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Capitol Hill Update: May 12, 2019

05/13/2019

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House will return on Tuesday. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are a total of 14 bills coming to the floor on suspension between Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • H.R. 299, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act
  • H.R. 2379, To reauthorize the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program
  • H.R. 1999, FLAG Act
  • H.R. 1594, First Responder Access to Innovative Technologies Act
  • H.R. 1313, Transit Security Grant Program Flexibility Act
  • H.R. 1437, Securing Department of Homeland Security Firearms Act
  • H.R. 1912, DHS Acquisition Documentation Integrity Act
  • H.R. 1892, Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Technical Corrections Act
  • H.R. 2066, DHS Intelligence Rotational Assignment Program
  • H.R. 2578, National Flood Insurance Program Extension Act
  • H.R. 389, Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act
  • H.R. 1060, BUILD Act
  • H.R. 1037, Banking Transparency for Sanctioned Persons Act of 201
  • H.R. 375, To amend the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes

The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 4:30 pm to debate the rule(s) and proposed amendments for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, H.R. 312, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, H.R. 987, and the Equality Act, H.R. 5. We expect that H.R. 312 will be considered on Wednesday, H.R. 987 will be taken up on Thursday, and H.R. 5 will be on the floor on Friday.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act, H.R. 312, was scheduled for consideration as a suspension last week, but House Democratic leadership pulled it from the floor because it didn’t have the two-thirds needed for passage. (A quick reminder for those who don’t know or have forgotten. Bills considered under the suspension of the rules need two-thirds of members present and voting for passage.) According to opponents of H.R. 312, the bill is tacit approval of an off-reservation casino nearly 50 miles away from Mashpee, Massachusetts in Taunton, which is roughly 20 miles from Providence, Rhode Island. Read more on the background here. The President targeted H.R. 312 in a tweet, in which he noted that the bill was supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), before it could be considered on the floor. We should note that the bill does have some Republican support, but Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), as well as others, have been vocally opposed to it. Reps. James Langevin (D-R.I.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) also oppose the bill.

The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act is an omnibus, if you will, of healthcare and prescription drug bills. The MORE Health Education Act, H.R. 987 is the vehicle for the package. In addition to the MORE Health Education Act, the other bills included in the package are BLOCKING Act, H.R. 938; Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act, H.R. 1499; CREATES Act, H.R. 965; SAVE Act, H.R. 1385; ENROLL Act, H.R. 1386; and a bill that would nullify the administration’s Short-Term, Limited Duration Plan Rule, H.R. 1010. The inclusion of H.R. 1010 in this package is a real problem. Last year, the administration published a rule that expanded short-term, limited-duration (STLD) plans, undoing a rule from the previous administration. The rule expanded these plans, which aren’t subject to Obamacare’s Title I mandates but are subject to state regulation, to 12 months from three months and allowed renewability for up to 36 months. In October, the Senate rejected a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the rule.

The Equality Act, H.R. 5 would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination or segregation based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The bill would expand the definition of public accommodations to cover new establishments, including those that provide recreation, amusement, or transportation services. It would also prohibit the denial of access to a restroom or locker room based on gender identification.

Senate:

The Senate will return Monday at 3:00 pm. On Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on four nominations, likely all of whom will be considered on the floor this week in the order below.

  • Michael Truncale to serve as a judge on U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Kenneth Lee to serve as a judge on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • Wendy Vitter to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
  • Brian Bulatao to serve as the Under Secretary of State for Management

If Kenneth Lee is confirmed, he will be the 40th appellate court judge confirmed since the beginning of 2017. The Senate has also confirmed 63 district court judges over the same time frame. There are currently seven appellate courts vacancies and four nominations pending, including Lee. There are 123 district court vacancies and 48 nominees pending.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Kimberly Reed to serve as the President of the Export-Import Bank and Spencer Bachus and Judith DelZoppo Pryor to serve as members of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank. This wasn’t because opponents didn’t fight back. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), for example, gave an excellent speech during the debate on the nominees, during which he pointed all the corruption and cronyism at the Bank. Unfortunately, other senators, including most Republicans, opted to cater to K Street. Ex-Im now has a quorum for the first time since July 2015, which means it can now hand out loan guarantees and subsidies in excess of $10 million. We’re heard that Reed is interested in changing the Bank’s image and even recommending reforms to Congress. The current authorization for Ex-Im expires in February. When it comes to reform, the devil is in the details, obviously, but most of us who’ve engaged on Ex-Im over the past several years would much rather just see the Bank’s authorization lapse and never be reauthorized.