Two Productive Weeks In The Senate

While ‘House Democrats Are Missing In Action,’ The Senate Has Been Carefully At Work, Holding Hearings On The Pandemic, Passing Critical National Security Legislation, And Confirming Important Nominations


SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “The Senate is back in session because we have important work to do for the nation. Critical posts throughout the federal government -- from public health to national security and beyond -- remain vacant. Qualified nominees who have been held up for too long already have become even more necessary in these uncertain times. On the floor and in committee, the Senate will be acting on key nominations that relate directly to the safety of the American people, oversight over our coronavirus legislation, and more.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/04/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “The core business of our nation does not stop while we fight the coronavirus. This week, Senate committees are conducting oversight and holding hearings. Members are tracking the implementation of the CARES Act. We are discussing how Congress could do everything from further strengthening the health response to ensuring that a second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits does not redirect the national recovery into a trial-lawyer bonanza. Here on the floor, we’re filling major vacancies in the federal government.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/06/2020)
  • SEN. McCONNELL: “The Democratic House is still not back in Washington. Their constitutional duty stations are still unmanned…. House Democrats have been missing in action for months. While the Senate was passing the CARES Act, the Democratic House was on the sidelines – substantively, and literally. They had already gone home. Nearly two months later, Senators are back at our duty stations, with new precautions. We’ve been back two weeks. We’re holding major hearings on the pandemic, legislating, and confirming nominees. But the House is still at home. And when they do contribute, it’s not serious. House Democrats have checked out of this crisis and left governing up to the Senate.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 5/14/2020)


Senate Committees Held Hearings On COVID-19 And Economic Recovery


Tuesday, May 5: Hearing: Nominations of Brian Miller to be Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery at the Treasury Department and Dana Wade to be Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: Oversight of Financial Regulators


Wednesday, May 6: Hearing: The State of the Aviation Industry: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, May 13: Hearing: The State of Broadband Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


Thursday, May 7: Hearing: Shark Tank: New Tests for COVID-19

Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School

  • Witnesses included: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert Redfield, Director, CDC; Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner, FDA; Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS Department


Wednesday, May 6: Hearing: Roundtable - COVID-19: How New Information Should Drive Policy


Tuesday, May 12: Hearing: Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic


The Senate Passed A Renewal Of Critical FISA Provisions

“The Senate on Thursday passed legislation reauthorizing three intelligence programs that lapsed earlier this year … Senators voted 80-16 on the bill, which pairs the reauthorization of the USA Freedom Act provisions with some changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court.” (“Senate Votes To Reauthorize Intel Programs With Added Legal Protections,” The Hill, 5/14/2020)

“Senior Justice Department officials have said their ability to pursue some investigations during the two-month lapse of the tools has impeded their work …” (“Senate Approves Measure to Renew Some Lapsed Domestic Spying Powers,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/14/2020)


The Senate Sustained The President’s Veto Of A ‘Deeply Flawed’ War Powers Resolution That Would Have Improperly Hindered Responses To Iranian Aggression

“The Senate on Thursday failed to override a presidential veto of a War Powers resolution intended to rein in presidential authority to use military action against Iran … The vote was 49-44. A two-thirds majority would have been required for a successful override, which was not expected to happen after President Donald Trump vetoed the resolution on Wednesday.” (“Senate Fails To Override Trump Veto Of Iran War Powers Resolution,” CNN, 5/07/2020)

  • SEN. McCONNELL: “Today the Senate will consider a War Powers Resolution [that] is deeply flawed on a number of levels…. [I]t is too blunt and too broad. It is also an abuse of the War Powers Act, which was designed to strike a balance between the President’s constitutional war powers and Congress’ own war powers and oversight responsibilities…. There is no ongoing, protracted combat with respect to Iran. Our troops are not mired in unending hostilities…. Clearly this is the wrong tool for this subject…. I believe it is just an effort to broadcast a political message. But even that message can be harmful to our troops and to national security.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 2/12/2020)


The EPW Committee Passed Major Water Infrastructure Legislation

“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously advanced a pair of water infrastructure measures Wednesday that Chairman John Barrasso said could serve as a major part of Congress' economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The bills, America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, S. 3591, and the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020, S. 3590, would authorize new Army Corps of Engineers projects, reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Safe Drinking Water Act emergency fund, and make a series of policy changes regarding drinking water, flood control and water supply programs.” (“Senate EPW Advances 2 Water Infrastructure Bills,” Politico Pro, 5/06/2020)


Key Nominations Were Confirmed And Advanced

“The Senate on Wednesday easily approved President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the country's top counterintelligence official … Lawmakers voted 84-7 to make William Evanina the first Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.” (Politico, 5/06/2020)

“The Senate voted 87-0 on Monday to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick for the watchdog agency that oversees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Robert Feitel, who prior to his confirmation was a Department of Justice trial attorney, will serve as the NRC inspector general.” (“Senate Confirms Trump Nominee for Nuclear Regulator Watchdog,” Bloomberg Law, 5/04/2020)

The Senate also confirmed Admiral Brett Giroir to be the U.S. representative on the executive board of the World Health Organization. (U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Press Release, 5/07/2020; PN1709, 116th Congress)

“A Senate committee Thursday voted to advance President Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the Federal Election Commission, which would restore the agency’s ability to conduct official business.” (“Senate Committee Advances Nomination Of FEC Commissioner,” The Washington Post, 5/07/2020)

The Senate confirmed nominees for Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and CFO for the Department of Homeland Security. (PN1155, 116th Congress; PN514, 116th Congress)


Committees Held Confirmation Hearings For Other Important Positions

The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) to be Director of National Intelligence. (U.S. Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Hearing, 5/05/2020)

“President Trump’s latest pick to be secretary of the Navy [Ambassador Kenneth Braithwaite] appeared before senators Thursday for a confirmation hearing … Along with Mr. Braithwaite, the committee is considering Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be chief of staff of the Air Force, and James Anderson for the position of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.” (“Senators Examine Trump’s Nominee for Navy Secretary,” The Wall Street Journal, 5/07/2020)

“Judge Justin Walker, as expected, breezed through his confirmation hearing Wednesday for a spot on an influential appeals court in Washington,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (“D.C. Circuit Nominee Sails Through Confirmation Hearing Amid Pandemic Rancor,” Roll Call, 5/06/2020)

“The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced to a floor vote six of President Donald Trump’s U.S. district court nominees on Thursday in its first meeting to consider any selections since mid-March when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.” (“Senate Panel OKs Judge Picks for First Time in Two Months,” Bloomberg Law, 5/14/2020)

FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Wednesday May 13: Hearing on nominees to be Assistant Administrator of USAID and ambassadors to Estonia, Jordan, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.


And Held Hearings On Other Important Functions Of Government


Wednesday, May 13: Hearing: Evolving the U.S. Cybersecurity Strategy and Posture: Reviewing the Cyberspace Solarium Commission Report


The Senate Also Passed Bills On Additional Important Subjects

S.2661 – National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020: A bill to designate 9–8–8 as the universal telephone number for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operating through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and through the Veterans Crisis Line

S.3744 – Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020: A bill to condemn gross human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, and calling for an end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China

S.249 – A bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization

S.Con.Res.38 – A concurrent resolution to establish the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies for the inauguration of the President-elect and Vice President-elect of the United States on January 20, 2021



Related Issues: Infrastructure, Judicial Nominations, National Security, Homeland Security, China, COVID-19, Back to Work, Nominations, Economy