Saturday, February 18, 2017

Congress Headlines: February 13-17, 2017

House

U.S. House tax committee will not seek Trump tax returns

U.S. Representatives vote against D.C. assisted suicide law

House Freedom Caucus wants swift Obamacare repeal

Israeli PM Netanyahu Becomes D.C. Darling as Dems Clamor for Meetings

Netanyahu, Ryan determined to 'hold Iran accountable for its actions'

House to unveil Obamacare bill after next week

U.S. Republicans set timeframe for introducing Obamacare replacement

Senate

Senate confirms Mnuchin as Treasury secretary

David Shulkin confirmed as Veterans Affairs secretary

Senate approves McMahon to lead Small Business Administration

Key U.S. Senate committee chairman wants briefing on Flynn

Trump Supreme Court nominee's confirmation hearing to start March 20

Senate confirms Mulvaney as Trump's budget director

Trump's nominee for ambassador to Israel: Ending terror a condition of peace

Ashton Kutcher Testifies before Congress about Horrors of Sex-Trafficking

Senate confirms Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA

Dismantling Obama Regulations Will Require Resolve in the Senate

Senators Silent After Meeting With FBI Director Comey

Top Senate Republican: Will move on healthcare when support coalesces

Senate leader McConnell sees hope for infrastructure bill


Also see this week's Weekly Digest of the Congressional Record.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

2017 Outlook

Ryan maps out GOP timeline for ObamaCare, tax reform
PHILADELPHIA — Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday mapped out the GOP’s 200-day legislative strategy, saying Republicans will repeal and replace portions of ObamaCare by spring and tackle tax reform before the August recess.

Ryan: GOP will replace Obamacare, cut taxes and fund wall by August
PHILADELPHIA — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday outlined a packed legislative agenda for this year in which Republicans would repeal and replace Obamacare by April, fund Donald Trump’s border wall shortly after that and approve a sweeping tax reform package by August.

Republicans set aggressive agenda on health care, regulations and tax reform
PHILADELPHIA — Republican leaders laid out an aggressive legislative agenda Wednesday that would have Congress repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act, pass replacement measures and embark on a major tax code overhaul, all within the first 200 days of blanket GOP control in Washington.

Trump takes control of GOP agenda
President Donald Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan he "liked" the Republicans' 200 day agenda that includes repealing and replacing Obamacare and overhauling the tax code. But he told Ryan something was missing. Trump asked lawmakers to include the massive infrastructure spending project that he promised voters during the campaign. Now it's been added to the GOP's already packed to-do list, outlined at the Republican retreat at a hotel in downtown Philadelphia. It's not clear whether it will match Trump's $1 trillion proposal for repairing the nation's crumbling roads and bridges, but infrastructure is now "front and center," according to those who heard details of the GOP plan.

Congress Next Week

Senate Chamber

Floor Schedule

Program for Monday: After the transaction of any morning business (not to extend beyond 5 p.m.), Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Rex W. Tillerson, of Texas, to be Secretary of State, with a vote on the motion to invoke cloture thereon at 5:30 p.m.

McConnell to force vote on Trump's State Department pick
"I'll be filing cloture on Secretary of State nominee [Rex] Tillerson, which will ripen next week," McConnell told reporters during a weekly press conference. The move would set up a procedural vote early next week and get Tillerson through the Senate by the end of the week.

House Chamber

Weekly Schedule

Monday & Tuesday: Suspension Votes

Wednesday - Friday: Activity Under the Congressional Review Act

Text of Bills for the Week of Jan. 30, 2017

House to launch attack on Obama energy regs next week
The House will launch an attack Monday on former President Barack Obama's midnight regulations targeting the coal and natural gas industries, using powers extended to it under former President Bill Clinton for Congress to unravel specious federal rules.

Republicans to kill U.S. rules on corruption, environment, labor and guns next week
Congressional Republicans are set to overturn a slew of Obama-era regulations next week, including a controversial anti-bribery rule aimed at U.S. resource companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) and Chevron Corp (CVX.N), according to a top lawmaker. Other rules eyed for quick overturning by Congress include newly minted environmental, gun control and labor relations measures, sources said. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can use simple majority votes to stop recent regulations in their tracks. The timing in the law means that any rules that became final after May 31 could go on the chopping block.

