March 20, 2017

Legislative Focus: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing, House Intel Committee Testimony and Climate Change EO
This week, the Senate will begin confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and the House Select Intelligence Committee will hear testimony from FBI Director James B. Comey and NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers regarding investigation of Russian activities during the 2016 election.

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order to strike actions by the Obama administration on climate change. The House is scheduled to vote on 12 bills today and Tuesday and may consider the Republican health care plan later this week.

Senate Floor:
The Senate convened at 10:00 a.m. ET today for a pro forma session with no legislative action expected.

House Floor:
The House convened at 2:00 p.m. today to consider 11 bills under suspension of the rules, including a bill (HR 382) that would change Agriculture Department research grants in a bid to increase participation by women and minorities in STEM fields.

On Tuesday the House will meet at noon to consider a bill (HR 372) that would ensure that antitrust laws are upheld for health insurance and dental insurance companies. The text of all bills to be consider this week can be found here.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the nomination of George “Sonny” Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture. Thursday, March 23, time TBA, 325 Russell Bldg.

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the nomination of Jay Clayton to be Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman. Thursday, March 23 at 9:30 a.m., 538 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

  • Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on “FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Improving Airport Infrastructure and Aviation Manufacturing.” Thursday, March 23 at 10 a.m., 253 Russell Bldg.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

  • Full committee hearing on opportunities to improve and expand infrastructure important to Federal lands, recreation, water, and resources. Tuesday, March 21 at 10 a.m., 366 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the nomination of Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor. Wednesday, March 22 at 9 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Judiciary Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Monday, March 20 at 11 a.m. and Tuesday, March 21, 11:00 a.m., 216 Hart Bldg.

Senate Special Aging Committee

  • Full committee hearing on raising grandchildren in the opioid crisis and beyond. Tuesday, March 21 at 2:30 p.m., 562 Dirksen 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.” Tuesday, March 21, 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Communications and Technology hearing on “Broadband: Deploying America’s 21st Century Infrastructure.” Tuesday, March 21, 10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Fentanyl: The Next Wave of the Opioid Crisis.” Tuesday, March 21, 10:15 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Health Subcommittee hearing on “Examining FDA’s Prescription Drug User Fee Program. Wednesday, March 22, 10:15 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg. 

House Homeland Security Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “A Borderless Battle: Defending Against Cyber Threats.” Wednesday, March 22, 10 a.m., HVC-210, U.S. Capitol

House Natural Resources Committee

  • Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing on “The Importance of Domestically Sourced Raw Materials for Infrastructure Projects.” Tuesday, March 21, 10 a.m., 1324 Longworth Bldg.

The Week in Review

House Budget Committee Advances American Health Care Act (AHCA)
The House Budget Committee passed the AHCA by a 19-17 vote. Three republican members, Reps. Brat, Sanford, and Palmer – all members of the House Freedom Caucus – voted against the republican health care plan. The right-wing of the republican party are demanding significant changes to the bill, including work requirements for Medicaid and phasing out Medicaid expansion in 2018. The Freedom Caucus has threatened to derail the republican health plan if there aren’t significant changes to the bill. AHCA will next go to the House Rules Committee then the House floor.

President Trump Issues Budget Request to Congress
Last week, President Donald Trump released his first budget request to Congress. The 53-page “skinny budget,” which outlines the President’s priorities for fiscal 2018, does not include any changes to revenue or mandatory spending, but increases defense spending by $54 billion above fiscal 2018 caps and cuts nondefense spending by $54 billion. The Administration is expected to release a full budget request based on the priorities laid out in the “skinny budget” in May. The full document can be found here.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology Holds Hearing on Drones
Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology held a hearing titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Innovation, Integration, Successes, and Challenges.” The hearing focused on the integration and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems, often referred to as drones, noting the potential advantages and disadvantages with the nascent industry. The committee posed questions to a panel of representatives from the Federal Aviation Agency, unmanned aircraft manufacturers, legal academia, and the energy infrastructure industry.  One topic mentioned notably throughout the discussion was the role of states in legislating drones. Some senators and manufacturers were hesitant of a “patchwork” of disparate and conflicting state laws, instead advocating for a national standard on drone operation and licensing. However, in the realm of privacy law, Dr. John Villasenor, Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at UCLA, argued that states are already effectively legislating privacy in ways that effect drones and federal legislation should only be introduced if states are failing to protect citizens’ privacy.

Zinke Announces Acting-Director of Bureau of Land Management 
Interior Secretary Zinke announced that Michael Nedd will serve as acting-director of the  Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Nedd is a BLM career veteran and began his career with the BLM in 1991. He has served several positions at the BLM, including State Director, Associate State Director and Deputy Chief Information Officer. Prior to being named acting-director, he most recently served as Assistant Director for Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, a position he held since 2007.

Senate Confirms CMS Nominee Seema Verma
Last week, the Senate voted to confirm Seema Verma to be administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on a mostly party-line, 55-43, vote. Verma will now oversee more than $1 trillion in federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the marketplaces created under the ACA.

CBO Releases Score for ACA Replacement Legislation 
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the American Health Care Act (ACHA), the replacement health care plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In its report, CBO, along with the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), estimate that enacting the ACHA as currently written would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the next decade. However, CBO and JCT estimate that in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. Later, after additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the nongroup market and to the Medicaid program take effect, the increase in the number of uninsured people would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026. Furthermore, implementing the ACHA would cut $880 billion out of Medicaid in the 10-year window and would lead 14 million fewer individuals covered by Medicaid by 2026. CBO also anticipates some states that have already expanded their Medicaid programs would no longer offer that coverage. To access the full text of CBO’s assessment, click here.