Capitol Hill Update: September 17, 2018
The Senate is in session this week. The House is in recess.
The Senate will reconvene today at 2:00 pm to consider H.R. 6, the vehicle for the opioids package. The Senate’s version of the package is the Opioid Crisis Response Act, S. 2680, which will be added to H.R. 6 as a substitute for the existing text. The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, S. 2554, will also be on the floor. Three roll call votes are expected, beginning at 5:30 pm. The votes are on an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, the passage of the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, and the passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is supposed to hold a business meeting on Thursday at 1:45 pm. The committee is currently scheduled to vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. It was expected that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor next week. That all may change.
Last week, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) gave information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation related to allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision,” Sen. Feinstein said. “I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”
Although it wasn’t immediately clear what the accusation of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh was, the FBI simply passed the information to the White House. On Friday, The New Yorker reported on an incident that allegedly happened more than 30 years ago, while he was in high school. Judge Kavanaugh strongly denied the accusation. The committee released a letter signed by 65 women who have known Judge Kavanaugh for more than 30 years defending his character.
The accuser has since gone public, and her letter to Sen. Feinstein is now online. Sens Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have said that the committee should postpone the vote until senators hear from the accuser and Judge Kavanaugh. Sen. Flake is on the committee. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Feinstein are reportedly working to arrange the calls.
The Senate committee schedule for the week can be found here.
The House is in recess this week. Apart from pro forma sessions, the chamber will reconvene on Tuesday, September 25. There are 12 legislative days currently scheduled between today and the midterm election.
The Senate and House passed the conference report for H.R. 5895, the minibus for Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. That means three of the 12 appropriations bills are now done. Next week, the House will consider the conference report for H.R. 6157, the minibus for Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The conference report includes a continuing resolution (CR) for the remaining appropriations bills and an extension of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The CR and extension of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act will run until December 7.
The House Ways and Means Committee marked up three bills last week that are part of the “tax reform 2.0” effort. The main bill is the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, H.R. 6760, which would make the individual tax cuts and pass-through business changes permanent. H.R. 6760 was approved on a party line, 21 to 15, vote. The Family Savings Act, H.R. 6757, was approved in a 21 to 14 vote and the American Innovation Act, H.R. 6756, was approved by voice vote.
The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that H.R. 6760 would reduce federal revenues by $630.9 billion between 2019 and 2028, with virtually all of that reduction coming between 2026 and 2028. The JCT scores these figures on a static basis, not dynamic, meaning it doesn’t take economic growth as a result of extending the tax cuts into account. The Tax Foundation estimates that the bill “would increase long-run GDP by 2.2 percent and create 1.5 million new full-time equivalent jobs” and “cost $166 billion a year on a static basis and $113 billion on a dynamic basis.”
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has introduced the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act, H.R. 6824, the text of which is available here. The bill would prohibit the retroactive collection of online sales tax and allow the collection of such taxes from the business beginning on January 1, 2019. Businesses that have gross annual receipts of $10,000,000 or less are exempt until states develop a compact that is approved by Congress.