Congress Last Week

Chamber Activity

Congressional Record — January 23-27, 2017

House voted 238-183 to pass H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion & Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.

House votes to cut abortion funding permanently
The law would codify the Hyde Amendment and close loopholes in Obamacare

House passes major abortion bill | Washington Examiner
The legislation, which passed 238-183, would make the Hyde amendment permanent. The amendment, which has been added to spending bills for decades, bans any federal funding from being used to provide abortions. In addition, it would target Obamacare plans that cover elective abortions. It would not provide Obamacare customers with subsidies used to pay down the cost of insurance if the insurance plan covers abortions.

House votes to permanently ban taxpayer funds for abortion
“That’s what we should be all about. Life affirming and the saving of human life,” said Smith. It does allow exceptions for cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life in danger. The three Democrats who voted for the legislation were Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).

The bill would also permanently prohibit the District of Columbia from using its local funds approved by Congress for abortion services.

Senate confirmed the nomination of Mike Pompeo, of Kansas, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

U.S. Senate confirms Pompeo to be Trump's CIA director
Sixty-six senators backed Pompeo and 32 voted against. All the opposition was from Democrats, except for Senator Rand Paul, a leading Republican advocate for strict control of surveillance. Shortly afterward, Pompeo was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

Senate confirmed the nomination of Nikki R. Haley, of South Carolina, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations.

U.S. Senate confirms Haley as Trump's U.N. ambassador
The U.S. Senate voted almost unanimously on Tuesday to confirm South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations, sending a rising Republican star to represent President Donald Trump at an institution he has criticized. Haley was backed by 96 senators, with only four opposed.

Senate confirms Trump's UN ambassador
Haley appeared to share her commander in chief's skepticism about America's heavy burden of United Nations dues, using the committee hearing to question if American values are reflected by a group that recently voted to condemn Israel for building of settlements in the West Bank. The Israel vote has drawn backlash from lawmakers in both parties.

Legislation Introduced

States Could Keep Obamacare Under Cassidy-Collins Replacement
State legislatures would be able to choose, in 2018, whether to continue to support the insurance market and institutions put in place by former President Barack Obama’s law, or to opt into a new system with many of the same consumer protections but fewer regulations. Under the new system, insurance coverage would be much less comprehensive but likely would be cheaper.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Congress Next Week

House Committees

Week of January 22 - 28, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rules: Meeting: H.R. 7—No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017

Pro-lifers to strengthen Hyde Amendment provisions under Donald Trump
A congressional committee is taking up on its first full day in session under the Trump administration a stricter version of the Hyde Amendment that would be written into law instead of being attached to appropriations bills.  The Hyde Amendment bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions and has been approved as a rider in every Congress since 1976. Codifying the measure is a top priority for the pro-life movement because the Democratic Party last year officially voiced support for using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.  The House Rules Committee will discuss HR7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, on Monday. It is identical to legislation introduced by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, that passed the House in 2015.  “There’s a growing recognition that abortion is violent,” Mr. Smith told The Washington Times. “Whether it’s by poison pill or dismemberment and other chemicals, the fact is there’s a trend, virtually every poll you look at, that says people don’t want public funding for abortion.”

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), seeks to do three things. The bill: (1) Makes the Hyde Amendment and other current abortion funding prohibitions  permanent and government-wide; (2) Ensures that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) faithfully conforms to the Hyde Amendment while Congress works to repeal and replace the ACA; (3) Until a new plan year begins, the bill ensures full disclosure, transparency and the prominent display of the extent to which any health insurance plan on the exchange funds abortion.


Affordable Care Act-related:




House Chamber

Weekly Schedule

Monday, January 23, 2017 — 11 bills under suspension of the rules

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

H.R. 7 – No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017
(Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3 bills under suspension of the rules

Text of Bills for the Week of Jan. 23, 2017


Senate Committees

Committee Meetings Schedule

Monday, January 23, 2017

Foreign Relations — Business meeting to consider the nomination of Rex W. Tillerson, of Texas, to be Secretary of State.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Armed Services — Hearings to examine the defense budget for fiscal year 2018 and onwards.

Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs — Organizational business meeting to consider committee rules, subcommittee assignments, an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 115th Congress, and the nomination of Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., of Florida, to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Finance — Hearings to examine the nomination of Thomas Price, of Georgia, to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Judiciary — Organizational business meeting to consider committee rules, subcommittee assignments, an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 115th Congress, and the nomination of Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, to be Attorney General, Department of Justice. A vote on the Sessions nomination is expected.

Budget — Hearings to examine the nomination of Mick Mulvaney, of South Carolina, to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

GOP senator: Trump budget chief could face confirmation 'problems'
Mulvaney, Trump's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, acknowledged in a committee questionnaire that he initially failed to pay roughly $15,000 in taxes on the employee. He said he has since paid the taxes, as well as related penalties.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship — Hearings to examine the nomination of Linda E. McMahon, of Connecticut, to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs — Hearings to examine the nomination of Mick Mulvaney, of South Carolina, to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.


Senate Chamber

Floor Schedule

Monday, January 23, 2017

3:00 p.m.: Proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Affordable Care Act-related:

GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Bill Cassidy (La.) are planning to offer an ObamaCare replacement proposal next week as lawmakers gear up to repeal the law. Collins said they will introduce their legislation on Monday, noting it would be based on a 2015 proposal and give states more flexibility.

GOP waiting to hear from Trump on ObamaCare
Don’t expect President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to roll out their ObamaCare replacement plan next week at their joint House and Senate GOP retreat in Philadelphia. Healthcare is expected to dominate the three-day gathering that kicks off Wednesday. But GOP lawmakers attending Trump’s presidential inauguration Friday said they likely won’t settle on a complete replacement strategy by the time the retreat wraps up. 

Congress Last Week

Chamber Activity

The House was not in session this week.

The Senate on Tuesday passed H.R. 72, the GAO Access and Oversight Act of 2017, 99-0.

Senate passes Sasse bill to open school lunch, food stamp records
“The bill would ensure the Government Accountability Office can access the National Directory of New Hires database, equipping GAO to audit unemployment insurance claims, quarterly wage data, and information on new hires, Sen. Ben Sasse said.  The GAO is a watchdog organization within the government that often reports to Congress, providing needed facts for legislative decisions.  Last March, the GAO was unable to comply with Sasse’s request to audit school lunch programs to ensure that assistance was targeted to kids who needed it most.”

Members of both chambers met on the west front of the Capitol for the Inauguration of President Donald Trump. Immediately following, the Senate confirmed the first two of the new President's nominees.

Senate confirms first nominees of Trump era
“In a 98-1 vote, the Senate confirmed retired Gen. James Mattis to be Defense secretary. Immediately after that vote, the Senate confirmed retired Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security by a vote of 88-11.”

Senate confirms Kelly as Trump's Homeland Security secretary

Mattis, Kelly confirmed to Cabinet positions

Also making headlines in the Senate this week were a pair of bills related to miners' health care. Considering this is related to health care and federal spending, its worth noting.

Senators introduce dueling miners bills
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Tuesday that he is filing legislation that would include a "permanent extension" for retired coal miners and their dependents. … The benefits are currently scheduled to expire at the end of April after senators included a four-month extension in last year's funding bill. … But a separate bill, backed by a bipartisan group of senators, would address both healthcare for miners and their families as well as a separate pension fund that is heading toward insolvency.”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cabinet and Executive Nomination News

The Senate’s Role in Confirming Trump’s Cabinet, Explained

Trump’s Cabinet picks undergo grueling prep for hearings

Senate readies for blizzard of confirmation battles

GOP slows Trump Cabinet confirmation pace


Sen. Jeff Sessions — Attorney General (Google News)

Judiciary Committee page for U.S. Attorney General Nomination
Hearing held Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Hearing held Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sessions Is a Highly Qualified Pick for Attorney General
As a four-term member of the Senate, Sessions has a distinguished record on the Judiciary Committee and has extensive experience within the federal judiciary as assistant U.S. attorney and U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. He also has experience at the state level as former attorney general of Alabama. As a prosecutor and Alabama attorney general, he aggressively pursued and obtained criminal convictions for violent felonies and drug crimes, effectively pursued criminal charges against members of the Ku Klux Klan, and worked to desegregate Alabama schools.

