for the week ending May 5, 2017
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All but a few have claimed a victory with passage this week of HR 244, the vehicle for the consolidated Appropriations for 2017 but the main winners may just be the American people. House Republicans take a bow for actually getting the spending vehicle for this fiscal year done albeit 8 months late, House Democrats tout the absence of political policies such as defunding Planned Parenthood and continuing healthcare coverage for miners, and the White House through the Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney also claimed victory despite Trumps key initiatives getting only partial funding for the Wall, full funding for the continued subsidies for those protected under Obamacare that he more often than not opposed and a small increase in military spending that was favored by all parties anyway. Most noted is the opinion of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who said the Democrats cleaned the Republican’s clock in the bill.
In the real world, outside of political positions claiming credit or denying responsibility, the bill was a must pass because past deliberations left Congress with the option of passing this bill or experiencing a government shutdown something neither parties want but the President, still struggling with the understanding of how such matters work when 435 opinions struggle for consensus, signaled he thought a government shutdown might be a good idea to force a decision based on negotiating leverage rather than reasonable compromise.
But let’s not get all warm and fuzzy about one of the few political compromises we have seen over the past six years or so; this type of bill cannot be subject to reconciliation where it could pass the Senate with 51 votes therefore Republicans needed Democrat votes in both bodies to pass the bill that under Senate rules would be subject to a filibuster by the Minority or worse, the loss of some Republican Senators’ support. Republicans in the House have sufficient votes to pass any bill but hold only a narrow majority in the Senate.
In the end Democrats are sort of satisfied with their ‘wins’ in the bill, Republicans know they can withstand anything their caucuses object to because the whole thing will be rewritten by the end of the fiscal year just five months away when spending plans for FY 2018 are due, and the President whose signature is necessary on such bills can continue to pose his business approach to passing bills despite being largely ignored by Congress’s version of reality that already intended to include the provisions the President prefers and had done so long before he was president.
The bill passed the House 309 to 118 with 131 Republicans and 178 Democrats against 103 Republicans and 15 Democrats who opposed the bill.
Back to the races, then, as Vice President Pence continued his intense lobbying for passage of the Obamacare ‘replacement’ the American Healthcare Act a bill resting on the knife edge of almost enough House votes for passage. Then there was the loss of support from key Republican Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-6) who reported his concerns that the current repeal / replace bill provision allowing states to opt out of requiring coverage for those with preexisting conditions will cause premiums for those people to skyrocket or allow insurers to charge more or not cover them at all. Upton then announced he will support the bill if it includes an additional $8 billion to cover those individuals should a state opt out. That was a game changer in the House where leadership has struggled since March to gain sufficient votes from its disjointed caucuses. The Upton amendment did the trick and the bill passed 217 to 213. The cost of the just-passed bill has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
In the House passage of HR 1180, curiously named the American Family Flexibility Act, an example of a Pollyanna title that doesn’t necessarily deliver in the bill text. Under the bill the 1.5 hour pay for each hour of overtime is revised. The employee would not be paid for the OT during the work period it was earned but later. Any unused OT would be paid to the employee at the end of the year.
The Russia Investigations
The full Senate Intelligence Committee was bussed to the CIA in Langley, Virginia to review classified documents regarding evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and matters related to that. FBI Director James Comey, Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee affirming that Russia did and still is involved in influencing American politics.
Senators quickly passed 79 to 18 HR 244 after passage by the House.
The Senate also agreed to HJR 66 that nullifies the rule that expands access to retirement accounts for employees who do not have such accounts.
In other matters the House passed several disaster-related bills HR 1665 concerns how FEMA notifies the president of a disaster, HR 1678 concerns reclaiming disaster assistance, HR 1679 takes up modernization of the disaster grant systems, HR 1644 increases the President’s authority to impose sanctions on persons in violation of certain U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea, HR 657 clarifies that the prohibition against certain personnel actions, includes personnel actions taken against any employee, and HR 1312 amend the Small Business Investment Incentive Act of 1980.
North Korea / Global Cyber War / ISIS in Afghanistan
MAGIC MONDAYS (VIDEO)
POLITICAL EDUCATION (VIDEO)
The House and Senate are adjourning for ten days and will return to work on Monday, May 15th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening May 18th.
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