for the week ending April 28, 2017
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The drama this week was played out in the House as that body convened on Tuesday with only four days to come up with the money to run the government by midnight Friday, April 28th. The deadline was created last December when Congress failed to pass a FY 2017 budget but rather delayed action until this week.
The options were to pass a full budget that cannot be done in just four days, pass another continuing resolution to fund the government at current spending levels kicking the can down the road to some future date, or let the government shut down. The House opted for a continuing resolution that expires at the end of September, the last day of fiscal year 2017. A House vote is expected Friday, April 28th with the Senate vote likely Friday or Saturday.
Early in the week the President signaled that he would sign such legislation to support continuing some funding for what is known as cost sharing reductions or payments to insurers making up the difference between the actual cost of a policy and how much the buyer must pay mandated in the ACA. In exchange Democrats had to agree to $1.5 billion to begin the process of building the wall on the southern border. Where once Trump asserted that Mexico will pay for the wall he now says Mexico will pay for the wall in some way in the future. He later backed off on that negotiating stance clearly with the understanding that the Minority and some Republicans do not have an appetite for spending on the wall and, perhaps because throwing that negotiating monkey wrench into an already contentious matter is not wise. Trump later backed off his objections to the cost sharing reductions, too.
That is the necessary legislation this week, the rest seem more wrapped up in some other agenda; repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has surfaced again after the legislation failed to gain enough votes to pass three weeks ago. The trouble House Republican Leadership has with getting enough votes to even consider the bill on the floor is within the Republican Party itself. Negotiations earlier this month centered on working out differences between Republican party factions; the far right Freedom Caucus wanted the ten essential healthcare coverage required under the ACA in all policies to be removed from the bill and the moderate Republicans that want that requirement and Medicaid payouts to continue. The bill as it stands now would offer those coverages but would allow the States to get a waiver and not require the ten-point coverage and replace the preexisting condition to be handled by high-risk pools created by the states and somewhat funded by the federal government that States could also decide not to provide.
Finally, the protection regarding preexisting conditions continues requiring insurers to cover those with preexisting conditions but allows them to raise rates on those individuals
About those investigations.
All eyes turned to the Senate Intelligence Committee Investigation into Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election and meetings between Trump staff and Russian politicos after the House Intelligence Committee Chair, Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA) recused himself from the investigation. Nunes’ replacements; Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Rep. Michael Conway (R-TX) and Rep Tom Rooney (R-FL) all have made statements and taken actions raising the question if the House panel will aggressively investigate the hacking and possible collusion or focus on digging out the leakers whose statements led to the investigation in the first place and who Trump wants identified.
In a recent Roll Call report the Senate is actively sorting through a myriad of documents and began interviewing intelligence officials even though there seems to yet be any product of the investigation. Such investigations take time because of the complexity of data to be reviewed and because intelligence often seeks information from foreign sources.
This week the House Oversight Committee concluded that former White House Director of National Security, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn appears to have broken the law by failing to get Pentagon approval accepting around $45,000 to attend a gala in Russia where he was seen in various news videos sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Flynn also accepted nearly $500 million to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey. Flynn was in that position while on the White House staff and later registered as an agent of that foreign government as required. What the Oversight Committee concluded is that Flynn did not make known and report that he was taking the money from the foreign governments thereby not complying with the law. If he did so intentionally he is libel for a fine and up to five years in jail. Flynn holds that he discussed his foreign government arrangements with the Pentagon before and after the fact. The Pentagon says they have no record of that and have begun their own investigation. Lawmakers keep in mind that Flynn offered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation if given immunity which he was not granted.
An attempt to determine if Flynn was properly vetted by the White House came with a request for documents from the White House by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The White House holds that it has turned over all relevant documents and that Flynn was vetted by the Obama Administration and that is where the documents are. Obama had removed Flynn from his position with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
It appears from press interviews with Oversight Committee Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep Elijah Cummings (D) the ranking Member that the matter would be turned over to the House Intelligence Committee investigation.
As of Thursday, April 27th Chaffetz (R-UT) ‘sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Army asking for a final determination as to whether Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn violated the law (37 U.S.C. § 908) by accepting payments from foreign government-controlled entities.’
And then there is that…
While Congress takes on the above issues the President revealed a sketch of his tax reform plan on Wednesday that he says will lower corporate tax rates enough to bring American companies based overseas to avoid US taxes back into the country and offers a ‘substantial’ tax cut for the middle class.
Trump would like to see corporate rates down to 15% from 49% and some tax breaks for the middle class. While we are in a budget deficit largely because the Bush tax cuts of early 2000 were made into law. The similarity between the Bush cuts and what Trump proposes is that both hold the reduction in taxes would stimulate the economy creating jobs and therefore tax revenue that would offset the loss of revenue causing the deficit. Bush’s breaks did work that way for a few years and then stopped doing so. It was then they should have been repealed but they were not resulting, along with spending on Iraq, in a $1 trillion deficit. Some Senators have signaled that the breaks should have a sunset. The White House proposal is just that, would have to be written into legislation and it would likely not survive the Senate as is. Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said the proposal is a starting point. More action on the proposal is likely in the Fall.
Senators confirmed Rod J. Rosenstein to be Deputy Attorney General. The Senate confirmed the nomination by a vote of 94-6. The cloture motion on confirmation of R. Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor was agreed to by a vote of 61-39.
In other matters the House agreed to S 496 nullifying a FHA rule regarding metropolitan planning commissions; HR 876 beefing up access to sensitive areas in airports; HR 1372 seeking better plans to protect children in the aftermath of a terror attack; HR 534 stating the US interest in hosting the World Expo; H. Res 187 condemning the carnage in South Sudan; HR 1695 revising how the Register of Copyrights is selected; and HR 1694 providing for freedom of information requests of documents from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is they were to go into receivership.
The Return of the Healthcare Act
Hamilton on Congress
A President Struggling to Get on Track
Egypt / Korea / WikiLeaks
Magic Mondays – A compilation (Video)
Political Education – What is Crony Capitalism (Video)
The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday May 1st. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening, May 4th.
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