Capitol Hill Update: June 26, 2017


The House and Senate are in session this week.


There are 18 legislative days left before the August recess and 66 legislative days left in the year. Representatives-elect Karen Handel (R-Ga.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) will be sworn in today during the vote series at 6:30 pm.

The House will take up four bills on the suspension calendar on Monday, including the Coast Guard Improvement and Reform Act, H.R. 1726, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). The bill would reorganize code relating to the U.S. Coast Guard and clarify its responsibilities. Other bills on the suspension calendar relate to job opportunities for veterans and drivers licenses for veterans and active duty military personnel.

There are eight other bills on the suspension calendar for the week, though it’s not clear what days each bill will go to the floor. None of the bills are controversial, though there are two that deal with foreign policy, H.Res. 397, which reaffirms the United States’ commitment to NATO obligations, and H.Res. 351, which condemns violence in Chechnya.

There are three bills that will be brought up during the week that are subject to a rule to limit or prevent amendments. One of them is the Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), which was pulled from the floor a couple weeks ago. The bill brings limits on medical malpractice torts in federal courts, including the statue of limitations for such legal claims, a cap of $250,000 for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits, and a cap on attorney fees.

The CBO projected that the bill would reduce health care costs, including premiums, and lower the deficit by nearly $50 billion over ten years. There are concerns from some conservatives, however, that the bill would preempt states, pushing more of these lawsuits into federal court.

The remaining bills for the week relate to immigration. The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, H.R. 3003, targets "sanctuary cities" and Kate’s Law, H.R. 3004, creates penalties for illegal immigrants who have repeatedly re-entered the United States. Both bills were introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

On Tuesday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will mark up the 21st Century AIRR Act, H.R. 2997, introduced by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.). The bill would reform and modernize the air traffic control (ATC) system, creating a nonprofit entity to manage the system. The idea to make the United States’ ATC system more like Canada’s, which has been modernized and seen related costs decline.

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


The CBO is expected to release its cost and coverage estimates of the Senate version of H.R. 1628, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, at some point early this week, as early as today, and coverage losses are expected. Presumably, the Senate will vote on the bill this week. A procedural vote to proceed could come on Wednesday, followed by a voterama on Thursday, and a vote on final passage either Thursday night or early Friday morning.

This schedule, of course, assumes the votes are there. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faces an uphill battle, however, as five Republicans have gone on record saying that they will vote against the bill. Leader McConnell can only lose two votes to get to 50, in which case Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking vote.

Some Republicans are publicly pushing to delay a vote, noting that the Senate’s version lacks the votes to pass. It remains to be seen if Leader McConnell will delay the vote. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has said that he would vote for the bill if changes are made that "allowed states and/or individuals to opt-out of the ObamaCare system free-and-clear to experiment with different forms of insurance, benefits packages, and care provision options."

FreedomWorks’ analysis of the Better Care Reconciliation Act is available here.

Still upcoming for the Senate is the Coast Guard Authorization Act, S. 1129, and the FDA Reauthorization Act, S. 934. Additionally, several nominees subject to Senate confirmation are awaiting floor action.

On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of Title VII of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA). The controversial provisions of FISA, which include Section 702, will expire at the end of the year without reauthorization. FreedomWorks is watching this issue closely and pushing for reforms that will protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.

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