This week was jam-packed…
House passed annual defense policy bill, sending compromise legislation to Senate for approval. Leadership for 115th Congress continues to shape up, with lawmakers selecting caucus and committee positions. House passed massive medical cures legislation addressing medical research, device approval, mental health programs, and opioid epidemic. Trump administration announced nominees for eight positions that require Senate approval. Senate passed bill to renew Iran sanctions for 10 more years, now it heads to the White House.
Lawmakers struck a deal on annual defense policy bill — agreeing to omit controversial provision that Democrats said would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and a requirement that women register for the draft. Instead, the compromise legislation requires a study of the entire selective service system and provides the biggest raise in military pay in 5 years. Bill would authorize $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.
National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2017 (S 2943)
Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]
The House passed sweeping medical innovation legislation that would boost disease research, address opioid epidemic, revamp federal mental health programs, and hasten government approval of drug and medical devices.
Been hearing about 21st Century Cures? This is that. It's been in the works for three years and would be the "biggest health reform bill since the Affordable Care Act."
You see, the House passed one large bill in July, whereas the Senate passed several smaller bills. Then lawmakers worked together to reconcile disagreements over funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and changes to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) device approval pathways. Over the weekend a new version was released, now including House-passed mental health reform and changes to foster care policies.
On Wednesday, the House passed the bipartisan legislation by a vote of 392-26. Now the legislation heads to the Senate, who could potentially pass the legislation without debate and provide unanimous consent (UC) if no members object. However, Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley threatened to block UC over a provision that would weaken disclosure requirements between industry players and health care providers. Senate is expected to act on the bill next week.
Tell your Senators what you think!
Legislative Vehicle for 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34)
Sponsor: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici [D, OR-1]
- Gov. Nikki Haley, United Nations Ambassador
- Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
- Rep. Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
- Steven Mnunchin, Secretary of the Treasury
- Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce
- Retired Gen. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
Nominees will come before respective committees for a vote and then head to the floor for a full Senate vote. Here's a list of committee jurisdictions. Learn more about the Senate's role in the nomination and confirmation process, as well as other selections.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats called for extensive confirmation hearings over Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination for attorney general. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said hearings will be held in January, before the presidential inauguration.
Additionally, Marine Gen. James Mattis would need Congress to pass legislation to bypass a federal law that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exemption just once, when Gen. George Marshall was appointed to the position in 1950.
House Democrats held leadership elections this week, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-12] winning another term as House Minority Leader with 68% of the vote. Pelosi announced she will support several changes to the Democratic Party's leadership structure, including adding five new leadership positions.
Plenty of movement among committee leadership as Rep. Sandy Levin [D, MI-9] stepped down as Ranking Member of House Ways and Means. Levin backed Rep. Xavier Becerra [D, CA-34] as his replacement, but then Becerra was tapped to serve as California's attorney general, succeeding Senator-elect Kamala Harris.
So who's next? It's likely Rep. Richard Neal [D, MA-1] will become the Ranking Member of House Ways and Means — the oldest congressional committee, dealing with taxes, Social Security, and Medicare.
Meanwhile, Rep. Greg Walden [R, OR-2] was selected to chair House Energy and Congress, beating more senior members Reps. Shimkus and Barton. On Friday, House Republicans ratified the committee chair recommendations for the upcoming Congress.
Iran sanctions are set to expire on Dec. 31 of this year. This week the Senate passed legislation to extend the sanctions for 10 additional years. The House passed the same legislation earlier this month, and now the bill heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign the measure into law.
Iran Sanctions Extension Act (H.R. 6297)
Sponsor: Rep. Ed Royce [R, CA-39]
- Environmental Protection Agency released list of 10 chemicals it will review for regulations, the first since Congress passed major chemical safety bill this summer.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC] is preparing legislation to extend legal protections for previously undocumented immigrants who came here as children.
- Obama administration decided to deem the Al-Shabab, the Islamist militant group in Somalia, to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized in 2001 AUMF. Shabab decision is expected to be publicly disclosed next month in letter to Congress listing global deployments.
- Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR] criticized Facebook for its reported development of a tool to facilitate censorship of the site in China.
- Dept. of Education released new rules on how to judge schools in accordance with the ESSA, the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind last year.
- According to new GAO reports, EPA's Renewable Fuel Standards will not reach 2022 target of blending renewable fuel into U.S. gas supply.
- House will take the lead in dismantling the Affordable Care Act.
- Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX], joining with Rep. Mark Meadows [R, NC-11], plans to file legislation to lift campaign fundraising limits.
- According to new GAO report, federal government is on track to forgive at least $108 billion in student debt.
- Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro died at 90 years old. Castro led Cuba over the course of 11 U.S. presidencies. Here's how lawmakers reacted.
- Former President Jimmy Carter published an op ed urging President Obama to grant diplomatic recognition to Palestine.
- Sens. John McCain [R, AZ] and Lindsey Graham [R, SC] are rolling out an amendment to JASTA — law allowing terror victims to sue foreign governments.
- Rep. Xavier Becerra [D, CA-34] will depart Congress to become California's next attorney general.
- Colombia's congress approved a historic peace deal with FARC rebels.
- Rep. Darrell Issa [R, CA-49] is suing challenger Doug Applegate for libel. The wealthiest member of Congress is seeking $10 million in damages.
- Sens. Warner, Lankford, and Booker introduced companion legislation to House-passed TALENT Act, bill to codify the Presidential Innovation Fellow program which embeds private sector innovators in federal agencies for yearlong tour.
- House Democrats asked General Services Administration what it plans to do about Trump's hotel lease.
- Texas officials confirmed the first case of the locally-transmitted Zika virus, making Brownsville, TX the second place in the continental U.S. to have the virus spread directly by mosquitos.