Capitol Hill Update: March 27, 2017


The House and Senate are in session this week.


It appears to be a relatively light week in the House. The chamber will consider a few bills under suspension of the rules Monday.

On Tuesday, the House will consider S.J.Res. 34. This resolution of disapproval, introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), under the Congressional Review Act would cancel the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) privacy rules for Internet service providers. It passed the Senate last week by a vote of 50 to 48. FreedomWorks Foundation submitted a comment to the FCC against the rule when it was proposed.

While the effort to overturn the rule has been criticized by some as an attack on user privacy, the regulation of the Internet has traditionally been a responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), not the FCC, which has expanded its authority to cover the Internet. The rule could, as FreedomWorks Foundation’s Dr. Wayne Brough explained, "create a costly separate standard that will confuse end users."

With the failure of House Republican leadership to get enough support from moderates and conservatives in the conference for the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, the attention is moving toward tax reform. What the end proposal will look like is unclear, but the conference’s "A Better Way" blueprint outlines what conservatives can expect. The proposal would create a three-tier individual income tax system, reduce the corporate income tax and capital gains tax, and eliminate most tax deductions.


The Senate will consider ratification of Montenegro into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Monday. While the treaty is expected to pass, there could be some fireworks on the Senate floor, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has expressed concerns that it’s "unwise to expand the monetary and military obligations of the United States given the burden of our $20 trillion debt."

After four days of hearings, the Judiciary Committee will meet on Monday to consider the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, setting the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor over final confirmation. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pledged to filibuster Judge Gorsuch. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said, "Gorsuch will be confirmed. I just can’t tell you exactly how that will happen yet."

Only a simple majority is required for executive and lower court nominees, the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture for Supreme Court nominees remains in place. Republicans hold 52 seats in the upper chamber. According to The Hill, no Democrats have expressed support for Judge Gorsuch, 13 are opposed, and 11 are undecided. Three who are opposed — Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) — represent states President Donald Trump won and are up for reelection in 2018.

The one way around this is to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, though some traditionalists inside the Senate Republican Conference may not be willing to pull the trigger on that. Another way around it is the "two-speech" rule, which limits the number of speeches a senator can give in a legislative day to two.

Legislative days aren’t typical calendar days, which is important to keep in mind. Once a senator gives two speeches in a legislative day, they can’t speak from the floor again. FreedomWorks released a key vote in support of Judge Gorsuch, which includes any related votes on his nomination, including procedural votes.