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Capitol Hill Update: December 18, 2017

12/17/2017

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House will reconvene on Monday. The first and only vote series will begin at 6:30 pm. There are eight suspension bills on the calendar. During the vote series, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his whip team will do a vote check on the conference report for Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1. This is when members of the House Republican Conference will let leadership know how they plan to vote on the tax bill.

The House Rules Committee will meet at 5:00 pm Monday on the conference report for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, indicating that the bill will be on the floor Tuesday. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will go to the floor under a closed rule, prohibiting amendments from the floor. As of now, it does appear that the House has enough votes for passage. Only 13 Republicans voted against the bill when it initially went through the House on November 16. Most of the Republican votes against the bill the first time around were in protest over the limitations placed on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. It would be reasonable to assume that those same members will vote against the conference report.

The House will also consider the Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act, H.R. 3312, and the Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act, H.R. 4015. If there are any changes made in the Senate to the conference report for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the House will have to vote on the bill again. As of now, FreedomWorks plans to key vote in support of the conference report of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the House and Senate.

Finally, the House will consider a stop-gap spending bill, H.R. 1370, likely on Wednesday. The text of H.J.Res. 124 will be offered as an amendment to H.R. 1370. The continuing resolution (CR) will fund the federal government through Friday, January 19, 2018. The bill will also include the text of the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act (Division C), which would reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and reauthorization of the VA Choice Progam (Division D). The bill does not include any reauthorization of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which is likely to be added in the Senate.

There was some discussion of the House passing the CR and adjourning for the year in an attempt to jam the Senate. It's incredibly unlikely that the Senate will accept the House-passed bill, forcing House members to stay in Washington, D.C. to vote on a final bill.

The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

The Senate will begin the week on Monday at 3:30 pm with the consideration of J. Paul Compton, Jr. to serve as the general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Owen West to serve as an assistant secretary of defense. Although a few of President Trump's federal court picks have run into recent trouble, the Senate has confirmed 12 appellate court nominees, a record for a president, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proudly tweeted last week.

The Senate is expected to consider the conference report for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, H.R. 1, as soon as Tuesday evening. This is contingent on passage in the House. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) got a big boost on Friday when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced that he will vote yes on the conference report.

There are, however, open questions about the health of Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), as both missed votes last week. Sen. McCain has returned to Arizona and will miss the vote. Sen. Cochran's staff has indicated that he will return this week after a procedure kept him out the previous week. It's likely that every Republican in the chamber will support the conference report. Should only 50 Republicans be available to vote, Vice President Mike Pence.

The Senate will also consider the short-term CR, H.R. 1370. There will be changes to the House-passed version, such as the reauthorization of CHIP. The Senate is likely to include language for a straight reauthorization rather than the CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act. Although a bipartisan group of ten senators has signed a letter to Leader McConnell not to include the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, S. 2010, it could wind up in the spending bill.

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act is worse than current law because it provides a path for the National Security Agency (NSA) to restart "about" collection and continues to allow the FBI to conduct the warrantless searches of electronic communications collected under Section 702 of FISA. Should the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act be included in the spending bill, FreedomWorks will key vote against it.

The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.