Summary for the week ending July 21, 2017
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A busy week on the Hill measured, perhaps, by not much of what was expected happening.
The big story is the Better Care Reconciliation Act put forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that was waiting for a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score to determine if it met reconciliation rules for the Senate as put forth in the Budget Control Act. A favorable score would allow the bill to be brought to the Senate floor and debated but requiring only 51 votes for passage. Before the score came back it became obvious to McConnell that he did not have the votes to pass the bill what with four on the record statements from Senators Lee (R-UT), Murkowski (R-FL), Collins (R-ME), and Moran (R-KS). Those Senators stated they would vote ‘No’ on the proposed motion to proceed allowing the bill to move to the floor for debate and a vote. Other Senators expected to also vote against the motion had not yet made their positions public.
McConnell pulled the bill from consideration and moved quickly to schedule a vote the week of July 24th on just repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare – ACA) a last ditch move, supported by the White House, to end Obamacare over two years forcing Congress’s hand to come up with a replacement by then. The new bill received a CBO score showing $473 Billion Over Ten Years, 27 million uninsured by 2020 and premiums doubling by 2026. McConnell and the White House are pressing Senators to vote for the motion to proceed suggesting that this may be their last chance to show their constituents that they made good on their campaign promises to repeal the ACA. But it appears McConnell is still shy votes to get him to the necessary 50 vote threshold that would then be decided by Vice President Mike Pence. Three female Senators Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), and Moore-Capito (R-WVA) have gone on record to vote no on the motion to proceed. Media reports that all three are now targets of campaigns vilifying them calling them, traitors and such. Quartz Media LLC reported that Capito and Collins don’t come up for reelection until 2020, and Murkowski until 2022.
More about this on our FrontPage and Editorial.
FY 2018 Budget
In the House the Budget Committee has approved the Republican House FY 2018 budget but the bill on the floor will face familiar intra-party resistance from conservatives who want the bill’s tax cuts to take affect rather than the result of future legislation and moderate Republicans who resist cuts to food stamps, other entitlements, and federal employee pensions.
The resolution that is not signed by the president and is non-binding is a guideline for future legislation to follow through on the bill’s spending directives but is primarily a tax reform bill along with being a tax cut and cut spending bill. Social Security, Defense and Veterans are not subject to spending cuts with the weight of the cuts falling on entitlement programs.
Under the federal budget the tax cuts are considered revenue and the spending cuts are considered savings with the idea that the bill will eventually lead to a balanced budget but there will be a lot of devils in the details if the resolution is approved in both bodies and amendments are added.
The bill aims to cut over $5 trillion in spending over ten years. How that unfolds if it does unfold is again subject to various positions among Republican House Members and amendments they will propose. The amount of spending cuts is likely to be far less. As the resolution stands now it would cut $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, a $150 billion from food stamps and, would recapture $700 from addressing “improper payments” usually where the government over-pays a beneficiary or is given a tax credit they do not qualify for. Clawing back improper payments was a rallying cry during the recent recession but no functioning legislation resulted.
Pipelines and Ozone
The House approved two energy bills this week; HR 2883, a bill that removes the need for presidential approval of a cross-border gas or oil pipeline or electric transmission and would only apply the necessary environmental impact study to where the pipes or lines cross the border, not along the whole length of the project within the US.
In its latest rollback of Environmental Protection Agency regulations the House passed HR 806, a bill that puts off for ten years the implementation of a final rule promulgated by the EPA requiring ground-level ozone measurements at 70 parts per billion (ppb), a reduction from the current 75 ppb allowed. The bill also delays EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards going into effect this year until 2025.
More on this on our Front Page.
Senators continued to vote on presidential nominees but did not address any legislation.
In addition to the energy bills noted above the House passed HR 2910 that would specify timeframes and procedures for FERC and other affected agencies to follow in conducting environmental reviews related to natural gas pipelines; HR 3050 that would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to provide Federal financial assistance to States to implement, review, and revise State energy security plans and two bills that extends the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project and benefits a greater range of conduit hydropower projects by shortening the 45-day notice period to 30 days, and allowing larger conduit projects to be eligible for exemption from FERC’s jurisdiction.
The Chickens Came Home to Roost
Hamilton on Congress
Those who like government, those who don’t
Trump and ISIS / Rehabilitating a Terrorist / Syria Ceasefire
Magic Mondays with Marc Pocan (Video)
Political Education (Video)
The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday, July 24th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening July 27th.
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