Capitol Hill Update: October 23, 2017
The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House will reconvene Monday and consider six bills on the suspension calendar. Votes are expected to begin around 6:30 pm. On Tuesday, the House will consider the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, H.R. 732. This bill is a response to a December 2015 Wall Street Journal story in which it was reported that the Department of Justice had funneled money from settlements to left-wing groups. An investigation discovered that roughly $1 billion had been funneled to these groups.
The Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), will require that money received by federal agencies through settlement agreements be paid to victims funds or the general fund. FreedomWorks released a letter of support for the bill in February.
The House will take up seven bills on the suspension calendar between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he would end the agency’s "sue and settle" practice, through which the EPA would promulgate regulations to settle lawsuits filed by radical environmentalist groups. The House will consider legislation this week to build on Administrator Pruitt’s decision. Introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, H.R. 469, increases transparency, prohibits the same-day filing of complaints and pre-negotiated consent decrees, and much more to ensure that the role of Congress is protected.
The main event for the week is the consideration of the FY 2018 budget resolution, H.Con.Res. 71. "Wait, didn’t the House pass this a few weeks ago?" you ask. Yes, the House did pass this a few weeks ago. The Senate amended the bill before passage, which means the House has one of two options. One option is a conference committee with the Senate to work out the differences between the two versions. This can take time, and the conference report will have to be approved by both chambers.
The other option is for the House to pass H.Con.Res. 71 as it was amended by the Senate. On Thursday evening, FreedomWorks urged the House to avoid a conference committee and pass the Senate’s version of the budget resolution. We also joined a coalition letter to House Republican leadership urging consideration of the Senate-passed budget.
The House does appear to be taking this path. The leadership of the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee have called for a vote on the Senate budget. The budget resolution is expected to reach the floor later in the week. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his team will conduct an initial vote check during the vote series on Monday evening.
The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.
Give credit where it’s due. The Senate passed the FY 2018 budget resolution on Thursday by a vote of 51 to 49. FreedomWorks scored final passage, as well as three amendments offered on the floor. The Senate’s part in the first step of this process is done.
This week, the Senate will consider the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, H.R. 2266. As passed by the House, the bill spends an additional $36.5 billion on disaster relief and food stamp funding for Puerto Rico without corresponding offsets. FreedomWorks key voted against the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act in the House and will score against it in the Senate.
Surrounding the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act is a demand by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) for additional funding for Texas. In fact, Sen. Cornyn has decided to block the confirmation of Russ Vought, a respected conservative, to serve as the deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget to extort the additional funding. FreedomWorks blasted Sen. Cornyn for his obstruction on Friday, which was noticed by the largest newspaper in Texas.
As passed by the House, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act doles out approximately $15 billion to Texas. Sen. Cornyn has called this level of funding "inadequate." Sen. Cornyn, along with other members of the Texas delegation, has asked for $18.7 billion.
Apart from the consideration of the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, President Trump will visit with Senate Republicans on Tuesday during the conference’s weekly lunch. One topic likely to come up is the health insurer bailout proposed by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to offer individuals additional help with out-of-pocket costs. The federal government has reimbursed health insurers for these cost-sharing reductions (CSR). Congress, however, never appropriated any funding for this purpose. The Obama administration had unconstitutionally reimbursed health insurers for CSRs. Congress sued the Obama administration over the payments, initially winning in federal district court, although the Obama administration appealed.
The Trump administration continued to make the payments until earlier this month, when President Trump canceled them. The agreement between Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray would fund CSR reimbursements to health insurers for the first time ever, through 2019, as well as marginally enhance the ability for states to receive Section 1332 waivers, which give states some control to ease regulatory burdens that drive up the cost of health insurance coverage, and other reforms.
In January, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the CSR reimbursements will cost $135 billion over a decade. A separate analysis from the CBO projected that premiums will increase by 20 percent if the CSR reimbursements are canceled. While the American Health Care Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and Graham-Cassidy had money for cost-sharing reductions, these funds existed alongside health insurance reforms that addressed serious problems with ObamaCare. Alexandar-Murray lacks any comprehensive reforms.
According to the committee, 24 senators have co-sponsored the bill. The Republican co-sponsors are: Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).
The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.