Sessions Promises To ‘Root Out’ And Prosecute Waste, Fraud
Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama pledged Tuesday to prioritize rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government if the Senate confirms him as the next attorney general. Sessions used his opening statement of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to emphasize that he believes the federal government must accelerate efforts “to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud and abuse.” “We cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure that if I am confirmed, I will make it a high priority of the (Department of Justice) to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover any monies lost due to fraud or false claims,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks.

8 Takeaways From the First Day of Jeff Sessions’ Confirmation Hearings

Four key takeaways from Day Two of the Sessions confirmation hearings

Jeff Sessions should have been a tough sell in the Senate, but he’s too nice
He is one of the more well-liked members of the Senate, a place that still retains elements of one of the world’s most exclusive clubs. He is genial, respectful and patient toward colleagues and staff. And that has given fellow Republicans and even some Democrats reason not to scrutinize the more unsavory allegations of his political history.

How a Jeff Sessions Justice Department Can Change Course on Crime

Affordable Care Act Repeal Update

Trump calls for immediate Obamacare repeal, quick replacement: NYT
He said he wanted a repeal vote next week and said he would not accept a delay of more than a few weeks for a replacement.

Senate to replace Obamacare ‘very rapidly’ after repeal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday wouldn’t commit to a firm timetable for replacing Obamacare, saying it would occur “rapidly” or “very quickly” after the law’s repeal this year. The Kentucky Republican also wouldn’t say whether everyone covered by the Affordable Care Act would still have health insurance under a GOP plan, pivoting to the fact that 25 million Americans still lack insurance under President Obama’s reforms.

Senate rejects Paul's balanced budget
The Senate rejected an alternative budget proposal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday. Senators voted 14-83 against Paul's balanced budget measure aimed at overhauling legislation that is being used to pave the way to repeal ObamaCare. GOP Sens. Mike Crapo, Ted Cruz, Steve Daines, Jeff Flake, John Kennedy, James Lankford, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, James Risch, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Tim Scott, Pat Toomey and Paul supported the proposal. The measure would have balanced the budget over roughly five years but retain the guidelines for nixing the Affordable Care Act.

Obama Health Secretary’s Speech Ignores the Consequences of Obamacare
On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell gave a speech in support of Obamacare proclaiming the benefits of Obamacare and cautioning against repealing and replacing the law, as Congress has promised to do. Unsurprisingly, she left out some critical details from her list of Obamacare “benefits.”

GOP leaders push back at critics of ObamaCare plan
Senate Republican leaders are pushing back against the idea proposed by some in their caucus of passing an ObamaCare replacement at the same time that they repeal the law. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, indicated to reporters Monday that simultaneous repeal and replacement is not practical. “I think we would all like that to be the case but, like I said, it's more aspirational,” Cornyn said of doing a replacement at the same time as repeal. “I think the practical challenges are many and so we're doing the best we can given the hand we've been dealt.” He noted that fast-track reconciliation rules would not allow a full replacement to be included. “I think we're better off doing it correctly and carefully rather than just quickly for quickly's sake,” Cornyn added of a replacement, saying he wants replacement to be a step-by-step, bipartisan process.

GOP senators drop push to delay ObamaCare repeal
A group of Senate Republicans announced Wednesday night that it is dropping its formal push to delay the deadline for ObamaCare repeal legislation.

Obamacare Repeal Moves Forward as Centrist GOP Senators Abandon Plan to Delay It
Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced an amendment to the budget resolution Monday pushing back the deadline for House and Senate committees to craft the reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare to March 3. The original target date for the committees was Jan. 27. But during a marathon voting session—called “vote-a-rama”—that began Wednesday evening and extended into early Thursday morning, Portman and Corker withdrew the amendment.

Senate passes budget with ObamaCare repeal rules
Full updates from the late-night vote-a-rama.

Senate takes first step toward repealing ObamaCare
The Senate took a first step toward repealing ObamaCare and fulfilling a long-time campaign pledge in the early morning hours Thursday. Senators voted 51-48 to pass a budget resolution that is being used as a vehicle for rolling back the Affordable Care Act, with the House expected to vote on Friday. Republicans needed a simple majority of votes to clear the repeal rules, instructing committees to begin drafting repeal legislation, through the upper chamber, with the vote falling largely along party lines.