WEEKLY UPDATE: The Week Ahead in Congress (Jul 24-28, 2017)

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Buckle up for one of THOSE weeks in Washington.

The Senate will vote on its version of the health care bill and let the chips fall where they may. The House has reached agreement on a sanctions bill that will include sanctions on Russia, with a vote on Tuesday. The House will also take up a series of veterans bills and a spending "mini-bus" package of national security-related appropriations bills.

Much of the attention this week will be on a series of meetings between Trump administration officials and Congress regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election, starting with testimony closed-door by Trump son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its postponed hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort were originally scheduled to testify, before reaching a deal with the committee to do so at a later date.


Russian Election Interference

KUSHNER TESTIMONY (Senate Intel & House Intel Committees)

In a prepared statement, Jared Kushner will tell the Senate Intelligence Committee (on Monday) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (on Tuesday):  “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government… I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector,” according to the Washington Post.


On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its postponed hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Donald Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort were originally scheduled to testify, before reaching a deal with the committee to do so at a later date. Also scheduled to appear: Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled the so-called "Steele Dossier." Lawyers for President Trump have now alleged that the Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr was also associated with the firm. The Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Simpson; his attorney says he will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response.

Russia Sanctions Legislation

Last week, Congress reached a deal on a sanctions bill that targets Iran, North Korea, and Russia. A key provision of the bill would require Congressional review if the president attempted to lift existing sanctions on Russia. After the bill passed the Senate, the White House originally pressured House members to soften the language. However, President Trump now appears ready to sign the bill, when it reaches his desk. It will be considered as a "suspension" vote this week (a quicker process in the House for bills that eliminates the possibility for amendments and requires 2/3 vote to pass) and then sent back to the Senate for a second vote.

Read the new bill language



Also In the House:


H.R. 3219: Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018
This bill includes funding provisions from four individual appropriations bills – Defense, Legislative Branch, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, and Energy and Water – and an amendment that will be added to fully fund the President’s request for the border wall.

H.R. 3180: Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018
This bill authorizes appropriations for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the U.S. government for fiscal year 2018. 


H.R. 2333: Small Business Investment Opportunity Act of 2017
This bill amends the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 by increasing the Individual Leverage Limit from $150 million to $175 million.

H.R. 2056: Microloan Modernization Act of 2017
This bill modernizes the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Microloan program, which offers small businesses microloans of $50,000 or less through nonprofit lending intermediaries.

H.R. 2364: Investing in Main Street Act of 2017 
This bill increases the amount of capital and surplus that a financial institution and federal savings association can invest in a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) from 5 percent to 15 percent in order to assist small businesses in obtaining venture capital and private equity. 


S. 114: A bill to authorize appropriations for the Veterans Choice Program, and for other purposes, as amended 
This bill authorizes and appropriates $2 billion to be available without fiscal year limitation for the Veterans Choice Fund, extends through December 2027 the current $90 per month limit on a pension paid to veterans residing in nursing homes when their nursing costs are paid through Medicaid, extends through December 2027 the Secretary’s authority to collect fees for certain housing loans made, insured, or guaranteed by the VA, and extends through December 2027 the Secretary’s authority to use IRS income information.

H.R. 3218: Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, as amended
This bill makes several improvements to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

H.R. 282: Military Residency Choice Act
This bill amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to permit the spouse of a service member to elect to use the same residence as the service member for purposes of taxation and voting, regardless of the date on which the marriage of the spouse and the service member occurred.

H.R. 1058: VA Provider Equity Act, as amended
This bill includes podiatrists within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) definition of a physician, increases their pay grade to match other VA physician compensation, and expands the opportunity to compete for leadership positions. 

H.R. 1690: Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act, as amended 
This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit an annual report to specified congressional committees on the performance awards and bonuses presented to Senior Executive Service (SES) employees.

H.R. 2006: VA Procurement Efficiency and Transparency Act 
This bill improves procurement within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by putting in place consistent parameters for VA to measure its cost savings from competition and encouraging VA to organize its templates for key procurement documents and share them across the organization.

H.R. 2772: SEA Act 
This bill requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to personally approve of a reassignment of VA’s approximately 350 Senior Executive Service (SES) employees and submit a semiannual report to congress identifying those employees who were reassigned and the costs associated with this reassignment.

H.R. 2781: Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act 
This bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with the General Services Administration to increase the pool of veteran owned small businesses represented on government-wide strategic sourcing contracts. 

