Capitol Hill Update: May 22, 2017


The House and Senate are in session this week.


Let’s start with the American Health Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will release the cost-estimate for the House-passed version of the bill on Wednesday afternoon. It was reported last week that the House hasn’t transmitted the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, to the Senate. The bill passed the House on Thursday, May 4.

The reason the House hasn’t sent the American Health Care Act to the Senate is because it may fall short of its deficit-reduction target of $2 billion, which was set by S.Con.Res. 3 to begin the reconciliation process. The CBO’s March 23 report estimated $150 billion in savings over ten years. But changes to the bill made before the May 4 vote may require the House to vote on the bill once again to meet its $2 billion deficit reduction target. If it doesn’t meet that target, the bill would violate Senate rules and lose privileged status. House Republican leadership insist, however, that they’re holding the bill out of an abundance of caution until the updated CBO score.

It’ll be a busy week for the House Ways and Means Committee. On Tuesday, the committee will hold its second hearing on tax reform. This hearing, entitled "Increasing U.S Competitiveness and Preventing American Jobs from Moving Overseas," is expected to touch on parts of the House Republican blueprint, such as creating a territorial tax system and the border adjustment tax. The witness list hasn’t been released. In case you missed it, the first hearing on tax reform is available here. FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon submitted a statement to the committee for the first hearing, which can be found here.

On Wednesday, the committee will hold a hearing on President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget proposal. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will testify before the committee. The President’s budget hasn’t been warmly received on Capitol Hill by either party, making the hearing an opportunity for Secretary Mnuchin to present a public case for the administration’s priorities.

Additionally, the House Budget Committee, on Wednesday, will hear testimony from White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on President Trump’s FY 2018 budget. Like Secretary Mnuchin, Director Mulvaney has an opportunity make a case for the budget proposal in an open setting. The committee is expected to begin marking up the FY 2018 budget soon.

The House begins legislative business on Monday, and the theme for the week is, generally speaking, children and juveniles. There are six bills on the suspension calendar on Monday, including the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act, H.R. 1188, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and the Targeting Child Predators Act, H.R. 883, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

The House will consider 12 bills on the suspension calendar on Tuesday, including the Juvenile Justice Reform Act, H.R. 1809, introduced by Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.). This bill reauthorizes the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 and includes provisions to improve the juvenile justice system, such as evidence-based programs that reduce recidivism and phasing out the detention of status offenders. Other bills on the suspension calendar for Tuesday include the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act , H.R. 1329, introduced by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and the Put Trafficking Victims First Act, H.R. 2473, introduced by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

There are a couple bills on the suspension calendar for Wednesday. The main bill of the day, however, is the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, H.R. 953, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio). The bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states from requiring permits for the discharge of registered and regulated pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act does carve out some exceptions, such as ensuring water quality.

On Thursday, the final day of legislative action before the Memorial Day recess, the House will consider the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, H.R. 1973, introduced by Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act, H.R. 1761, introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.). Both bills are subject to a rule to limit or prevent amendments. In many cases, USA Gymnastics failed to notify police of the allegations.

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act would make it a federal crime for the governing bodies of United States’ Olympic sports to fail to report sexual abuse against a minor. The bill is a response to news reports that 368 young gymnasts accused USA Gymnastics employees, including coaches, of sexual abuse.

The Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act addresses a Fourth District Court of Appeals decision in which judges said that an individual convicted of child sexual assault who had images on his phone lacked the relevant level of intent to commit sexual assault against a minor. The intent standard under the statute in 18 U.S. Code § 2251(a) is "knowingly." The Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act retains the relevant mens rea standard but closes the loophole, ensuring that an individual who produces is punished.


There was some good news out of the Senate last week. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, S. 21, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and the Midnight Rules Relief Act, S. 34, introduced by Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), were moved out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday on party-line votes. Democrats on the committee from states President Trump won in 2016 —
Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — voted against both bills.

While the REINS Act faces an uphill climb for passage, with so many Senate Democrats willing to deference to the regulatory state, the approval of the bill by the committee is notable. The REINS Act has never made it this far in the Senate. The House passed the version of the bill, H.R. 26, introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) in January.

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will hold a hearing on President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request and the White House’s tax reform proposal. Secretary Mnuchin will testify. The budget may be part of the agenda, but a release from the committee indicates that tax reform may be the main focus of the hearing.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing featuring testimony from OMB Director Mulvaney on President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request.

The Senate’s business for the week will begin with the confirmation of Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) to serve as the ambassador to China. Cloture was invoked on Thursday, in a 86 to 12 vote. A handful of subcabinet nominations could see movement this week, as well as an appellate court nominee. Judge Amul Thapar, who currently serves on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, is President Trump’s nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee has seven appellate court nominees currently awaiting action.

The Senate is awaiting the CBO report on the American Health Care Act, as well as formal transmission of the bill from the House. It’s hard to guess at the timeline for action on the bill in the upper chamber, but the rumor is that the Senate wants to have the bill back to the House by the end of July, before the August recess.