March 13, 2017

Legislative Focus: Trump Administration to Release “Skinny” Budget; More Action on Health Care
This week, the Trump Administration is expected to release a “skinny” fiscal year 2018 budget request to Congress, according to comments made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week. Several cuts are likely to be made, including reductions to the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Congressional Budget Office this week is expected to release its score of the American Heath Care Act. On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee will begin its markup of legislation. The committee is expected to release its markup schedule for the bill sometime today.

Senate Floor:
The Senate convened at 2 p.m. ET to resume consideration of the nomination of Seema Verma to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, with a vote expected at 5:30 p.m.

House Floor:
The House meets Tuesday at 2 p.m. for consideration of three land bills under suspension of the rules, if weather permits. Wednesday, the House takes up a bill regarding veterans’ mental health and gun access, along with nine bills under suspension of the rules. Bills regarding veterans are also on the docket for Thursday and Friday.

Key Hearings and Markups 

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Wednesday, March 15 at 10:30 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, Part I.” Tuesday, March 14 at 10 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

  • Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on “Continuing to Improve Truck Safety on our Nation’s Highways.” Tuesday, March 14 at 2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

  • Full committee hearing on opportunities to improve American energy infrastructure. Tuesday, March 14 at 10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “Examining Innovative Solutions to Control Invasive Species and Promote Wildlife Conservation.” Wednesday, March 15 at 10 a.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

House Agriculture Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “Agriculture and Tax Reform: Opportunities for Rural America.” Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.
  • Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Agricultural Research.” Thursday, March 16, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.
  • Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Forestry Initiatives.” Thursday, March 16, 2 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

House Appropriations Committee

  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Investing in the future – Early Childhood Education Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services.” Thursday, March 16, 10 a.m., 2358-C Rayburn Bldg.
  • Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Department of Transportation & Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Thursday, March 16, 10 a.m., 2358-A Rayburn Bldg.

House Education and Workforce Committee

  • Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing on “Improving Federal Student Aid to Better Meet the Needs of Students.” Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Energy Subcommittee hearing on “Modernizing Energy Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities to Expanding Hydropower Generation.” Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Environment Subcommittee hearing on “Reinvestment and Rehabilitation of Our Nation’s Safe Drinking Water Delivery Systems.” Thursday, March 16, 10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg. 

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

  • Highways and Transit Subcommittee hearing on “FAST Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives.” Wednesday, March 15, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

The Week in Review

Senate Votes to Block ESSA Accountability and State Plans Regulations
The Senate voted 50-49 to pass H.J.Res.57, a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block regulations issued by the Obama administration on accountability and state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The House passed the resolution in February, and it will now advance to President Trump, who is expected to sign the measure.

Over 150 Members of Congress Sign Bipartisan Letter Supporting Municipal Bond Tax Exemption 
Over 150 members of Congress signed a letter sent to the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee that asks leadership to reject any proposal to cap or eliminate the deduction on tax-exempt municipal bonds. The letter states that nearly two-thirds of infrastructure investments in the U.S. are financed through municipal bonds, affecting the lives on every American citizen and business. Changing the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds would increase the cost of financing for states and local governments and could harm economic growth.

ASCE Releases Infrastructure Report Card
Last week, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its quadrennial report on the state of the U.S.’s infrastructure. The ASCE gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade, while acknowledging some improvements since the last report which had the same grade. The U.S. saw progress in the areas of ports, rail, and policymaking among other criteria, but fared poorly on long-delayed maintenance issues, congestion, waste management, and other areas. The report follows discussions on President Trump’s proposed infrastructure package, and will likely feature in future discussions of an infrastructure plan.

Senate Passes Bill Killing MPO Consolidation Rule
The Senate approved S. 496, a bill that would kill a new rule from the Department of Transportation consolidating metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). The rule, which was issued last December by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration, would require the consolidation of MPOs operating within a single urbanized area. Under the rule, a planning agency working in one city could potentially require the sign off of governors in other states before spending federal funding.

Senate Passes CRA on BLM Planning Rule
The Senate passed H.J.Res.44, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to disapprove of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Planning 2.0″ rule, 51-48. The rule, finalized last December, updated and streamlined the agency’s process for creating land use plans, created additional opportunities for public input at earlier planning stages and shifted responsibility for drafting land use plans from BLM field offices to officials in Washington.