Committee: AFET
  • Food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products
    • Rapporteur: Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT)
    • Committee: ENVI

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Plenary:

09:00 – 11:50 (Debates)

  • Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 9 and 10 March 2017

12:00 – 14:00 (Votes)

  • Commission’s approval of Germany’s revised plan to introduce a road toll
  • EU-Brazil Agreement: modification of concessions in the schedule of Croatia in the course of its accession
    • Rapporteur: José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (EPP, ES)
    • Committee: INTA
  • Obstacles to EU citizen’s freedom to move and work in the Internal Market

15:00 – 21:00 (Debates)

  • Topical debate – EU security agenda: one year after the Brussels attacks
  • An integrated EU policy for the Arctic
    • Raporteurs:  Urmas Paet (ALDE, EE), Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, FI)
    • Committee: AFET, ENVI
  • Use of the 470-790 MHz frequency band in the Union
    • Rapporteur: Patrizia Toia S&D, IT)
    • Committee: ITRE
  • Supply chain due dilligence by importers of minerals and metals originating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas
    • Rapporteur: Iuliu Winkler (EPP, RO)
    • Committee: INTA
  • Money market funds
    • Rapporteur: Neena Gill CBE (S&D, UK)
    • Committee: ECON
  • Guidelines for the 2018 budget – Section III
    • Rapporteur: Siegfried Mureşan (EPP, RO)
    • Committee: BUDG

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Plenary:

9:00 – 11:50 (Debates)

  • Union framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector
    • Rapporteur: Marco Affronte (Greens/EFA, IT)
    • Committee: PECH
  • Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Rule 135)

12:00 – 14:00 (Votes)

  • Motions for resolutions concerning debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Rule 135)

15:00 – 16:00 (Debates)

  • Review of the regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations

EU Policy Update

Brexit, the EU’s Response, and U.S.-EU relations

On February 8, the UK House of Commons approved by 494 votes to 122 the British Government’s Brexit legislation – the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (see here).  This legislation, proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May, would give her Government the power to trigger the UK’s exit from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.  The House of Commons rejected nine attempted amendments, including one to guarantee the future rights of EU nationals.  A clean Bill was sent to the House of Lords.

On March 1, however, the Lords amended the Bill to guarantee EU nationals the right to stay in the UK after it leaves the EU.  On March 7, they further amended it, with the largest turnout for any vote in the House of Lords since 1831, to require that the Government give both Houses of Parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final terms agreed with the EU for the UK’s withdrawal.  This is intended to enable Parliament to reject a UK decision to leave the EU without an agreement on a future relationship, which the UK Government says would weaken their negotiating position.  However, such a rejection would be unlikely to stop the UK leaving the Union automatically, two years after notification under Article 50, with or without an agreed deal.  With that, the Lords concluded their debates on the Bill.

The Bill will now be sent back to the House of Commons, which will resume its consideration on March 15.  The Commons are expected to reject the Lords’ amendments, but the consequent delays to the parliamentary process mean that the Prime Minister will not be able to give formal notification of its Continue Reading

Top 5 Business And Human Rights Concerns For Companies To Monitor

Businesses are being bombarded with information about their global human rights and other nonfinancial responsibilities, and are under growing pressure to publicize their efforts in that regard. Below we outline five key developments that business should be actively monitoring in a rapidly evolving landscape.

1.“Hard” Legal Obligations

Governmental efforts to force transparency are intended to incentivize large businesses with resources and market influence to address current practice and to take steps to eliminate any adverse impacts on human rights. Increasing legislation on supply chain transparency and corporate accountability has gained significant momentum, with:

  • French “corporate duty of vigilance” law. On Feb. 21, 2017, the French Parliament adopted a corporate duty of vigilance law applying to France’s largest companies (capturing around 100 companies). The law imposes an obligation on parent companies to draft “vigilance plans” and take steps to prevent adverse human rights and environmental impacts arising from the activity of their own company, companies they “control” (applying a broad test) and certain subcontractors and suppliers. Noncompliance with the new rules could lead to civil liability and financial sanctions of up to €30 million.
  • Implementation of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act 2015, which requires certain larger organizations (wherever incorporated) supplying goods or services and carrying on business in the U.K. to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement (“MSA statement”) each year, describing steps taken (if any) during the previous year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not occurring in its global supply chain.
  • At a regional level, the deadline for EU member state implementation of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (2014/05/EU) passed in December 2016. Member states are required to oblige “public interest” companies with more than 500 employees to disclose information about policies and practices relating to social and employee matters and respect for human rights and diversity, among other matters.

