Capitol Hill Update: January 23, 2017
The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House will hold votes on several relatively non-controversial pieces of legislation on Monday and Tuesday. Among the bills are a couple dealing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act, H.R. 290, introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) requires the FCC to accept public comments on pending regulatory issues and to create transparency for the public about the agency’s actions. The bill passed by voice vote in the 113th Congress and 114th Congress.
The House will also consider the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act, introduced by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). The bill requires the FCC to report to Congress on the state of the communications industry and detail any barriers to entry in the marketplace. The iteration of the bill in the 114th Congress passed the House without opposition.
As required by Sen.Con.Res. 3, which began the process of repealing ObamaCare, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee will send recommendations for repeal of the 2010 health care law to the House Budget Committee by January 27. The House Budget Committee will consolidate the reports into legislative text, using budget reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is serving as interim chair of the committee.
FreedomWorks hopes to see a reconciliation bill that is consistent with what the 114th Congress presented to then-President Barack Obama in January 2016. While this bill didn’t repeal every part of ObamaCare, it did eliminate the worst parts of it, including the individual and employer mandates, Medicaid expansion, and most of the taxes and subsidies. While it’s unclear exactly when the bill will be considered by the House, the best-case scenario is that the bill will be presented to President Donald Trump around Presidents’ Day, which falls on February 20.
House and Republicans will meet in Philadelphia Wednesday through Friday for a joint retreat, where they will hammer out their legislative priorities for the current Congress. With a heavy load — including ObamaCare repeal, regulatory reform, and tax reform — already on the legislative wish list, there will be no shortage of discussion in the "City of Brotherly Love."
The Senate is expected to vote Monday on the confirmation of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.) to serve as director of Central Intelligence Agency. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to confirm Rep. Pompeo on Friday, shortly after the confirmations of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, but the consent request was blocked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Hearings have been held on most of President Trump’s cabinet nominees. Committee action, however, hasn’t happened for many, if not most of them. The Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Tuesday on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.) to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a courtesy hearing on Rep. Price’s nomination last week. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the nomination. FreedomWorks has issued a key vote in support of Rep. Price.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the confirmation of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to serve as director of the White House Office of Budget and Management. It remains unclear when the full Senate will confirm Reps. Price and Mulvaney, and the remaining cabinet nominees. The two confirmed Friday, Secretary Mattis and Secretary Kelly represent the fewest inauguration day confirmations since President George H.W. Bush in 1989, though two of his cabinet members were held over from the Reagan administration.
Knowing they can’t stop Republicans from confirming the nominees, Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), are using procedure to slow-walk the confirmations. They’ve focused on eight on them — including Reps. Price and Mulvaney and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has been nominated to serve as director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — which means it could take weeks to complete the process of filling out the cabinet. After cloture, which requires only a simple majority, debate on a nominee is limited to 30 hours. It’s quite possible that Democrats will exhaust the time limit for each of the eight nominees who they’re targeting, meaning 240 hours, before these nominees are confirmed. This could push the confirmation process for nominees into late February or, perhaps, even March.
Like House committees of jurisdiction, the Senate Finance Committee and Senate HELP Committee are due to submit their reports on the repeal of ObamaCare to the Senate Budget Committee by Friday, January 27. After receiving the reports, the Senate Budget Committee will begin work on legislation to repeal ObamaCare through reconciliation.