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.

NDAA  |  Medical Cures  |  Cabinet Selections
Leadership Elections  |  Iran Sanctions  |  ICYMI

House passed annual defense policy bill

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.

Final conference report was released mid-week, and the House passed the legislation on Friday by a vote of 375-34. Now the legislation head to the Senate.

National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2017 (S 2943

Sponsor: Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]

House passed massive medical cures bill

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]

Trump administration announced additional Cabinet selections

This week the Trump administration announced nominees for eight positions that require Senate approval.

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.

Leadership for 115th Congress continues to shape up

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.

Other talk of the town? Rep. Linda Sanchez [D, CA-38] was elected the next vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, making her the first Latina to serve in House leadership.

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.

Senate passed bill to renew Iran sanctions, now it's off to the White House

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]