for the week ending June 9, 2017
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Members return from the one week break to pressing matters, at least politically, and an unclear path to considering bills necessary for Republican leadership to continue its Better Way agenda. Among those matters considered pressing are passage of a bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA –Obamacare) not necessarily for the purpose of providing health insurance affordability but to free up nearly $1 trillion of the taxes and fees written into the ACA to pay its way. The $1 trillion would be used in some ways to provide assurance to buyers of health insurance but also to effect further tax cuts to wealthy Americans and corporations that supporters say will stimulate the economy provide jobs, and cause American companies that relocated overseas to return to the US.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he does not think he can get the 50 votes necessary for passage of a healthcare reform bill and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) has said he doesn’t think healthcare reform will succeed this year. Still, HR 1628, the House-passed American Healthcare Act was on the Senate agenda this week and is headed for a 2nd reading despite that bill passing by only one vote in the House and seen in the Senate as dead on arrival to be replaced by a promised Senate healthcare bill. Statements from Senators indicate that the Senate version will likely be of its own nature and will be introduced as an amendment to HR 1628 in the form of striking all after the enacting clause (of HR 1628) and pasting in the final senate bill.
Because of that element of the repeal plan, plans for tax reform both from the White House and considered on Capitol Hill are stalled since the $1 trillion recouped is pertinent to the math of such tax reform intentions. In other words, paying for tax cuts.
One other plan promoted by Trump with the strong support from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) appears to have lost support thus far. The plan was for a cross-border tax that would reverse the US tax policy from taxing exports to taxing imports. The change was expected to produce significant tax revenues that, according to Ryan, would pay for further tax cuts elsewhere. Opponents made the case that in import tax would raise the price of goods to US consumers while lowering the tax obligation of exporting corporations.
Those investigations –
Investigations of Russian 2016 election hacking and any White House or Trump campaign involvement continued with testimony from former FBI Director James Comey, Jr. and a new report from leaked NSA document indicating Russian election hacking may have gone farther than the DNC database and the emails of DNC Chair John Podesta.
Currently investigating the matter of Russian hacking and other involvements aiming to impact the US presidential election in 2016 are appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Government Oversight Committee. While the House Intelligence Committee investigation was established for the same purposes it growingly appears to be much less interested in investigating the Russian involvement and has focused on probing the source of the intelligence leaks that lead to the hacking investigations.
The Senate Intelligence Committee interviewed Homeland Security Director Dan Coats, National Intelligence Director Adm. Mike Rogers, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about renewing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 702 allows the intelligence agencies to target the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside the United States for foreign intelligence purposes even if the conversation is with a US citizen in the US but to keep the US person’s identity secret. Senators from both parties questioned Coats and Rogers if they had had a conversation with Trump asking them to publicly dispute the validity of the Russian hacking data publicly available. All interviewees said that they had not had any conversations that made them feel pressured. Coats said and Rogers implied that they would answer the question in a closed session scheduled for later that day.
All in all the importance of the hacking investigation and any involvement between the Russians and the White House has significantly heightened with the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, Jr. and a published National Security Agency report that Russian efforts to complicate the 2016 elections had succeeded in its cyber intrusion at the voting district database level.
Comey supported his comments in his statement to Congress released Wednesday and asserted that Russia did the cyber hacking during the 2016 elections and will continue to do so. While questions centered on his conversations with Trump regarding the investigation of Michael Flynn Comey commented that his purpose for releasing his statement and willingly be interviewed by Congress is his belief that the matter is important for Americans to be informed. Comey will next be interviewed in a closed session so that classified information can be discussed.
In addition to taking up the American Healthcare Act the Senate sought cloture on S 722 aiming to deter conventional and asymmetric Iranian activities and threats that directly threaten the United States and key allies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
The House took up and passed HR 10 a bill that would repeal and replace some sections of the Dodd-Frank law created to provide better bank behavior and establish consumer protections after the 2008 recession. The bill increases penalties for Wall Street wrongdoing but decreases or removes consumer protections in Dodd-Frank.
The House unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack on peaceful protestors outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. by armed security personnel from the Turkish Embassy and wants those responsible to stand trial under US law.
The House also assed two resolutions seeking better aid for religious groups in Syria and Iraq and expressing solidarity with England after the Manchester terror attacks two weeks ago.
Hamilton on Congress
The real divide; People who believe in politics and our political system, and people who don’t.
How we got here and where we are.
US Sanctions Korea and Russia
The US and Iran in Syria
ISIS Attacks Iran
The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday, June 12th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening June 15th.
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