GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (May 22-26, 2017)

5 min read

Gavel Down - Closing out the week in Congress

Memorial Day wishes…

The long-awaited CBO score for the House GOP health bill now clears the way for the Senate to cut its own path. The president released his budget and as usual, Congress will work on its own. But they'd better get moving. The legislative window is starting to close if Congress still hopes to do health care changes under a 2017 budget resolution and move on to tax reform with a 2018 resolution after September.

One thing in Washington is not slowing down: the Russia investigation. With new developments every day and at least five simultaneous investigations in play, it's starting to consume the agenda in DC.

But thankfully, it's Memorial Day weekend! Members are home in their districts, parades are scheduled, and it's a time for all of us to give thanks and remember those who sacrificed.

To all who have served and all who have lost loved ones, thank you for your service.


Memorial Day

Did you know?

The flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only.

On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes. No regulations existed for flying the flag at half-staff and, as a result, there were many conflicting policies — until March 1, 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower issued a proclamation on the proper times.

Check out: Nine Things to Know on Memorial Day


Health Care Update

The long-awaited Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score for the House GOP health care bill was released, showing that 23 million would lose coverage in the next ten years while $119 billion in federal spending would be saved over the next ten years. Speaker Ryan said the plan, "confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit."

Senators are distancing themselves from the House bill, preferring instead to write their own bill, though many are not overly optimistic. Much of the work for the Senate bill will take place over the Memorial Day recess, when they will also be taking input from constituents.

Pre-existing conditions are a main point of contention; as well as how to handle the Medicaid expansion states and whether to keep the ACA’s taxes are other issues. Keep an eye on this guy, Louisiana senator, Bill Cassidy [R], who is now seen as the key swing vote. 

The President's Budget

It is obligatory that the President submits a budget to Congress. It is almost always a given that the president's budget goes nowhere. That is true of presidents and Congresses of both parties, though the president usually gets a bit of deference when they are on the same team. This year, there was very little pretense as President Trump transmitted his plan to Congress.

Throughout the week, officials made statements, committees held budget hearings, and some went through the motions, but underlying it all was that Congress itself will need to come up with its own plan.

Both the House and Senate Budget committees are expected to release plans in June for the 2018 budget. However, the stalled efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare are complicating that work, since Congressional leaders expected large cost savings from ACA repeal in the 2017 budget to be used to offset tax changes in the 2018 budget. So far, the dominoes are not lining up.


The Russia Investigation

One of the only issues with continued momentum in Washington these days is the Russia investigation, with new developments daily (usually around the dreaded "Five-o-pocalypse" when the major newspapers file their stories for the next day).

A few of the developments this week in the Russia probe:

  • Retired General Michael Flynn refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, claiming his 5th Amendment right to not self-incriminate. Can he do that? Senate Intel Committee has two options: (1) ask DoJ to enforce the subpoena or (2) have Senate counsel bring civil suit to have a court enforce.


  • Paul Manafort has complied with Senate Intel’s request.


  • FBI will not share the Comey memos with Congressional committees, leading some to conclude that Special Counsel Mueller is pursuing an “obstruction of justice” charge.


  • White House advisor and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been identified as of interest in the FBI’s Russia investigation (notably, not a "target").

A quote for the ages:
“Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late”  – Former CIA Director, John Brennan testifying at House Intelligence Committee


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) /DC

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) / DC

  • The 3rd Infantry Regiment planted more than 200,000 flags in front of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery to prepare for Memorial Day


  • DC pizzeria declared “love a journalist day” free pizza for press credentials after Guardian reporter was assaulted in Montana


  • Blackburn bill would require ISPs and edge providers to get user’s permission before sharing their information with advertisers


  • Office of Government Ethics pushed back in a fiery letter on White House attempt to block its investigations


  • Speaker Ryan pushing forward on border adjustment tax; the White House really doesn’t like it


  • Sens. Flake and Kaine take another try at getting Congress to vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)


  • President’s travel ban struck down again, this time by the 4th Circuit, likely headed for Supreme Court


  • We may reach the debt limit sooner than expected; House Freedom Caucus will not support “clean” raising of the debt ceiling


  • Democrats claimed a 4-3 victory with a late goal in the annual Congressional Soccer Game


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) /Nation


  • Meet the amazing women who just became the first to graduate into the U.S. Army Infantry


  • Violence towards reporters in the U.S. on the rise: "manhandling" of reporter at recent FCC meeting; arrest of West Virginia reporter for yelling questions at HHS Secretary Tom Price; assault of reporter in Montana then-candidate, now Congressman-elect, Greg Gianforte


  • Former Speaker John Boehner may have prevented a government shutdown last month and is definitely having more fun than anyone in Washington these days


  • One in six new marriages are couples with different racial or ethnic backgrounds


  • State Department is overloaded with new passport applications


  • This guy literally threw away $4.2 million (maybe more!)


  • Activists investors are coming for one of the (only two) publicly traded B-corps


  • California single payer health proposal would cost more than the entire rest of the state budget


  • How this officer talked over 200 people out of suicide


  • Mayor of New Orleans getting a lot of attention for speech on removal of Confederate memorials


  • You will be a better person after reading this twitter thread


  • “Hearts and minds, sir” – how the Marines are preparing for Fleet Week


  • FCC determined no action required to Stephen Colbert’s lewd Trump/Putin joke


  • How the Guccifer 2.0 hacker got DNC info to a Republican campaign operative


  • 25,000 hackers will try to break into US voting machines this July


  • The next stage of Russian hacking: tainted leaks


  • Could Sen. Hatch resign and be replaced by Mitt Romney?


  • NFL players can now make snow angels and other “spontaneous displays of emotion” (twerking still a no-no tho’)


  • Massive landslide has covered California’s Highway 1 near Big Sur


  • In non-binding opinion, the Maine Supreme Court said that a ranked-choice measure approved by voters is unconstitutional


  • Is “Jedi” singular or plural?


  • Does an airline passenger get to choose whom they sit next to?


  • Recent Supreme Court ruling on redistricting has some Texans nervous


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) / World


  • In a speech at the dedication of the new NATO headquarters in Brussels, President Trump notably did not mention the Article 5 collective defense agreement that is the foundation of the alliance


  • Body language experts around the world are having a field day with footage from the event


  • State Department re-ups travel advisory to Americans in Europe


  • “Five Eyes” intelligence allies not happy with leaks coming out of the US, especially in the wake of the Manchester bombing; Trump ordered investigation into leaks


  • EU Council President not sure Europe and US share a “common position” on Russia


  • Did the President call the Germans “bad” or not?


  • Is the U.S. waging a “shadow war” in Africa?


  • President Trump became the first president to visit the Western Wall while in office, here’s why no Israeli officials joined him


  • In Saudi Arabia, President Trump delivered speech to Muslim world; joined a sword dance; and touched a giant, glowing orb


  • In Saudi Arabia, Trump completed a $110 billion arms deal; Sen. Paul will force a vote on the deal


  • Another Saudi investment announced: $20 billion for private investment in US infrastructure


  • That time JFK called Ike for advice during the Cuba missile crisis



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.