GAVEL DOWN: Closing out the Week in Congress (Jun 4-9, 2017)

7 min read

Gavel Down - Closing out the week in Congress

All eyes on Senate Intel… 

It was a week for the history books, as the former FBI Director testified before Senate Intelligence. While all eyes were on the Comey hearing, the House passed a major bill to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulations and significantly change the U.S. regulatory process. The Senate GOP kept working behind the scenes on a health care bill, and we saw the first signs of life in the appropriations process.



The Comey Hearing

This photo of the Comey Hearing by Doug Mills of the New York Times went viral.

More than 19 million people watched former FBI director, James Comey, testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. In usual practice, the Senate Intelligence Committee released Comey's opening statement the day before the hearing, which detailed the former director's interactions with President Trump.

In open testimony under oath, Comey used some variation of the word “lie” five times in reference to the president and said that he interpreted several one-on-one conversations as pressure to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. (A White House spokesperson later said the president is not a liar). 

Comey also revealed that the president's tweet about “tapes” prompted him to share information with the press about his memos documenting interactions with the president, prompting Trump’s lawyer to accuse Comey of “unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications” (legal scholars disagree).

Sens. McCain and Reed joined the questioning of Comey, their privilege as ex-officio members of the Intel Committee (given positions as heads of the Armed Services Committee). Sen. McCain’s questions got a little confusing, which he later chalked up to staying up late to watch the Diamondbacks game. (The Diamondbacks responded).

Lighter takes on #ComeyDay:

Remains of the Day or Comey Testimony?  |  Fifty Shades of James Comey  |  “Like a romance novel”   |   Comey as Shakespearean figure?   |   D.C.’s Hottest Ticket   |  ‘D.C. Super Bowl’ 

The president’s twitter restraint on Thursday was his second-longest break since announcing his candidacy. He was back at it at 5:10 AM.

Markets appeared unphased, as Dow hit new high during the hearing.


The Senate Intel Committee held another hearing on Wednesday with intelligence officials that was notable for the questions they would not answer about their conversations with President Trump about the Flynn investigation.


FinancialCHOICE Act

This week the House passed major financial and regulatory overhaul with the H.R. 10: Financial CHOICE Act (SUMMARY). The bill passed 231 – 188.

How your representative voted

The bill includes:

  • Significant changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: bringing it under the regular Congressional appropriations process, limiting its regulatory authority, and making the director subject to firing by the president.
  • Bank resolution processes: Eliminating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. authority for handling failing banks and implementing a new bankruptcy process.
  • Regulatory offramp for banks: Banks that hold a debt-to-equity ratio of at least 10 percent would have the option of being exempt from major federal regulations
  • Financial regulatory changes: The bill would remove the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s authority to determine if a nonbank financial institution is systemically important.
  • Regulatory changes: The bill would subject financial regulations to Congressional review and repeals the "Chevron doctrine" of deference to agency interpretations of rules
  • Incorporating other bills:


    •  H.R. 1090 – “Retail Investor Protection Act”
    • H.R. 4168 – “Small Business Capital Formation Enhancement Act”
    • H.R. 4498 – “Helping Angels Lead Our Startups Act”
    • H.R. 5019 – “Fair Access to Investment Research Act”
    • H.R. 1941 – “Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act”
    • H.R. 2896 – “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operational Risk Act”
    • H.R. 1210 – “Portfolio Lending and Mortgage Access Act”
    • H.R. 766 – “Financial Institution Customer Protection Act” 

Health Care Update

The Senate health bill: coming together behind closed doors, with what could be a slower phase-out of the Medicaid expansion and protections for pre-existing conditions. These developments, however, concern conservatives in the House and Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that a vote could come before July 4, even if the votes are not assured, in a "roll the dice" move.

Many lawmakers appear ready to move on – the health care bill is a bottleneck in the legislative process for the other issues on the GOP agenda, exacerbated by the focus and time spent on the Russia investigation. The health bill also must be considered before September 30 if the Senate wishes to use the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. 

On Friday, McConnell invoked "Rule 14" to allow the health bill to move directly to the Senate Floor, rather than sending it through the committee process.

Debt Ceiling Deadline

In the familiar “high stakes game of chicken” it seems that we could see a debt ceiling / omnibus spending deal before Aug 1.

This week OMB Chief Mulvaney met with conservative organizations to plan for raising the debt ceiling – they want contemporaneous spending cuts. However, Treasury Mnuchin is still considering a "clean" approach, while Democrats are contemplating their own demands in exchange for votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Here's a timeless perspective on the debt ceiling and the, ahem, evolving positions lawmakers take depending on which party is in power

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) / DC


  • Trump administration seeks Supreme Court review of lower court stays of travel ban


  • But does the executive order expire June 14 anyway?


