Policy: Law

House to vote on drought bill while plotting immigration and debt ceiling measures

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Immigration,Debt Ceiling,National Security,PennAve,Energy and Environment,Law,Drought

House Republicans this week will begin behind-the-scenes efforts at tackling a path forward on immigration reform and raising the debt ceiling, while moving ahead on a series of land bills that include a measure aimed at alleviating the California drought.

Both the House and Senate will begin negotiating a deal to increase the $17 trillion debt ceiling, which is set to expire shortly.

House Republicans last week also codified their commitment to taking a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, releasing a one-page statement on the party's principles. But GOP leaders have no immediate plans to take up specific legislation.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., one of the GOP leaders negotiating a plan, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that the GOP conference has not settled on the next step, other than wanting the borders to be secured first.

Ryan said immigration reform “is clearly in doubt,” and will depend on whether President Obama and Democratic lawmakers agree to measures aimed at significantly improving border security before immigration is increased.

While Congress has months to debate immigration reform, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew believes Congress should pass a debt ceiling increase this month.

Republicans are likely to insist on something in exchange for raising the debt limit, such as spending cuts. Republicans may also insist on a measure that would block Obama from granting a taxpayer-funded bailout to insurance companies who are part of the health care exchanges but have not enrolled enough young and healthy people to prevent them from raising premiums.

Democrats have insisted they won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling and want a “clean” increase. But they will be more inclined to work with Republicans if they believe it will ease the way for an accord later on major immigration reform.

“What I believe is we can work something out,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Sunday on "Face the Nation", when asked about the debt ceiling.

The House, meanwhile, will vote this week on series of land bills including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act. The bill comes in response to continued California drought that now threatens the Golden State’s water supply in the Central Valley area.

The bill would restore water flows to routes that have been closed off for years in order to protect endangered species of fish. The Bay Delta restoration project that limited water routes has exacerbated the drought caused by lack of rainfall, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the bill puts, “families before fish.”

Democrats oppose the bill and have called it irresponsible and a threat to the years-long effort to protect the Delta from environmental damage.

The House will also take up legislation to improve access to public lands and to “protect the traditional right of American sportsmen to fish and hunt.”

The Public Access and Lands Improvement Act would remove government red tape to help increase economic development on public lands. The Sportsman Heritage and Recreation Enhancement Act removes “government roadblocks,” to hunting and recreation activities on certain public lands and includes provisions blocking future restrictions that would limit hunting and fishing.

The Senate, meanwhile, will put the final congressional stamp on the long-awaited farm bill. Lawmakers are expected to clear the measure for the president's signature Monday afternoon. The $1 trillion House-passed measure ends direct subsidies for farms, boosts crop insurance and reduces food stamps by about $8 billion over ten years.

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