H.R. 2749: Protecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2017, as amended 
This bill strengthens enforcement over veteran owned small businesses that improperly pass through contracts.

H.R. 3262: Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2017
This bill establishes a pilot program for educational assistance for former members of the Armed Forces pursuing a physician assistant degree to work within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

H.R. 95: Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act, as amended 
This bill makes permanent a pilot program to provide child care at Veterans’ Affairs hospitals to veterans who are receiving mental health or other intensive health care services and serve as the primary caretaker of a child. 

H.R. 1848: Veterans Affairs Medical Scribe Pilot Act of 2017, as amended
This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a two-year pilot program to increase the number of medical scribes employed at the department.

H.R. 3298: Wounded Officers Recovery Act of 2017, as amended 
This bill authorizes the Capitol Police Board to make payments from the United States Capitol Police (USCP) Memorial Fund to employees of the USCP who have sustained serious line-of-duty injuries.


H.R. 3178: Medicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017, as amended
This bill amends title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve the delivery of home infusion therapy and dialysis as well as the application of the Stark rule under the Medicare program.

H.R. 2182: Plum Island Preservation Act 
This bill suspends the requirement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sell Plum Island until the Government Accountability Office has submitted a report to Congress on the potential alternative uses for the island. 

H.J.Res. 111: Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to "Arbitration Agreements"
This joint resolution disapproves and nullifies the rule issued by the Bureau of Consumer Protection (CFPB) on July 10, 2017, regarding final arbitration pertaining to consumer finance contracts.

H.R. 3210: SECRET Act of 2017
This bill requires the Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau to submit a report on the backlog of personnel security clearance investigations. 

H.R. 2370: Escambia County Land Conveyance Act
This bill authorizes Escambia County, Florida to convey to other entities certain property that it received from the federal government, specifically the properties were part of the Santa Rosa Island National Monument (now abolished) and transferred to Escambia County in 1947 for public purposes. 

H.R. 1927: African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017, as amended
This bill authorizes the National Park Service (NPS) to establish an African American Civil Rights Network.

H.Res. 317: Calling for the unconditional release of United States citizens and legal permanent resident aliens being held for political purposes by the Government of Iran, as amended 
This resolution highlights the cases of several Americans being held prisoner by Iran.

In the Senate: Health Care Bill

It is not 100% certain which health care bill will get a vote in the Senate this week (and the options are very different) though the best guess so far is that the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed to the American Health Care Act (the bill that passed the House).

H.R. 1628 The American Health Care Act (Revised) – AHCA

If the Senate can get the 51 votes needed to proceed, then the debate n the bill would begin, with many different amendments offered, possibly including the many health plans proposed by various senators… but a successful motion to proceed is far from likely. Senator Susan Collins of Maine remains a firm "no" on the MTP, as does Rand Paul of Kentucky (though he previously indicated he would vote for the MTP if one of the first amendments to be considered was a "clean repeal.") With Senator McCain still out recovering from surgery to treat brain cancer, the numbers start to look very shaky for the MTP, much less final passage of a bill.

The president, for his part, launched a Sunday tweetstorm encouraging senators to vote for the bill. He also raised many eyebrows by encouraging members of the military to contact their members of Congress about the health bill, as he spoke aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. (Civilian control of the U.S. military requires the Commander in Chief to avoid issuing what could be construed as a political order to troops under his command.)

Pay attention to the "Byrd Bath"!

The Senate Parliamentarian threw a significant wrench in Senate plans on Friday, by releasing a list of provisions that would violate the "Byrd Rule" (named after former Senator Robert Byrd) if considered as an amendment under reconciliation rules. Any provision that doesn't pass Bryd Rule muster must get 60 votes rather than a simple majority (and none of the provisions impacted would be able to garner that kind of support).

These provisions (that would require 60 votes) include:

  • Defunding Planned Parenthood
  • Abortion Restrictions for Tax Credits
  • Sunset of Essential Health Benefits Requirement for Medicaid
  • Funding for Cost-Sharing Subsidies
  • Stabilizing the Individual Insurance Markets (“Six Month Lock Out”
  • Medical Loss Ratio changes
  • Availability of Rollover Funds
  • Decrease in Target Expenditures for Required Expenditures by Certain Political
    Subdivisions (“Buffalo Bailout”)
  • Grandfathering Certain Medicaid Waivers; Prioritization of HCBS Waivers
  • Reporting of CMS-64 Data – Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS)
  • Coordination with States

Staffers spent the weekend attempting to rewrite provisions to conform to Byrd Rule requirements.


Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill 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.