GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Feb. 6-10, 2017)
Lots of sleep deprivation this week following marathon Senate session…
House passed bill to extend privacy protections to old emails. Senate confirmed three more nominees in historic confirmation sessions in more ways than one. House passed three more resolutions aimed at reversing executive rules. President Trump signed executive orders focused on law enforcement officers and Justice Department. Appeals court maintained freeze on travel ban executive order. House Democrats gathered for annual policy retreat. Senate scheduled three confirmation votes for next week.
Email Privacy | Congressional Review Act | Three Confirmed Nominees | Executive Orders | Travel Ban | Congressional Retreat | Cabinet and Agency Appointments | ICYMI: Around the Capital | ICYMI: Around the Country
House passed bill to extend privacy protections to older emails by voice vote. The bill would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law that allows law enforcement to access emails without a warrant if the emails are at least six months old. This legislation would remove the six month distinction.
Sound familiar? That's because this was the most co-sponsored bill in the 114th Congress and then reintroduced this Congress. Last Congress it passed the House and then stalled in the Senate. Let your lawmakers know what you think!
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) was in the spotlight again this week. House passed three disapproval resolutions that now head to the Senate. Catch up on how CRA disapproval resolutions work and weigh in on other resolutions waiting for Senate consideration.
- H.J. RES. 44: Disapproving of Bureau of Land Management's "Planning 2.0 Rule" reorganizing its management strategy (House passed 234-186)
- H.J. RES. 57: Disapproving of Department of Education rule implementing accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (House passed 234-190)
- H.J. RES. 58: Disapproving of Department of Education rule concerning teacher preparation programs (House passed 240-181)
This week the Senate voted to confirm three more Trump nominees – Betsy DeVos (Education Secretary) Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), and Tom Price (Health and Human Services Secretary). It was a very eventful week in the Senate, with Senate Democrats forcing two all-night sessions to delay confirmation votes, leading to a full 57 hours in session — second in length only to the 1960 82-hour session on the Civil Rights bill.
In other Senate milestones, the DeVos vote on Monday was the first cabinet nomination in U.S. history to require the Vice President to use his position as President of the Senate to break a tie.
Then on Tuesday, during the debate over the nomination of then-senator / now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Senate voted to discipline Senator Elizabeth Warren [D, MA] for reading a letter from the late Coretta Scott King, which a majority of senators said violated the rarely-invoked Rule XIX:
"no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." Read the full rule.
What happens if my member leaves Congress?
Good question! This week we saw Tom Price (representing Georgia's sixth congressional district) and Jeff Sessions (serving as Alabama's senator) depart Congress to serve as Health and Human Services Secretary and Attorney General, respectively.
For Senate vacancies, the state's governor appoints a replacement (lookin' at you 17th Amendment). The replacement holds the seat until the end of the senator's current term or until a special election can be held.
Vacancies in the House typically take longer to fill because the Constitution dictates that a representative can only be replaced by an election held in the congressional district of the former representative.
To fill Price's vacancy, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called for a special election on April 18. The people of the affected congressional district do not have voting representation in the House during the vacancy period, but the office's staff remains open and operating under the supervision of the Clerk of the House. This allows the office to continue working on pending constituent casework and provide limited services.
President Trump signed three executive orders related to law enforcement officers and one executive order restructuring the order of succession within the Department of Justice (DOJ).
President Trump signed the orders related to violent crime and violence against law enforcement officers on Thursday, during Jeff Sessions' swearing in ceremony. Later that day Trump signed order outlining the order of succession should the attorney general be unfit to serve, reversing executive order President Obama signed shortly before leaving office.
Order: Task Force
Directs DOJ to form a task force to reduce violent crime.
Order: DOJ Order of Succession
Outlines the order of succession if the attorney general dies, resigns, or becomes incapacitated.
On Thursday, the 9th Circuit Appeals court upheld the decision by U.S. District Judge James Robart to halt President Trump's travel ban. (The 9th Circuit technically denied the "stay" of the temporary restraining order that froze the ban until there was time for a full review of its legality). Read the unanimous decision.
Nearly 137,000 people tuned in to the oral arguments in the case, the highest number ever registered since the 9th Circuit became the first appeals court to livestream its proceedings. (Cameras are still prohibited in the Supreme Court).
House Democrats spent three days in Baltimore for annual policy retreat. The theme was "Fighting for All Americans," and members participated in sessions on national security, fake news, civil rights, and the economy. Similar to last month's Senate Democrats' retreat, House Democrats discussed the 2016 presidential election and outlined election plans for 2018.
Congressional Republicans gathered for their annual retreats last month. Catch up here!
Senate scheduled three confirmation votes, meaning next week every senator will vote on these nominees. Be sure to share your thoughts with your senators!
Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
David Shulkin, Veterans Affairs Secretary
Linda McMahon, Administrator of the Small Business Administration
No longer being considered — Vincent Viola, President Trump's pick for Army Secretary, withdrew from the confirmation process, citing business ties. Chuck Cooper (one of two finalists for solicitor general) withdrew from consideration, saying he wasn't prepared for a "grueling confirmation process."
Scheduling note — Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) scheduled confirmation hearing for Andy Puzder (Secretary of Labor nominee) for next Thursday (Jan. 17), following four postponements due to missing ethics and disclosure paperwork.
Legislative lowdown — Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch confirmed that U.S. Trade Representative nominee Robert Lighthizer will require a waiver from Congress due to his history of representing foreign governments in the legal system.
- Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue introduced legislation to eliminate several avenues for U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor family members for green cards.
- Bipartisan group of senators introduced bill to increase congressional oversight of Russian sanctions.
- Why you're hearing about the Gang of Eight bill again.
- Energy Information Administration released new numbers on U.S. energy trade with Mexico.
- House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling outlined revised plan to overhaul Dodd-Frank. New plan would roll back the qualitative portion of bank stress tests and give the president the authority to fire the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director at will.
- Top lawmakers on House Oversight and Government Reform said it appeared Kellyanne Conway violated ethics laws when she gave "a free commercial" for Ivanka Trump's clothing line.
- Sen. Marco Rubio [R, FL] delivered a speech on civility.
- How you respond when you're no longer the tallest senator.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delayed listing the bumble bee as endangered, per regulatory freeze executive action.
- Ninth Circuit maintained freeze on President Trump's immigration order. Read unanimous opinion.
- Kenyan judge ruled against government order to shut down the world's largest refugee camp.
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich [R] delayed eight executions as federal appeals court considers the state's lethal injection process.
- Mississippi House passed bill to revise death penalty methods, including adding firing squads, electrocution, and gas chamber in cases where lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional.
- District judge ruled that Microsoft can proceed with lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of secrecy orders accompanying government surveillance demands.
- Three-judge panel in North Carolina paused a controversial law aimed at reducing the governor's powers.
- U.S. district judge blocked insurance merger deal between Anthem and Cigna.
- Georgia Senate committee cleared bill to lower the amount of THC allowed in medical cannabis and add autism to the list of medical conditions qualifying Georgians to use cannabis oil. Similar Georgia House bill would include additional diagnoses.
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.