HR 353 authorizes several National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) programs with the aim of enhancing weather forecasting and severe weather alerts. To those ends the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is directed to conduct programs to improve forecasting of weather, including weather focusing on high impact weather. Passed House.
Old Boat, New Life
The purpose of S. 89 is to amend title 46 of the United States Code to exempt old vessels that only operate within inland waterways from the fire-retardant materials requirement if the owners of such vessels make annual structural alterations to at least 10 percent of the areas of the vessels that are not constructed of fire-retardant materials.’ Passed Senate
Support for Argentina
H.Res. 54 resolves that the House of Representatives upholds its commitment to the partnership between the United States and Argentina and reaffirms that the Argentine Republic is a major non-NATO ally of the United States; encourages the Department of State to coordinate an interagency strategy to increase cooperation with the Government of Argentina on areas of bilateral, regional, and global concern; and commends President Mauricio Macri and his Administration for making far-reaching economic reforms. Passed House.
House Gives North Korea Terror Sponsor Status
Senate Goes Nuclear on Gorsuch
American Healthcare Act Attempts continue
The recent testing of International Ballistic Missiles by North Korea soon after the new Administration took office created the House response in H. Res. 92, a resolution that condemns North Korea’s actions. Passed House.
For the US by its laws to ramp up to some other action towards North Korea the House agreed to HR 479 concerning that country’s status as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Absent supportive facts the bill directs the Secretary of State to determine if North Korea has ‘directly or indirectly, committed, conspired to commit, attempted, aided, or abetted any act’ of terrorism. SHoud the Secretary not find that evidence he must explain why. Passed House.
Supreme Court Nominee
Democrats began to filibuster the impending vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch base on their conclusion that Gorsuch had avoided explaining his position on previous Supreme Court decision. The decisions are Roe v Wade that made abortion legal in the US and Citizens Untied that opened the door to corporate donations to political campaigns that do not identify the donor.
The motion to proceed to the nomination was agreed to 55 – 48. Confirmation of Gorsuch requires 60 votes and Republicans are short about 4 votes even if some Democrats vote for him. The option Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has is to not have the vote, allow for the vote and lose then moving on to Trump’s next nominee. McConnell, determined to see the nomination confirmed this week has the ‘nuclear option’ a procedural change that allows for confirmation with a majority of 51 votes. The 51 vote rule now established confirmation of Gorluch is guaranteed and the vote will be taken Friday, April 7th. The nomination was confirmed by a vote of 54-45.
American Healthcare Act
A zombie that won’t die to Democrats and a point of contention among House Republican caucuses, HR 1628 has remained under consideration even after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) pulled the bill from the floor last week due to lack of votes.
The conflicting messages on the bill’s fate this week underscore the effort from Vice President Mike Pence and Ryan to gather votes from the 30 to 40 member Freedom Caucus without losing votes from more moderate Republicans. The Freedom Caucus wants Affordable Care Act provisions kept in the bill removed. Those provisions are the requirement that insurers cover ten basic healthcare needs, must insure those with preexisting conditions, and may not impose lifetime caps. Those three provisions are favored by Moderate Republicans. The newest provision on the table is drumming up $100 billion to fund high risk pools where the very sick can find coverage.
H.R. 1219 increases the limit on the number of individuals who can invest in certain venture capital funds before those funds must register as “investment companies” with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ‘Currently, the Investment Company Act limits the number of investors in a fund to 100 for the fund to be exempt from SEC registration. Passed House.
Under current law, if an issuer sells, in the aggregate, more than $5 million of securities in any consecutive 12-month period, the issuer is required to provide additional disclosures to investors, such as risk factors, the plans under which offerings are made, and certain financial statements. H.R. 1343 requires the SEC to increase that threshold from $5 million to $10 million, and index the amount for inflation every five years.
HR 1304 amends the Public Health Service Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974…, and the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from the definition of “health insurance coverage” a stop-loss policy obtained by a self-insured health plan or a sponsor of a self-insured group health plan to reimburse the plan or sponsor for losses incurred in providing health benefits to plan participants in excess of a level set forth in the stop-loss policy. Passed House.
Time for a Break
Congress is adjourning Friday until April 24th for the Easter break. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening, April 27th.
Senate Intel Committee Continues Probe of Russia Election Hacking
House Committee Starts up Again, Nunes Sidelined
The Senate Intelligence Committee continues to interview some 20 witnesses in the investigation of Russian hacking of the 106 election and contacts between Russian officials and Trump staff. The Senate effort is headed by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). The investigation hired 6 staff with high clearances to aid in the investigations and has set out reviewing some 2000 documents.
The investigation by the House Intelligence Committee became mired in controversy when the Committee Chair, Devin Nunes (R-CA) received information from the White House staff and shared it with the President but did not share it with his committee or co-chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). Complaints to the House Ethics Committee about Nunes began an investigation into his behavior. He stepped aside until the ethics investigation is completed. Nunes was replaced by Rep. Michael Conway (R-TX-11), Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-17).
Syrian Airbases Struck by US Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles
Update-8:45 p.m. April 6th – From US Naval Institute – “The Tomahawk strike was centered on the al-Shayrat Airfield, which was believed to have launched the fixed-wing planes that carried out a chemical weapons strike on Tuesday on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The strike by Assad government forces is believed to have killed dozens.” (video)
Similar actions by past presidents as well as this one usually raises the question of whether or not the president has the authority to take such actions. That is where Congress can enter the fray by issuing an AUMF, the Authority to Use Military Force. Congress denied the request from President Obama at a time where there was not much favor in Congress to use US military assets against the Assad Regime noting at the time the situation on the ground was unclear who was on what side of the ongoing battle between Assad forces and the rebel forces. With Russia and Iran in the mix on the ground supporting Assad the situation was seen as a potential quagmire.
The Pentagon has long been considering such a strike. The first obvious support of the Pentagon action came from Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, both Republicans and both critical of other Trump Administration activities. They issued a joint statement, “…emphasized that these actions must be followed through with a “new, comprehensive strategy” in coordination with U.S. allies to end the Syrian civil war, the destruction of the Assad regime’s air force, and more support for “vetted” Syrian opposition group. “
Where this goes from here remains uncertain.
The US Naval Institute story includes, “Regardless of whether Congress ever passes a new measure authorizing Thursday night’s — and possibly future — strikes inside Syria, the U.S. attack creates instant risks for the new commander in chief. Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, warned that Assad could respond by again using chemical weapons on his own people.”
It is not likely the Administration will seek AUMF for this action or that Congress will object to the absence of one, but should the US expand actions against the Assad regime an AUMF may be sought. The President defended the action, ““It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” he said. “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council.””
Russia on Friday condemned the U.S. missile strike against Syrian government forces as an attack against its ally, and said it was pulling out of an agreement to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between U.S. and Russian aircraft operating over Syria.” – Washington Post