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Capitol Hill Update: May 1, 2017

05/01/2017

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

Before adjourning on Friday, the House passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR), H.J.Res. 99, to fund the federal government through Friday, May 5. Negotiators have reached an agreement on a $1.07 trillion omnibus spending bill through September 30, the end of FY 2017. The text of the bill was released this morning. A vote is likely to take place on Wednesday or Thursday.

There a few points are worth noting here. As usual, the process for the CR and omnibus has been terrible. The spending bill was negotiated behind closed doors. The House Appropriations Committee has met only once in the 115th Congress, and that was an organizational meeting. After 50 legislative days, the House has spent less than half a day on appropriations. Only one of the 12 appropriations bills have been passed. (The House passed the Defense appropriations bill on March 8. The Senate hasn’t acted on it.)

When it's all said and done, members will have only a short time to read the text of the omnibus before being pressured to vote on a bill that spends hundreds of billions of dollars. One can only hope that the process for the FY 2018 budget and remaining appropriations bills will be better.

While the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, didn't come up last week, House Republicans leaders hope to have the votes to forge ahead this week, before adjourning for a week-long recess. The House Freedom Caucus formally endorsed the American Health Care Act with the inclusion of the amendment negotiated between Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). MacArthur is a co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group. Meadows is the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

Still, more than 20 members of the House Republican Conference, including several members of the Tuesday Group, oppose the American Health Care Act. House Republican leadership can't lose more than 22 votes from its conference. Leadership could add more funding to tax credits and/or high-risk pools or some other sweetener could be added to bring Tuesday Group members on board.

In a statement on Wednesday, FreedomWorks announced that it would withdraw its key vote against the American Health Care Act if the MacArthur-Meadows amendment were included in final version of the bill in the House.

Between Monday and Thursday, the House will consider a slate of bills under the suspension of the rules. These bills include the Fair Access to Investment Research Act, H.R. 910; the Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act, H.R. 1312; the Follow the Rules Act, H.R. 657; and the FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act, H.R. 1679. None of the bills on the suspension calendars are expected to face any serious hurdles to passage.

The only other legislative item of note on the floor schedule for the week is the Working Families Flexibility Act, H.R. 1180, sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.). The bill would allow employees in the private sector to convert any overtime for which an employee is owned monetary compensation into compensatory time off. An employee could earn as much as 160 hours of compensatory time off annually.

The House Financial Services Committee will markup the Financial CHOICE Act, H.R. 10, sponsored by Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). The bill would bring crucial reforms to the United States' financial sector by reforming or repealing Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in July 2010. Dodd-Frank has taken a toll on community banks, leaving consumers with fewer choices, and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), over which Congress has little oversight. The law also made "too big to fail" a permanent fixture in the financial sector.

The markup of the Financial CHOICE Act is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 at 10:00 am. FreedomWorks has released a letter of support for the bill.

Senate:

The Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's remaining cabinet members, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Following passage the House, the Senate passed the short-term CR on Friday by voice vote, which President Donald Trump signed.

There are many subcabinet nominees on the executive calendar who could come up for votes next week. The Senate will begin is business on Monday by considering the nomination of Jay Clayton to serve as a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The upper chamber will also take up some of the remaining resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to cancel rules finalized between June 13 and January 19. Congress has already canceled 13 rules under the CRA, and at least give more are awaiting action in the Senate, including H.J.Res. 36, which would cancel the Bureau of Labor Management's Methane Rule and H.J.Res. 66, which would cancel the Department of Labor's Savings Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees Rule.

Like the House, the Senate will have to pass the omnibus spending bill before it adjourns. A vote will likely happen either late Wednesday or Thursday, after passage in the House.