Legal developments in the field are spreading rapidly across Europe and are on the horizon in the following countries (at least):

  • Netherlands: the Child Labour Due Diligence Bill will — if passed — require companies to identify instances of child labor within their supply chains and to develop plans to combat those practices.
  • Switzerland: the Responsible Business Initiative is pushing for amendments to the Swiss constitution (to be put to popular vote in 2018) which would compel Swiss companies to conduct human rights due diligence on all of their business activities abroad, with possible civil sanctions for noncompliance.

Whether corporate vigilance will be legislated further at a European level is uncertain. The European Parliament voted in favor of a (non-legally binding) resolution in October 2016, calling on EU member states and the EU Commission to adopt regulations on corporate liability for serious human rights abuses in global supply chains. In particular, the resolution:

  • called on members states to implement mandatory human rights due diligence;
  • recognized that nonbinding private sector initiatives are insufficient and sought binding and enforceable rules, sanctions, and an independent monitoring mechanism; and
  • encouraged reflection on whether member states courts should have jurisdiction to hear claims against non-EU defendant companies if such companies were linked to the EU.

At a sector-specific level, the EU Council and Parliament are seeking to adopt a Conflict Minerals Regulation before the summer of 2017, which will require European companies to ensure that their trade of minerals from conflict-affected areas is not linked with human rights abuses.

In addition, stock exchanges in around 45 countries now require or encourage corporate sustainability disclosures — with Singapore the latest to implement “comply or explain” rules in July 2016.

2. Voluntary Standards

The following international guidelines and their supporting databases are designed to aid companies in identifying human rights issues in their global supply chains and effectively reporting on these issues in a way that meets minimum legal thresholds.

  • UN Guiding Principles: an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity. The accompanying Reporting Framework provides guidance on meeting information thresholds when reporting and identifying salient human rights issues in a global supply chain.
  • OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: make recommendations on responsible business conduct, including in relation to labor and human rights issues and risk-based due diligence of supply chains. Participating countries are also obliged to set up “national contact points” (NCPs) tasked with providing a conciliation platform to resolve issues arising from allegations of non-observance by companies.
  • GRI Standards: the Global Reporting Initiative launched its new GRI Standards (replacing the earlier G4 Standards) in October 2016, designed to represent best practice for reporting on a range of topics, including social impacts. The organization maintains an online platform to solicit direct feedback from stakeholders.

The Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability and Reporting 2025 project anticipates a continued rise in voluntary digital reporting and even the possibility of “real-time” reporting to allow stakeholders to make better informed decisions regarding the human rights challenges facing their businesses

3. Litigation Against Parent Companies

There is a growing trend of claimants bringing claims against locally registered companies, particularly in Europe and North America in respect of offenses alleged against their foreign subsidiaries and contractors. Though, to date, such claims have been unsuccessful, businesses should not turn a blind eye for the following reasons:

