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Capitol Hill Update: February 12, 2018

02/12/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

In case you missed it, Congress passed a spending bill that busted the spending caps by $296 billion over two years ($165 billion for defense and $131 billion for nondefense), plus another $80 billion in disaster relief. The Bipartisan Budget Act busted the spend caps by more than the previous three times the Budget Control Act was amended combined. Once the crowning achievement of House Republicans, the Budget Control Act is now dead. You can find how your representative and senators voted here and here

There are seven bills scheduled for Tuesday. Votes are expected to begin around 6:30 pm. For those not familiar with how the suspension calendar works, these bills aren't considered to be controversial, although leadership will occasionally put a potentially controversial bill on the calendar as a trial balloon, and require two-thirds of members present for passage. These bills can also be voice voted out of the chamber.

Two bills are currently expected to be on the floor on Wednesday, H.R. 3978, the TRID Improvement Act, and H.R. 3299, the Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act. Both are subject to a rule to prevent or limit amendments. On Thursday, H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, will be on the floor and is subject to a rule. No votes are expected on Friday. 

In case you're wondering what's going on with the push for the right to try, which was mentioned by the president in his State of the Union address. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) says he supports right to try legislation, but he is either planning on making changes before bringing the bill up in his committee or will introduce his own bill.

For those not familiar with the right to try, 38 states have passed such laws allowing terminally ill patients with no options left access to experimental treatments that have cleared the initial phase of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval process. The Senate passed S.204, the Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn, and Matthew Bellina Right to Try Act, by unanimous consent back in August. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the sponsor of the bill, is frustrated by the lack of movement in the House

The rumor is that the changes will either water down the bill or only expand the FDA's compassionate use program. Needless to say, advocates for the right to try are incensed at Chairman Walden's actions. If the House simply took up S. 204 without any changes and passed the bill, it would go to the president's desk. Any changes to the bill or the passage of another piece of legislation will require action in the Senate, which may never happen, which, some suspect, is Chairman Walden's intent. 

Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last week urging them to bring S. 204 to the floor without changes. Reps. Biggs and Fitzpatrick have introduced their own right to try legislation, H.R. 878 and H.R. 2368.

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

Senate:

It'll be nothing but immigration this week in the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring the legislative vehicle, H.R. 2579, to the floor. Obviously, there are competing proposals, from Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue's (R-Ga.) RAISE Act to Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and John McCain's (R-Ariz.) USA Act. "Whoever gets to 60 wins," McConnell recently said. It should be an interesting week, to say the least. 

The Senate will gavel in around 3:00 pm. A vote on the motion to proceed to H.R. 2579 will begin at approximately 5:30 pm. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a business meeting on Thursday, February 15. Currently, four court nominees and a nominee to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board are on the agenda for consideration. Also on the agenda is a markup of S. 1917, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The bill makes modest changes to federal sentencing laws, including an expansion of the existing safety valve exception to mandatory minimum sentences, and reforms federal prisons, requiring risk and needs assessments and in-prison rehabilitative programming. FreedomWorks has a letter of support out of the bill. 

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