Capitol Hill Update: July 17, 2017


The House and Senate are in session this week.

There are nine (9) legislative days remaining for the House before the August recess and 57 legislative days remaining in the year. The Senate will work through the first two weeks of the August recess.


After the passage of the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act on Friday, it’ll be a relatively slower week in the House, at least on the floor of the chamber. Committees and subcommittees will be very active this week.

Today, the House will take up three pieces of legislation on the suspension calendar, two of which relate to mass transit the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. One resolution, H.J. Res. 92, allows the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to amend Washington Area Transit Regulation Compact, which regulates transit D.C. and its suburbs. The other resolution, H.J.Res. 76, allows D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to create the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. After all, what Metro needs is another layer of bureaucracy. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

Three more bills will be considered on the suspension calendar on Tuesday. The Ozone Standards Implementation Act, H.R. 806, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), will also be considered, though likely under a rule to limit or prevent amendments, much like virtually every other bill the House has brought the floor under "regular order" this year.

On Wednesday, the House will take up the Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, H.R. 2910, introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), and the Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, H.R. 2883, introduced by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.). Both bills will likely be brought to the floor under a rule.

Finally, on Thursday, the only bill currently scheduled to hit the floor is the King Cove Road Land Exchange Act, H.R. 218, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The bill will likely to come to the floor under a rule.

Though it’s not currently on the calendar, the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, H.R. 2997, introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) could come to the floor for a vote this week. The bill reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and reforms the United States’ out of date air traffic control (ATC) system. FreedomWorks has released a key vote in support of the 21st AIRR Act.

Outside normal legislative business, there is increasing chatter about the FY 2018 budget. The House Majority Whip’s office hosted a briefing on the budget on Friday. As of now, it’s unclear what to expect from the budget.

The House Appropriations Committee will complete its work on the 12 appropriations bills this week. The Whip team will be talking to House Republicans today about lumping all 12 appropriations bill into yet another omnibus. Of course, this is because the last one went over so well with conservatives. (Yes, that’s more sarcasm.)

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.


The Senate was supposed to bring the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), H.R. 1628, to the floor this week for a procedural vote. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delayed legislative action because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is set to have eye surgery, giving Leader McConnell one less vote that he will almost certainly need to advance the bill. Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the bill has been delayed by at least a day. The score was supposed to come out today.

The latest iteration of the BCRA was rolled out on Thursday. FreedomWorks explained some of the major changes to the bill. Our friends at the Texas Public Policy Foundation have a solid overview of the latest version compared to previous versions. Though there are questions that need to be answered, the bill appears to be a slight improvement over existing law.

The biggest question that needs to be answered is whether the Consumer Freedom Option will work in single risk pools, as mandated by the BCRA. The Consumer Freedom Option, which was included thanks to the efforts of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), would work best with bifurcated risk pools, where health insurance companies could price a traditional risk pool differently, with lower premiums, than the ObamaCare exchanges, which would effectively function as a high-risk pool, with access to more than $180 billion in subsidies.

It’s unclear whether there are enough Republican votes to get past the initial motion to proceed. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have gone on record as no votes. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is facing pressure back home, as Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval opposes the bill. Similarly, Republican Gov. John Kasich, who also opposes the bill, could influence Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to vote against it.

FreedomWorks believes the bill may be a mild improvement over existing law, but there are serious concerns over how the Consumer Freedom Option will work, or if insurers will even bother to offer such plans because of the single risk pool mandate. The mindset right now is protecting what gains conservatives have made. Once the Senate gets past the motion to proceed, if it does, FreedomWorks expects to key vote against amendments that will undermine the Medicaid modernization, HSA reforms, and other positive reforms.

If a 2015-style repeal amendment is offered by a conservative senator, FreedomWorks will key vote in support of it, triple-weighted.

In addition to a backlog of nominations, the Senate still has several pieces of legislation awaiting floor action, including Coast Guard Authorization Act, S. 1129; the FDA Reauthorization Act, S. 934; the National Defense Reauthorization Act. The debt ceiling is rumored to be a top item either before the August recess or while the Senate works through the first two weeks of the recess.

In committees this week, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the reappointment of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday. Chairman Pai unveiled the FCC’s plans to roll back Title II regulation of the Internet at a FreedomWorks’ event in April. The reappointment of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and nomination Brendan Carr, a Republican, to serve on the commission.

The Judiciary Committee will also take up the nomination of Christopher Wray to serve as the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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