  • Are court doors being widened for claimants? In June 2016, the English High Court awarded damages to six Lithuanian workers for modern slavery taking place on U.K. soil. However, in recent years, claims have been brought against companies for human rights violations before national courts in the U.K., Germany, Canada and various states in the U.S. (among others) for alleged violations abroad. The volume of claims being brought is undeniably significant and global litigation trends should be closely monitored. In Canada, for example, the Supreme Court of British Columbia recently rejected a Canadian company’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging its complicity in the use of forced labor by its local state-run subcontractors at an Eritrean mine. It is the first time that a Canadian court has recognized that a company may be tried for violations of customary international law such as slavery, forced labor and torture. A key consideration of the court was that there was a real risk that the claimants might not be provided with justice in Eritrea. In the wake of this decision, similar claims have been filed in other Canadian provinces.
  • “Soft law” enforcement mechanism. The OECD framework is increasingly being used to lodge public complaints against companies with respect to alleged human rights violations. In recent years, claims have been brought before “national contact points” in the U.K., Australia, France, Germany and Switzerland, among others. Although NCPs do not generally have the power to impose binding sanctions on companies, risks to companies include reputational risks, credit-score risks when it comes to borrowing from financial institutions and the risk that such proceedings will be used by claimants as a fact-finding tool in parallel with other legal proceedings.
  • “Prevention is better than cure.” Taking early action to prevent allegations in the first place, is recommended. Regardless of the outcome of attempts to litigate, a review of the global landscape reveals that once proceedings are commenced against a multinational, large out-of-court settlements (frequently in the range of $20-25 million) are not uncommon, particularly in the interests of minimizing reputational damage and legal costs. 4

4. Your Own Supply Chain

Businesses face significant challenges when trying to implement meaningful human rights programs across global organizations, including in mapping complex global supply chains and monitoring the operations of overseas third parties. Those operating within certain industries, such as retail, extractive, construction and manufacturing, might face more obvious exposure to harboring modern slavery or practices with adverse human rights impacts within their supply chains. However, industries that are seen to be “lower risk” are also thinking hard about the issues. For example, businesses operating within the professional and financial services industries may still engage — either directly or indirectly — lower-paid migrant workers in higher-risk support services roles such as security, cleaning, catering and call centers.

Where possible, businesses should take early preventative steps to ensure that risks within their supply chains are identified and managed. Initiatives might include:

  • conducting internal audits and risk assessments of the organization’s supply chains to determine which countries, industry sectors or business partnerships are at risk of harboring human rights abuses;
  • training and awareness campaigns;
  • updating policies, procedures and supplier contracts to include verifying suppliers’ compliance programs; and
  • carrying out onsite audits of high-risk suppliers, providing training to suppliers, commercially incentivizing better practices, including contractual compliance programs. Responsibility for overseeing human rights issues should ideally be allocated to a senior member of the organization in order to demonstrate an embedded organizational commitment.

5. The Market

A “race to the top” in corporate supply chain reporting, due diligence and human rights compliance is in motion. One of the main compliance drivers within the growing international reporting framework is, of course, reputational.

Public reporting facilitates the comparison of business commitment and pressure from consumers, investors, regulators and nongovernmental organizations on businesses that are failing to identify and assess human rights risks within their supply chains or that are not actively monitoring the efficacy of their initiatives to address adverse human rights impacts. The following are useful resources for monitoring movement in the market:

  • U.K. public registry: repository of MSA statements for over 1,500 companies, the majority of which are headquartered in the U.K. or the U.S.. While legal requirements themselves do not obligate businesses to produce extensive statements or reports, current market practice strongly suggests that businesses across a variety of industries — including manufacturing, energy, technology, pharmaceutical, utilities, food and drug, consumer products, extractives and professional services — are doing more than is strictly required by the U.K. regulations. Unsurprisingly, few (if any) statements indicate that no steps have been taken, though such a statement would satisfy the requirements.
  • Report of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD): identifies reporting trends and emerging good practice seen from 163 companies across 20 sectors and 35 countries. WBCSD discovered that 87 percent of reports contained a commitment by the organization to respect human rights. More notably, 76 percent of members confirmed that they had gone a step further and communicated their position on human rights to their suppliers, suggesting that businesses are increasingly using their purchasing power to influence the behavior of their supply chains with respect to human rights.
  • Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB): a multi-stakeholder initiative which aims to rank the top 100 companies in the agricultural products, apparel and extractive industries on their human rights performance. Results of the pilot project are expected in March 2017. This is expected to further peak investor, governmental, industry association and other stakeholder interest in corporate human rights compliance.
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