Congress returns Tuesday and with it, your POPVOX updates. We’ve missed you!
It’s been an August Recess for the history books. We’ve pulled together our notes on the big events that impact the tone and agenda of the coming weeks and months. Because Congress was away, much of the focus in August was on the actions of the president and Congressional reactions. So here, as briefly as possible, in chronological order, is what you need to know as Congress heads into the Fall.
Failed health vote
In the final days of July, the Senate failed to pass a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare, with Sens. John McCain [R, AZ], Susan Collins [R, ME] and Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] casting the deciding votes. Sen. McCain delivered a fiery speech after the vote, calling for a return to “regular order.” He reminded senators that they “do not answer to the president [but to] the American people, a sentiment he reiterated in an op-ed last week.
Tense relations between Capitol Hill and the White House
Senators lamenting zero-sum partisanship and increasingly strained relations with President Trump were early themes for August: Senator Jeff Flake released a book that was both a call to principles and a stinging rebuke of the president.
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.
KUSHNER TESTIMONY (Senate Intel & House Intel Committees)
In a prepared statement,
House and Senate are in. While the voting schedule looks light, a lot of work is going on under the surface.
The House will attempt to pass all twelve appropriations bills out of committee this week, for a possible omnibus funding bill vote before the August recess. (While the Senate has postponed its recess for two weeks, the House has not yet made an announcement.)
The Senate planned for this week to focus on the health bill but that has been delayed after Senator McCain underwent surgery. Negotiations on the health package will continue, while committees will work on appropriations bills, vote on the FBI director nomination, and examine the road ahead for tax reform.
Welcome back! We hope you had a wonderful 4th of July week and are enjoying your summer.
Congress is back after a week-long recess with a lot to get done before August recess: pass a budget (or not?), pass 12 spending bills (or a continuing resolution), raise the debt ceiling. And all of that was supposed to come after the health care bill that appears stalled in the Senate. Several members are calling for canceling the annual break altogether.
Here's what's up on Capitol Hill this week:
Negotiations continue on the Senate health bill. The tone of the week will largely be determined by the CBO Score for the Senate Health — expected “early” this week.
The House will vote on a variety of topics, including increased penalties for convicted felons who return after deportation, a bill capping noneconomic losses in medical malpractice suits to $250,000, and a resolution reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Article V of NATO, among others.
The "score" from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected Monday or Tuesday, with estimates on total costs and coverage impacts of the bill.
Negotiations over the Senate health bill were in full swing this weekend. Potential swing votes were the center of attention – none more so that Sen. Heller [R, NV], who wound up the subject of a Twitter hashtag war after announcing opposition to the bill. The bill was written specifically with room to negotiate – a bit like leaving "room for cream" in your coffee order. This week we will find out if there is enough room to get the 51 votes needed to pass the bill.
This week in Congress was all about the health bill – from speculation about the content and complaints about the opaque process in the beginning of the week to analysis and commentary after the Thursday release.
Also this week: the President signed the VA Accountability Act and new revelations surfaced about Russian efforts to hack the 2016 election.
On Thursday, Senate GOP Leadership released the "Better Care" health care discussion draft, the Senate's amendment to the House-passed American Health Care Act.
Let's take a look at three big angles on the bill:
June 22, 2017:
This morning the Senate released the discussion draft of its changes to the House-passed American Health Care Act.
What comes next?
Supporters of the bill hope to have the Senate bill passed before July
The focus of the week will be health care, as the Senate works toward an agreement on a bill that GOP leadership hopes can get a vote before July 4. Senate Democrats plan to make speeches and hold the Senate Floor until midnight on Tuesday to protest the closed process for crafting the bill.
The House will vote on several workforce development bills, including a renewal of the Perkins Act, which provides financial assistance for technical education.
The House will also take up a series of bills that impact families in the foster care system and bills concerning the Department of Homeland Security.
No language has yet been released for the Senate version of the health care bill, which will eventually be an amendment to the House-passed "American Health Care Act."
Timing is critical for the health bill this week because, unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill without a score from the Congressional Budget Office (under requirements for the bill to follow the "reconciliation" procedure). If the Senate indeed wants to vote on the bill by July 4,
A Wednesday morning shooting at House Republicans’ practice for the Congressional Baseball Game left five injured. The Congressional Baseball Game went ahead on Thursday night as scheduled, uniting lawmakers and much of political Washington, at least for one night.
In other news, a small group of GOP senators continues work on a health care bill, amid growing complaints about the secrecy of the process. The House passed several bills in its "Part Three" plan for revamping the health system.
The Senate voted on several significant international affairs bills, including narrowly approving the Saudi Arms Sale, overwhelmingly passing an amendment to add tough sanctions on Russia to its Iran sanctions bill, and an amendment reaffirming America's commitment to NATO's Article 5 "mutual assistance" principle.
image credit: Stephen Voss, CNN
The big action this week will be on the appropriations process, which kicks off Monday, and again on Russia hearings in the Senate (AG Sessions set to testify on Tuesday).
The House will vote on several bills to accelerate permitting for energy projects, a bill to standardize medical malpractice statutes of limitation for services or procedures financed by federal funds.
The Senate will continue work on the Iran sanctions bill.
Last week, the Senate voted 92-7 to end debate on a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran. It will continue working on the bill this week.
Some Senators continue to work on a possible amendment that would include sanctions on Russia in the bill.
Sen Bob Corker [R, TN]
This week the House will vote on "part of the third phase of [the GOP's] overhaul strategy."
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the House passed in May was meant to be one of three phases of the effort because of limitations Republicans face in moving the measure through the budget reconciliation process.