GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Jan. 2-6, 2017)
Whole new year, whole new Congress…
House and Senate kicked off the 115th Congress, focusing on veterans’ bills, regulatory reform, and foreign affairs. House passed bill making it easier to overturn multiple rules. House passed resolution disapproving of United Nations Security Council resolution concerning Israeli settlements. Trump administration announced more nominees, and Senate confirmation hearings scheduled for next week. Senate Republicans took the first step toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act, and House Republicans reversed course on controversial OCE amendment.
As laid out in the Constitution, Congress convened a new session at noon on January 3, complete with the prayer and pledge, election of the Speaker of the House, and swearing-in of Members and Delegates (meet the new members). In the House, the 115th Congress kicked off with chaos and controversy over adoption of new House rules package. (see OCE controversy). Eventually, the House agreed to new rules package, adding fines for video streaming and reinstating the Holman Rule to allow lawmakers to reduce specific government employees' pay to $1.
While the official oath of office takes place in groups on the House and Senate Floor, the staged ceremonial oaths are where the action happens. C-SPAN featured the all-day #BidenCam capturing the Vice President joking with Senate families. Meanwhile, Speaker Ryan maintained decorum on the House side, even leading to the grounding of a “dabbing” teenager.
The House took its first votes, veterans bills from Reps. Costello and Roe; while the Senate moved to begin work on a budget resolution that would start the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
The House passed a bill to roll back regulations with a single disapproval resolution by a vote of 238-184, largely along party lines. Currently, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to overturn a single rule through a joint resolution of disapproval. This legislation would amend the CRA to allow a disapproval resolution to contain more than one rule. Last year the House passed the same legislation by a vote of 240-179. Now the bill heads to the Senate.
The House passed a resolution opposing a recently passed United Nations Security Council resolution regarding Israel. If you're just catching up (I know the holidays, right?) — at the end of December the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
What makes this noteworthy?
Well, it's the first resolution condemning Israeli settlements in disputed territories to be adopted by the Security Council in more than three decades. Also, it's unique because the U.S. abstained rather than vetoing like in previous years. This abstention allowed the measure to pass. Have more questions about the UNSC and the veto power? We've got you covered.
The House resolution is non-binding and more of a statement. It calls on the United Nations to repeal its resolution. The Senate is expected to follow suit next week with a similar resolution introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio [R, FL].
- Robert Lighthizer, U.S. Trade Representative
- Jay Clayton, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair
- former Sen. Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
Meanwhile, six confirmation hearings were scheduled for the same day as President-elect Donald Trump's first press conference since July. So tune into C-SPAN next week for live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of all the confirmation hearings.
Several nominees were on the Hill meeting with senators, including Rex Tillerson and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Senate Democrats announced plans to delay the confirmation of eight presidential nominees and introduced legislation to limit tax breaks for Trump nominees.
If you ever questioned whether constituents still influence lawmakers, here's another example telling you YES, YOU DO.
This week House Republicans approved an amendment to place the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) under the oversight of the House Ethics committee, eliminating its independence and restricting its jurisdiction. The amendment was quickly pulled, largely in response to thousands of constituents contacting their lawmakers. Catch up on how it all went down and why your lawmakers need to hear from you.
On Wednesday, both President Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence came to the Hill to talk about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Obama met with Democrats and discussed ways to defend the law, while Pence met with Republicans and brainstormed ways to repeal and replace the law.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans took the first step toward dismantling the 2010 Affordable Care Act with budget resolution from Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi. The resolution instructs committees with health jurisdiction to draft reconciliation bills by Jan. 27, which will then be combined for consideration by both chambers. Now would be a really good time to learn about the federal budget process, specifically reconciliation.
- House Republicans and Trump transition team are weighing a plan to include billions in funding for a Mexico-U.S. border wall in a must-pass spending bill that's due by the end of April. President-elect Donald Trump said taxpayers may have to pay for the border wall and wait for Mexico to reimburse them.
- Top U.S. intelligence officials testified before Senate Armed Services regarding Russia's interference in the presidential election.
- House passed bill to require Congressional approval of major rules before they can take effect. Heard of the REINS Act? This is that. It passed largely along party lines, by a vote of 237-187.
- Sen. Ted Cruz [R, TX] and Rep. Ron DeSantis [R, FL-6] introduced constitutional amendment setting congressional term limits.
- Republicans poised to reverse regulations on workers' overtime rights, clean streams, and methane emissions. Here's what you need to know about the Congressional Review Act.
- Sens. Kennedy, Perdue, and Tillis were added to Senate Banking, now led by Sen. Mike Crapo [R, ID].
- President Obama announced he will deliver farewell address on January 10 at 5 pm CST.
- Take five with the new Senate Minority Leader.
- Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley plans to revive criminal justice reform bill.
- Sens. John McCain [R, AZ] and Lindsey Graham [R, SC] are backing off push for select committee to investigate Russian hacking during presidential election, electing instead to work through individual committees first.
- Lawmaker's son dabbing confused Speaker Ryan, with Rep. Roger Marshall [R, KS-1] tweeting his son is now grounded.
- Vice President Joe Biden gave us another memorable Senate swearing-in ceremony.
- Rep. Kurt Schrader [D, OR-5] missed the first day of Congress for his honeymoon.
- Rep. Duncan Hunter [R, CA-50] explained use of campaign funds to fly family bunny.
- Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY] and Rep. Thomas Massie [R, KY-4] re-introduced "Audit the Fed" legislation which stalled last Congress.
- Economy added 156k jobs in final 2016 report (slightly below expectations), while the unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent.
- Obama administration transferred four Yemeni prisoners to Saudi Arabia, part of final White House push to resettle Guantanamo detainees.
- Republican budget resolution sees $9 trillion hike in the national debt over the coming decade.
- Rep. Sam Johnson [R, TX-3] announced he will retire at the end of next year.
- President Obama called for Congressional action on criminal justice reform.
Please keep in mind that highlighting specific legislation does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.