Closing Out the Week in Congress Nov. 9 – 13
There was a collective exhale on Capitol Hill, as frenetic pace gave way to a recess in the House and shortened week in the Senate. Members were home in their districts and states to commemorate Veteran’s Day and staffers in Washington put away the heels, pulled out the jeans, and brought canine friends to work.
POPVOX Podcast Launch
Join us for our first podcast episode — we speak with Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) who led the effort on the first successful “discharge petition” in many years.
Warning: our POPVOX Podcast song will get stuck in your head!
Big News From the Congressional Powerhouse Few People Know About…Or Understand
Believe it or not, in the game of Congress, there actually IS a referee.
Parliamentarians ensure that the House and Senate follow their own rules. This week, the Senate Parliamentarian blew its whistle and made a call on the pending Reconciliation bill.
- The Reconciliation bill passed the House 240 to 189 with a laundry list of issues, including repeal of certain pieces of Obamacare (individual and employer mandate), defunding Planned Parenthood, repeal of the medical device tax, and repeal of the Cadillac tax.
- Reconciliation is a procedure that allows Congress to put forward a bill with initiatives to reduce the deficit with expedited consideration, not subject to a filibuster in the Senate.
- Just as a Reconciliation bill gets expedited consideration, it is also subject to special limitations — in this case, the “Byrd Rule.”
The Byrd Rule is a Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow Senators, during the Reconciliation Process, to block a piece of legislation if it purports significantly to increase the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term or is otherwise an “extraneous matter” as set forth in the Budget Act.
- The Senate “Parls” (as they’re known in the biz) just issued a decision on the Reconciliation bill, finding that:
- Repeal of the ACA employer mandate and individual mandate violates the Byrd Rule.
- De-funding Planned Parenthood does not violate the Byrd Rule.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s aides downplayed the decision and said that a substitute amendment that preserves the repeals will bring the Obamacare repeal bill in compliance with Senate rules.
Three moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), have indicated opposition to defunding Planned Parenthood. With 54 Senate seats, Republicans can lose only three votes to pass an Obamacare repeal bill. (Democrats are expected to vote unanimously against it.)
Military and Veterans Funding Bill
Just in time for Veteran’s Day, the Senate passed the Military and Veterans funding bill in a unanimous vote.
- Of note: the bill contained a provision that would allow Veterans Administration (VA) doctors to recommend medical marijuana. The amendment, offered by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would allow the VA medical providers to recommend medical marijuana to veterans living in states where medical marijuana is legal.
See: Veterans drop hundreds of empty pill bottles in front of the White House
- POPVOX Highlighted several veterans-related bills in Congress, including a bill to address for-profit colleges targeting veterans.
Fourth #GOPDebate Recap
Many topics discussed in this week’s #GOPDebate relate to bills currently in Congress. Learn more about related bills here.
We live tweeted related bill mentions during the debate. Follow POPVOX for future debate coverage. The next #DemDebate is tomorrow (11/14). With only three presidential candidates remaining, the debate is expected to “dive deep into policy.”
The Supreme Court decided today it will hear its first major abortion case in nearly a decade. The case evaluates the constitutionality of a Texas abortion law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, compared to more than 40.