  • Office of Government Ethics looking into the unsigned and undated ethics waivers issued to White House appointees


  • Reps. Hoyer and Upton announceCollege to Congress” – bipartisan nonprofit organization to provide Hill internship opportunities to high-achieving students


  • 25-yr old woman named Reality Winner (that’s really her name) arrested for sharing classified info with The Intercept


  • The leaked information contained details of Russian attempts to hack into voting technology before the 2016 election


  • How the “printer dots” that outed the leaker work


  • New twitterbot puts Trump tweets in format of an official Statement by the President


  • Comey hearing didn’t stop Seersucker Thursday, which has a long history in the Senate


  • DoT Secretary Chao and CNN’s Dana Bash talk biological clocks


  • Lawmakers apparently talking a lot about stock tips


  • Zoe Barnes lives and is an animal advocate


  • Some Democratic lawmakers will sue the president for violations of the emoluments clause


  • Blockbuster Congressional hearings throughout US history


  • President trump will nominate former Bush official Christopher Wray as FBI Director


  • House Freedom Caucus calling for Congress to work through August recess this year


  • These are crazy days for Hill reporters staked out in the Capitol hallways


  • Blocked twitter users say @realdonaldtrump impinging on their First Amendment rights


  • Head of the US Patent Office stepped down


  • 20,000 new residents abuzz at the home of VP and Second Lady Pence


  • VA and DoD have tried for decades to make their IT systems interoperable – is it finally happening?


  • Trump administration much slower to send nominations to the Senate than predecessors – see nominations so far


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) /Nation


  • Acting U.S. Attorney SDNY announced huge bust of over 30 Russian gang members involving everything from casino hacking to a “chocolate heist


  • Tech CEOs will attend a June 19 meeting of President Trump’s American Technology Council


  • The 101 Most Influential Tweets in Twistory


  • And, of course, it’s “Infrastructure Week


  • Melania’s coming to DC!


  • Friends are trying to curb presidential tweeting; most voters agree that would be a good idea


  • Rep-elect Gianforte apologized to Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs for assaulting him and pledged $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists


  • CA state assemblyman Jimmy Gomez [D] won the special Congressional election to replace former rep Xavier Becerra


  • Gomez and Greg Gianforte [R] (recently elected MT rep) will soon be sworn in as the newest members of the 115th Congress


  • In California, it costs more to send a person to prison than to Harvard


  • Kansas lawmakers of both parties voted to override Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill to roll back his signature tax cuts


  • Why don’t Miami drivers use turn signals?


  • Supreme Court upheld finding that NC legislative districts were racially gerrymandered – may lead to new districts for 2018


  • Drug overdose now leading cause of death for Americans under 50


  • Amazon, which started accepting food stamps in January, now offers discount Prime membership for SNAP recipients


  • Constituent correspondence Hall of Fame: Mayor of Austin re: Wonder Woman


  • Can yard mowing heal America?


  • You’ve heard about Cadillac health plans -– so this must be the Rolls Royce?


  • In Southern California, Latino neighbors are bringing taco trucks to mosques at sunset as a sign of goodwill during the month of the Muslim Ramadan fast


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) / World

  • One man and his beer became a symbol of Londoners’ proud defiance and strength in the wake of the weekend’s terror attack


  • And a dancing cop stole hearts at the Ariana Grande One Love Manchester tribute concert


  • Recent tweets from the president in response to global developments have been inaccurate


  • Saudi arms deal more of a wish list


  • The UK hit the polls yesterday with surprising results: Theresa May’s Conservative party lost seats and will align with the party of Northern Ireland (DUP) to form the government


  • The DUP’s website crashed post-election in surge of Googling


  • Conservative UK Home Secretary Boris Johnson said the results mean that lawmakers will have to “listen to our constituents”


  • OMG this is so awkward


  • Iran sanctions: Senate votes to proceed today


  • Russia sanctions: Senate may consider as amendment to Iran sanctions bill


  • The French are trolling us from space


  • Canadian dude doesn’t let anything get in the way of his perfect lawn


  • Checking in with the most direct of democracies


  • What if we build a wall of solar panels and Mexico buys the electricity


  • Watch two guys converse in twenty languages


What is going on in Qatar? According to reports:

  • Gulf nations (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Jordan) have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar because of its support for extremist groups and ties to Iran


  • President Trump appeared to take credit for the move in a series of tweets, though the US State Department and Pentagon encouraged unity


  • 11,000 US and coalition troops are stationed at Al Udeid Air Base; the United States also has Central Command and Middle East intelligence hub in Qatar


  • US intel is investigating whether Russian hackers breached Qatar's state news agency and planted fake news report that stoked tensions


  • Qatar is looking to Turkey and Iran for food and supplies


  • You’ll need this: More Than One Way To Pronounce Qatar


  • Qatar “won’t surrender” in Gulf dispute


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.