Capitol Hill Update: May 15, 2017


The House and Senate are in session this week.


The House returns after a one-week break. Much of the legislative agenda coincides with National Police Week, and all but two of the 20 bills the lower chamber is scheduled to consider are on the suspension calendar. The two bills that will be considered under regular order, though subject to a rule, are the Thin Blue Line Act, H.R. 115, and the Probation Officer Protection Act, H.R. 1039.

The Thin Blue Line Act, introduced by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), is a response to the targeted killing of law enforcement officers. It would require federal courts to consider the murder or attempted murder of law enforcement officers or first responders under certain circumstances, such as while in the line of duty or because of their "status as a public official or employee." The bill would make it easier to sentence someone who killed a law enforcement officer or first responder to the death penalty.

The Probation Officer Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), would allow federal probation officers to arrest someone upon probable cause if he or she has obstructed a probation officer while performing his or her official duties.

Keeping with the theme of the week, the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will also hold a hearing Wednesday entitled, "Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century," which will exclusively feature law enforcement voices. The chairman of the subcommittee is Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

While National Police Week may dominate much of the legislative and committee activity, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold its first hearing on tax reform on Thursday at 10:00 am. FreedomWorks has been expecting fundamental tax reform to come up and last week published three blog posts on the topic.

Additionally, FreedomWorks recently released six broad principles for fundamental tax reform that will guide the institution during as Congress begins to visit the issue. The principles including consolidating and lowering tax rates, broadening the tax base, deficit neutrality, and lowering corporate and investment taxes. That document is available here.


Unlike the House, the Senate was in session last week. Unfortunately, one of the resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, H.J.Res. 36, was defeated when three Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain — voted with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Known at the Bureau of Land Management’s "Methane Rule," the rule will purportedly reduce the waste of natural gas on lands leased by the agency. In reality, it’s designed to prevent oil and gas production on federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management estimates annual compliance costs of the rule will be between $114 million and $279 million.

Strangely, Two Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to undo the Methane Rule. Sens. Heitkamp and Manchin voted against H.J.Res. 36 on the floor. Had the two voted for the CRA, it would have passed the rule would have been canceled and the Bureau of Land Management, which the Department of the Interior oversees, would have been prevented from published a rule that is "substantially the same." As Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said, "Letters to the secretary are nice, but when given the opportunity to immediately remove this punishing regulation, the Senators voted no."

The Senate still has several subcabinet nominees and ambassadors to confirm, some of which will be on the floor this week. Only three CRAs to overturn President Obama’s midnight rules remain, though none are awaiting action in the Senate. There’s only on committee hearing of note this week. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will consider several bills on Wednesday, including the Midnight Rules Relief Act, S. 34 and the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, S. 21.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act, sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), would allow Congress to consider multiple rules for cancellation under a single resolution through the Congressional Review Act. The REINS Act, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), adds teeth to the Congressional Review Act by requiring Congress to approve any economically significant rule — those with an annual cost of $100 million or more — within 70 legislative days. The president would have to sign the resolution passed by Congress for the rule to take effect. Versions of these bills have already passed the House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has formed a health care working group of 14 senators, which includes Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), as upper chamber begins its work on the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, which narrowly passed the House on May 4. FreedomWorks is encouraging the Senate to protect the modernization of Medicaid in the House-passed bill and the expansion of health savings accounts (HSAs), while urging Senate Republicans to do as much as possible to repeal or give states flexibility from ObamaCare’s regulatory structure. It’s too early to guess what the final product will be, but it does appear that the Senate is looking at ways to lessen the impact of the regulations in Title I of the 2010 law.