All three branches were in the spotlight this week….
Congress passed Congressional Review Act resolutions, aimed at rolling back Obama Administration regulations. Senate approved two more Trump nominees, installing a new Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of State. President Trump signed executive actions aimed at regulatory reform. Lawmakers debated replacement options for the Affordable Care Act. President Trump announced Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch. District courts across the country heard cases challenging the president's travel ban executive order, which a Seattle court halted Friday afternoon.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is having a moment. This week Congress invoked the rarely-used law from the 1996 Contract with America to invalidate several recent Obama Administration regulations.
The CRA gives Congress sixty “session days” to overturn a rule issued by the executive branch. Since Congress met so few days in the last months of 2016, Congress can vote to invalidate rules issued as far back as May 2016.
- H.J. RES. 38: Disapproving of the Department of the Interior stream protection rule (House vote | Senate vote)
- H.J. RES. 41: Disapproving of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring oil, gas, and mining companies to report payments made to federal and foreign governments (House vote | Senate vote)
- H.J. RES. 37: Disapproving of a rule implementing President Barack Obama’s executive order on fair pay and safe workplaces, requiring prospective federal contractors to disclose labor violations (House vote)
- H.J. RES. 40: Disapproving of a Social Security Administration rule requiring federal agencies to provide records for the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (House vote)
- H.J. RES. 36: Disapproving of a Bureau of Land Management rule to reduce waste of natural gas during oil and natural gas production activities on tribal lands (House vote)
This week the Senate voted to confirm two more Trump nominees — Elaine Chao for Secretary of Transportation and Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State.
On Tuesday, Chao became the fifth appointee confirmed. The final vote was 93-6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abstained due to a conflict of interest (Chao is his wife). The next day the Senate approved Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State by a vote of 56-43. Senator Christopher Coons [D, DE] abstained.
President Trump signed two executive orders and one memo aimed at regulatory reform. The first executive order called for repealing two regulations for every new regulation. The second executive order directed the Treasury Secretary to review the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law. Since its passage in 2010, several bills have been introduced in Congress designed to provide greater or less regulation in the financial market.
The memo delayed the implementation of the "fiduciary rule," set to go into effect in April. The rule requires brokers to act in the "best interest" of their clients and was the talk of Congress last year. Congress passed a disapproval resolution that President Obama went on to veto.
Order: Regulatory Reform
For every new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations must be identified for elimination and the cost of planned regulations must be managed and controlled through a budgeting process.
Order: Financial Regulatory Reform
Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to consult with the heads of the member agencies of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and report back to the President within 120 days with recommendations.
Memo: Fiduciary Rule
Instructs the Labor Department to delay implementing the "fiduciary rule" for 90 days while it's reviewed.
Over 50 cases have been filed challenging the executive order that bars entry into the United States by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Many of the lawsuits claim that the order is unconstitutionally targeting people based on religion. On Friday, a decision by U.S. District Judge James Robart, halted the order nationwide.
Defending the order in a Virginia court, a Department of Justice lawyer said that over 100,000 visas were revoked in the enforcement of the order (the State Department says the number is closer to 60,000).
President Trump selected federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Supreme Court vacancy.
Judge Gorsuch (pronounced GORE-sitch) serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court based in Denver, Colorado. The court covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming (and portions of Montana and Idaho). President Bush appointed Gorsuch to the post in 2006, and he was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.
- He earned degrees from Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. (In fact, he and former President Obama were in the same graduating class at Harvard Law School).
- Gorsuch's mother Anne Gorsuch Buford was the first female administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), serving under President Ronald Reagan.
- Some of Gorsuch's most notable opinions include Hobby Lobby ruling regarding contraceptives, religious freedom for prison inmates, and a few cases regarding jurisprudence and judicial deference to agencies.
- He clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy. If Gorsuch is confirmed, this would be the first time a justice has served with a former clerk.
- Gorsuch is 49 years old — the youngest nominee in decades. Currently, the youngest member on the Supreme Court is Justice Elena Kagan (56 years old).
Lawmakers continued to debate how best to address the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
House Energy and Commerce Health subcommittee considered the first Obamacare replacement bills. The committee discussed drafts of four bills (three of which have been introduced in previous years). The bills focus on pre-existing conditions, life-long coverage, and differing rates between seniors and young adults. Watch the hearing, and review the draft legislation.
House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows and former chair Jim Jordan called for a vote on previously passed ACA repeal bill. Last year, Congressional Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill to overturn parts of the Affordable Care Act, but ultimately President Obama vetoed the legislation.
Some Republicans returned from annual policy retreat last week calling for "repairing" Obamacare rather than "repealing and replacing." This week Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch and Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander said they're open to repairing Obamacare ahead of wholesale repeal.
Meanwhile, Senate HELP held the second hearing this Congress (and first on the Senate side) on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Catch up on the hearings from House Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Still confused about the reconciliation process? Catch up here and weigh in on first two ACA replacement bills introduced this Congress.
This week seven nominees cleared committee, meaning their nominations now head to the full Senate for consideration.
Every senator will vote on these appointees, so be sure to share your thoughts!
- Sen. Jeff Sessions [R, AL], Attorney General nominee
- Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6], Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee
- Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary nominee
- Rep. Mick Mulvaney [R, SC-5], Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director nominee
- Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator
- Rep. Ryan Zinke [R, MT-0], Interior Secretary nominee
- Former TX Gov. Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy nominee
Today Senate convened at its earliest start time since 2009 to invoke cloture on Betsy DeVos nomination. The vote was 52-48, teeing up final confirmation vote for late Monday or potentially Tuesday. Sens. Susan Collins [R, ME] and Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] said they will not vote for DeVos, becoming the first two Republicans to break ranks on President Trump's nominees. Vote is expected to be 50-50, in which case Vice President Mike Pence would cast historic tie-breaking vote.
- Senior House Judiciary staffers worked with the Trump administration on the immigration executive order without consulting Republican leadership and relevant committee chairs.
- New Government Accountability Office report says national security agencies housed in foreign-owned buildings are at risk for espionage and hacking.
- Hackers breached email accounts at the Czech Foreign Ministry. Attack appears to be from a foreign state and similar to those against the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
- Sen. Mike Rounds [R, SD] is chair of recently created Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on cybersecurity.
- Federal Trade Commission requested information from Mylan Pharmaceuticals as part of probe into whether the company violated antitrust laws to limit generic competition for EpiPens.
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can collect browser history, phone contacts, and social media information as part of "extreme vetting" protocols.
- Defense Department Inspector General delivered report to Congress, saying military did not distort intelligence on the Islamic State.
- Rep. Justin Amash [R, MI-3] was born in the U.S. to a Palestinian refugee father and Syrian immigrant mother.
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard [D, HI-2] will repay cost of Syria trip.
- 55 arrests for disrupting Congress last month. That's five-fold increase from all of 2016.
- Hostage standoff inside Delaware's largest state prison ended with state police storming the building.
- President Trump authorized his first military operation as commander in chief.
- Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to ballistic missile test.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz [R, FL-1] is working on legislation to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Five House employees are under criminal investigation over allegations of equipment theft from 20+ member offices and improper access of House IT systems.
- Sen. Deb Fischer [R, NE] floated a new highway funding bill.
- Economy added 227,000 jobs last month. Unemployment rate increased to 4.8 percent.
- Congressman to the rescue.
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.