For the week ending June 26, 2017
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Congress has been at its most cryptic this week with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) unwillingness to let out details of the Senate bill being crafted by 13 Republican senators, each of whom represent party leadership or are relevant committee chairs.
It’s odd situation in that McConnell clearly did not want the bill details scrutinized by the press or the Democrats because his secrecy has fueled rampant suspicious speculation about the bill contents.
The concern from those in the dark were based on the severe cuts and high loss of insured Americans in the House bill, HR 1628 and the likelihood that the Senate bill will not be much different. So much of the concern was what we might call educated skepticism where speculation on the content is filtered through the reality of the House bill intent to reduce the numbers covered by affordable health insurance and remove significant taxes on insurers, medical device manufacturers and investors that paid for the Affordable Care Act.
The wild card is the anticipated Congressional Budget Office estimate on the cost of the bill. That is important because the bill cannot raise deficits if it is to be introduced under reconciliation rules allowing passage with only 51 votes rather than 60.
Now that some of the bill details have been revealed it appears the concerns are valid. So we have to wonder where it goes from here.
Should the Senate vote on the bill before the July 4th break as intended the assumption is that McConnell has drawn at least 50 Republican votes making the final vote outcome at 50 / 50 to be settled by a yes vote from the President of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence. It is likely that the bill will come to the floor as HR 1628 in which ‘all after the enacting clause’ will be removed and the text of what will be called a ‘substitute amendment’ (the Senate text) will be installed and voted on.
From there the bill will be returned to the House for a vote but considering that the hard fought passage of the House bill was based on working out differences between more moderate Republicans who did not favor the cuts to the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare and those such as the Freedom Caucus who wanted deeper cuts and other demands such as not funding Planned Parenthood, Inc. From there the bill would go to a Senate / House conference to iron out the differences if they can. If they can’t the bill dies in conference.
Details of the bill on our front page
It’s hard to find someone who isn’t involved in investigating the Russian hacking or possible collusion between the hackers and the Trump campaign or the possibility that Trump obstructed justice with his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Jr.
Now we have the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the House Government Oversight Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee in the game. Fortunately all were visited by Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly aiming to make sure they didn’t get in the way of Mueller’s work and it appears they all took him seriously.
The big ticket this week was former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson who pretty much set the record straight; Russia did attempt to sway the 2016 election and they are still at it. We have yet to see any legislation that might give us hope Congress wants to fix the problem.
Not much to report on Senate action this week beyond passage of rank increases for numerous Armed Services personnel but Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has had his hands full getting the Senate amendment to the House-passed American Healthcare Act in motion with a promise of debate and a vote next week.
The House moved about 18 bills this week ranging from seeking improvements to foster care programs, some belt-tightening at Homeland Security.
The house agreed to help avoid forest fires by assuring that forests surrounding high power lines are clear of combustible plants and trees and aimed to clear up who collects and pas taxes when a state citizen earns in other states.
The bill of contention this week is HR 1654, a bill that would direct the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to act as the lead federal agency for coordinating with 17 western states for issuing permits to construct new water storage projects on land managed by the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture. The bill also would impose deadlines for carrying out certain activities related to each project.
Opposition to the bill sees it differently; that it would impose arbitrary deadlines for completing key environmental reviews for new water storage projects and create an ill-conceived new review process at odds with the existing review process established under key laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act. The bill will be debated an voted on Friday, June 23rd
What a tangled web they weave
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The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work Monday, June 26th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening June 29th.
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