April 24, 2017

Legislative Focus: Federal Funding, Health Care, Secure Rural Schools, 100 Days, Agriculture Secretary
The Senate convened today to vote on the nomination of Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The Senate will then vote on a motion to proceed to the nomination Rod Rosenstein to serve as Deputy U.S. Attorney General.

The House will convene tomorrow for consideration of eight bills under suspension of the rules. On Wednesday, the House takes up a bill on the U.S. copyright system. Later this week, the House could also consider legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The House may also vote on legislation to reform the Affordable Care Act.

Budget Update:
The current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on Saturday, the President’s 100th day in office. This week’s funding debate is expected to be dominated by the possible construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border. A short-term funding extension is likely as Congress negotiates specific details for the remainder of fiscal year 2017.

In the countdown to the President’s 100th day in office, he is expected to sign executive orders on Veterans Affairs whistleblower protections, the Antiquities Act, offshore energy and agricultural and rural issues. On Wednesday, the President is expected to release his priorities for tax reform, including tax cuts.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

  • Full committee hearing on  “A Review of the Technical, Scientific, and Legal Basis of the WOTUS (Waters of the United States) Rule.” Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m., 406 Dirksen Bldg.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee

  • Full committee markup of pending legislation and to vote on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Wednesday, April 26 at 9:30 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.

House Education and the Workforce Committee

  • Full committee hearing on “Strengthening Accreditation to Better Protect Students and Taxpayers.” Thursday, April 27 at 10 a.m., 2175 Rayburn Bldg.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Full committee hearing on the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017. Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

  • Information Technology Subcommittee hearing on “Unfunded Mandates: Examining Federally Imposed Burdens on State and Local Government.” Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m., 2154 Rayburn Bldg.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

  • Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The State of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Safety Regulations and Opportunities for Reform.” Wednesday, April 26 at 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.
  • Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Mitigating Damage and Recovering Quickly from Disasters.” Thursday, April 27 at 10 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Bldg.

The Week in Review

Secretary Price Sends Letter to Governors Regarding Opioid State Targeted Response Grants
Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price sent a letter to Governors regarding the release of funding for the Opioid State Targeted Response Grants. The letter follows his Wednesday announcement where he signaled that the Department of Health and Human Services would soon provide $485 million in grants to help states and territories combat opioid addiction. The funding, which is the first of two rounds provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act, would be provided through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In his letter, Secretary Price outlines his and the administration’s commitment to addressing the opioid crisis as states and territories continue to work on and address the health, social, and economic consequences generated by the crisis. In the letter, Secretary Price also commits to working with governors to combat the crisis and ensure federal funding supports sound, effective, and efficient programs.

President Signs VA Choice Program Extension
Last week the President signed legislation that would extend the Veterans’ Choice Program beyond its expected expiration date. Both the Senate and House passed the bill earlier this month. Specifically, the law would eliminate the August sunset date for the program and allow the VA to spend close to $1 billion in leftover funding dedicated to Choice. The program, created in 2014 with $10 billion in emergency funding to subsidize non-VA care for veterans who face lengthy wait times for medical appointments or live long distances from a VA medical facility, was set to expire three years after its creation or whenever it ran out of funding. President Trump’s decision to sign the legislation will provide more time for to the VA to deliver medical care through the program while lawmakers and the department develop a strategy to replace it. VA Secretary David Shulkin has indicated that he hopes to roll out a replacement for the Choice program this fall.

FEMA Opens FY 2016 FP&S Application Period
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened the application period for the fiscal year 2016 Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grant Program. The purpose of the FP&S Program is to reach high-risk target groups and mitigate incidences of deaths and injuries caused by fire and fire-related hazards. The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2016 provides $345,000,000 for the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program to assist first-responder organizations that need support to improve their capability to respond to fires and emergencies of all types, including $34,500,000 for FP&S activities, which will be awarded under the FY 2016 FP&S Grant Program. Eligible applicants for the FP&S activity include fire departments; national, regional, state, local, Native American tribal organizations; and nonprofit organizations that are recognized for their experience and expertise in fire prevention and safety programs and activities. The application period will close on Friday, May 19, 2017 at 5 p.m. EST. To access the Notice of Funding Opportunity and technical assistance documents for the program, click here.