March 6, 2017

Legislative Focus: Defense Spending and Health Care Repeal
The Senate will convene today to vote on H.J. Res. 37, which would rescind a rule requiring prospective federal contractors to disclose labor violations.

On Wednesday the House will begin work to complete appropriations for the current fiscal year with the consideration of a $583.7 billion defense spending bill, H.R. 1301. The current appropriations stop gap funding bill runs through April 28th. The House also plans to vote this week on three measures (H.R. 720H.R. 985, and H.R. 725) designed to limit class actions and punish frivolous lawsuits.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, and possibly the House Ways and Means Committee are expected to mark up a replacement to the Affordable Care Act. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told the Republican conference last week that the goal is to get the Senate legislation on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in the next three weeks.

Senate Floor: The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. ET to consider HJ Res. 37 with votes delayed until 6 p.m.

House Floor: The House convenes for a pro forma session today. The House will meet at 2 p.m. tomorrow for the consideration of seven bills under suspension of the rules.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on funding our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs. Wednesday, March 8, 10 a.m., 192 Dirksen Bldg.
  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on saving lives through medical research. Wednesday, March 8, 10:30 a.m., 138 Dirksen Bldg.  

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

  • Full committee hearing on S.512, “Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.” Wednesday, March 8, 10 a.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the nomination of Elaine Duke to be deputy Homeland Security secretary. Wednesday, March 8, 9:30 a.m., 342 Dirksen Bldg.

House Agriculture Committee

  • Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Rural Development and Energy Programs.” Thursday, March 9, 10 a.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.
  • Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research Subcommittee hearing on “The Next Farm Bill: Specialty Crops.” Thursday, March 9, 2 p.m., 1300 Longworth Bldg.

House Appropriations Committee

  • Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on “Management Challenges at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and the Social Security Administration (SSA): Views from the Inspectors General.” Thursday, March 9, 10 a.m., 2358-B Rayburn Bldg.

House Financial Services Committee

  • Housing and Insurance Subcommittee hearing on “Flood Insurance Reform: FEMA’s Perspective.” Thursday, March 9, 10 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Bldg.  

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

  • Aviation Subcommittee hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Air Transportation in the United States in the 21st Century.” Wednesday, March 8, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The Role of Federal Agencies in Water Infrastructure.” Thursday, March 9, 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

The Week in Review

President Trump Addresses Joint Session of Congress
Last week, President Trump delivered his first Congressional address. In the speech, he promised to address illegal immigration, construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, continue the fight against ISIS and reduce government regulation. He also reviewed some of the executive action his administration has taken so far, including imposing a new rule which mandates that for every 1 new regulation, 2 old regulations must be eliminated, and reiterated a commitment to approving new pipelines projects like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access. He also outlined five principles for health care reform, including: new tax credits to help individuals purchase coverage; expanded use of health savings accounts; greater state flexibility for Medicaid; allowing insurers to sell health plans across state line; and keeping the popular ACA provision that prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals with expensive medical conditions.

Senate Confirms Perry as Secretary of Energy
The Senate voted 62-37 to confirm former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy. Secretary Perry was initially considered a controversial choice for the position because of his previous calls to dismantle the Department of Energy, he recanted that position and his previous comments on climate change during his hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Zinke Confirmed to Lead Interior
The Senate voted 68-31 to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MO) to be the next Interior Secretary. Sec. Zinke served in the House for two years before becoming Interior secretary. Sec. Zinke has indicated plans to pave a path for more oil and gas development on federal land and offshore zones, and is expected to reverse a ban on offshore drilling leases in areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans enacted by President Obama through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953. Sec. Zinke is also expected to play a leading role in negotiating a new water sharing deal with Mexico before the current one expires at the end of this year, and is likely to involve his department in the mitigation of water re-balancing issues facing western states.

Senate Finance Committee Advances CMS Nominee Seema Verma
The Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Seema Verma to be Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on a party-line 13-12 vote. The week prior, Verma testified before the committee and addressed a variety of topics, including the future of Medicaid, Medicare drug costs and how the agency would try to persuade insurers to stay in the markets created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If confirmed, Verma would oversee more than $1 trillion in federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the marketplaces created under the ACA. The Senate could take up Verma’s confirmation as early as this week.

House Passes Regulatory Integrity Act
The House voted 246-176 to pass H.R. 1004, the Regulatory Integrity Act of 2017. The act would require agencies to publish any agency regulatory action online. The act would also prohibit agencies from directly advocating or appealing to the public for support or opposition of pending regulatory action. This bill follows a series of executive orders, presidential memoranda, and other bills the Trump Administration has sought to lessen the regulatory burden on American businesses.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Career and Technical Education
The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing last week on strengthening career and technical education and the potential reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins). Members and witnesses cited the success of career and technical education in preparing students for post-secondary education and careers, but noted that skill gaps remain and many quality jobs still go unfilled. The critical role that states play in administering career and technical education was also a focus of the hearing. Members of the subcommittee expressed optimism that the bipartisan Perkins reauthorization bill advanced in the 114th Congress would serve as a strong foundation for legislation in the current Congress. That bill, H.R. 5587, was approved unanimously by the full committee and passed in the House 405-5 in September 2016.