7 min read

What Washington got done this week

Away from the spotlight, rank-and-file lawmakers are proposing bipartisan solutions to real problems.
What Washington got done this week

Good morning! It’s Friday, June 7, 2024. Election Day is 152 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Congrats on making it to the end of the week. If it’s Friday, it’s time to round up what Congress got done this week.

The House successfully renamed 23 post offices, including one in Arkansas for Johnny Cash (it passed unanimously). The Senate unanimously approved resolutions calling on Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and American schoolteacher Mark Fogel, both of whom are being held prisoner by the Kremlin. The chamber also approved a resolution designating next Thursday as National Seersucker Day. Mark your calendars!

The Senate passed a bipartisan border bill — although it wasn’t the border you might think. The Northern Border Coordination Act, approved unanimously, would establish a Department of Homeland Security center at the U.S.-Canadian border to centralize U.S. security and intelligence operations there.

Beyond that, it was a three-day work week — both chambers recessed early to allow members to travel to Normandy for the D-Day anniversary — so there isn’t much more floor action to report.

Normally, I like to focus on bipartisan legislation — but this week’s most notably bipartisan roll calls were really best understood as partisan messaging votes, ploys by the Senate Democrats and House Republicans to divide the opposition:

  • In the House, the GOP managed to peel off 42 Democrats in support of the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, which would impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court as reprisal for the court’s top prosecutor seeking an arrest warrant against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (The prosecutor also sought an arrest warrant against Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.) The bill passed in a 247-155-2 vote.
  • In the Senate, Democrats held a vote on the Right to Contraception Act, which would codify a federal right for Americans to obtain and use contraceptives. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the measure, yielding a 51-39 vote. (Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” to preserve his ability to bring it up again.) 60 votes were needed to overcome a filibuster.

With an election fast approaching, expect more political stunts like these ahead. In the Senate, Schumer has previewed a vote on the Right to IVF Act, which would protect access to in-vitro fertilization. Meanwhile, Speaker Mike Johnson has signaled that the House will vote to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over audio of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. (“I will not be intimidated,” Garland told lawmakers this week at a hearing.)

However, partisan politics on the floor doesn’t mean there isn’t any instances of bipartisanship to highlight this week.

Away from the glare of the spotlight, rank-and-file lawmakers continue to team up across the aisle to produce interesting and innovative solutions to policy problems. They just rarely get called up for votes.

Still, I think it’s worth highlighting these bipartisan solutions, to give you a sense of what your elected representatives are working on behind the scenes — and what could become law with a few rule changes here and there.

Here’s a sampling of the bipartisan bills introduced in Congress this week:

✈️ Did you know every time you buy a round-trip plane ticket, you pay an $11.20 “Passenger Security Fee”? The fee, created after 9/11, originally went to boosting airport security — but since 2014, one-third of the annual revenue generated by the fee (which totaled $3.8 billion in 2022) has gone to paying down the deficit. With the TSA chronically underfunded and understaffed, Reps. Nick LaLota (R-NY) and Robert Garcia (D-CA) introduced a bill that would require 100% of the fee’s revenue to go to its stated purpose, passenger security.

👨‍👩‍👦 The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 granted U.S. citizenship to international adoptees who were legally adopted by U.S. citizens — but it only applied to future adoptees or adoptees who were under 18 at the time. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bill that would close that gap, granting citizenship to international adoptees who were adopted as children but were already adults in 2000. It’s estimated that there are tens of thousands of people in the U.S. who fall into this category; they have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives but were never able to receive citizenship — sometimes leading to difficulties attending colleges or starting their careers — because they were born too early.

🍼 Remember the 2022 baby formula shortage that was sparked by bacterial contaminations at a manufacturing plant? Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced a bill this week that would seek to prevent a reoccurrence, by strengthening the FDA’s oversight of baby formula manufacturing and requiring companies to be more transparent with the agency when their products are contaminated.

⚖️ Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced a bill that would reauthorize grant programs providing housing, job training, addiction treatment, and other reentry services for recently incarcerated people who have been released.

💸 Currently, military disability retirement pay and other veterans’ benefits are considered tax-free — but military retirement pay is counted as taxable income. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) introduced a bill to change that. “Veterans sacrificed so much for our nation, and the least we can do is ensure they can retain all of their retirement pay,” Rosen said.

💳 Think you have a bad credit score? Imagine what years being held hostage would do to it. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced a bill that would prevent credit rating agencies from taking into account payments that were missed because an individual was being wrongfully detained or held hostage, thereby ensuring that when these individuals return to the U.S., their lives aren’t made even more difficult by having a poor credit rating.

Plus, a few more examples of bipartisanship from the past week: A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Amazon demanding information about how they treat their drivers. Bipartisan congressional delegations went to Normandy, Taiwan, and Singapore. A bipartisan amendment on medical marijuana was added to the House veterans affairs appropriations bill.

And, finally, a bipartisan group of House members marked the D-Day anniversary by parachuting out of a World War II-era plane over Normandy. “This is either going to be a great jump or we might not be the majority any longer,” one Republican participant joked before the jump.

More news to know.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address a joint session of Congress on July 24. It will be his fourth such address, the most of any foreign leader in history.

  • Notable quotable: “I have clear and profound disagreements with the prime minister, which I have voiced both privately and publicly and will continue to do so,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said about co-signing the invitation to Netanyahu. “But because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister I joined the request for him to speak.”

Donald Trump is looking for a VP who’s “reliable, low-drama and, above all, loyal,” per Axios. The shortlist reportedly includes Gov. Doug Burgum (ND); Sens. Tom Cotton (AR), Marco Rubio (FL), Tim Scott (SC), and J.D. Vance (OH); Reps. Byron Donalds (FL) and Elise Stefanik (NY); and former HUD secretary Ben Carson.

In an interview with ABC News, President Biden ruled out a pardon for his son Hunter.

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon has been ordered to report to jail by July 1. 

From India to Turkey, global strongmen have been “taken down a notch” in recent elections, the New York Times reports.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) made a last-minute reversal on congestion pricing.

Fellow House Republicans are accusing Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) of “stolen valor.”

President Biden ruled out a pardon for his son Hunter.

White House aides worried that George Clooney would pull out of a Biden campaign fundraiser after the president criticized the International Criminal Court’s Israel investigation, which Clooney’s wife worked on.

Alex Jones is liquidating his assets to pay the damages he owes to Sandy Hook families.

The day ahead.

White House: President Biden remains in France for continued celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Earlier this morning, he met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in Normandy. Later today, he will deliver remarks at Pointe du Hoc, the site of one of D-Day’s most famous assaults — and one of Ronald Reagan’s most iconic speeches.

Congress: Both chambers of Congress are off for the week.

Supreme Court: The justices have nothing on their schedule.

Before I go...

One more lighter story from Congress this week: 6-year-old Guy Rose, the son of Rep. John Rose (R-TN), stole the spotlight at the Capitol this week as he made funny faces for the cameras while his dad delivered a floor speech in defense of Donald Trump.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the amazing video from C-SPAN:

Guy became an instant Capitol Hill celebrity — going on a media tour that took him everywhere from CNN to “Fox and Friends,” receiving cheers at a House Republican Conference meeting, and meeting with House Speaker Mike Johnson.

What did he feel about his newfound fame? “Nothing at all,” he told a reporter.

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— Gabe