Financial Services Report (4/15)

Last Week in the House
The Floor
 
On Tuesday, Democratic leadership was forced to pull its proposal to increase spending caps by $17 billion for defense spending and $34 billion for non-defense spending following an intense intra-party disagreement, as members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus indicated that they would not support the bill without an additional $33 billion in non-defense spending. Despite the inability to vote on the either spending caps deal or a budget resolution, a procedural maneuver earlier in the week set the top line spending number for the Appropriators to develop FY20 spending bills with an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for defense and non-defense funding.

 

Health Policy Report

The Week in Review

Prior to leaving Washington for a two-week recess, House Democrats pulled their proposal to raise discretionary spending caps from the floor amid disagreements over non-defense spending levels. The legislation would provide for a $17 billion increase above FY 2019 budget caps for defense spending and a $34 billion bump above that level for non-defense. Members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus wouldn't support the underlying bill without an amendment from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) that would have added $33 billion to non-defense spending, while moderates from the Blue Dog Coalition were pushing for a balanced budget amendment. Despite the House’s inaction on the spending caps deal and a budget resolution, the rule setting up debate on the Democrats spending cap proposal will allow appropriators to develop fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills with an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for defense and non-defense funding. 

 

Today on the Hill: Senate to Confirm Bernhardt As Interior Secretary

Senators are set to wrap up their legislative work week today and leave town for a two-week district work period. On the floor, the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s nomination to lead the department permanently. Bernhardt’s nomination is expected to pass despite concerns from lawmakers about possible conflicts of interest and the Interior Department’s plans for opening U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) stated that he plans to call Bernhardt to testify before his committee once confirmed as part of ongoing oversight investigations into policy decisions shepherded by former Secretary Ryan Zinke. 

 

Today on the Hill: House Democrats Cancel Spending Caps Vote Amid Intraparty Clash

House Democrats have pulled their proposal to raise discretionary spending caps from the floor amid disagreements over non-defense spending levels. The legislation would provide for a $17 billion increase above FY 2019 budget caps for defense spending and a $34 billion bump above that level for non-defense. Members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus wouldn't support the underlying bill without an amendment from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) that would have added $33 billion to non-defense spending, while moderates from the Blue Dog Coalition were pushing for a balanced budget amendment. Despite the House’s inaction on the spending caps deal and a budget resolution, the rule setting up debate on the Democrats spending cap proposal will allow appropriators develop fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills with an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for defense and non-defense funding.

 

Today in Congress: House Set to Pass Net Neutrality Bill

House Democrats are set to follow through key campaign promise to rebuke the Trump administration’s action on Net Neutrality. Lawmakers will begin consideration of a bill (H.R. 1644) that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, as well as 12 amendments to the underlying text. The bill is expected to pass the lower chamber later today but is considered dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate and White House, which issued its official veto threat to the legislation yesterday. 

 

This Week on the Hill: Democrats Move to Reignite Net Neutrality Debate

Both chambers will reconvene for legislative business today prior to leaving for a two-week recess. In the House, Democratic leadership has teed up a bill (H.R. 1644) that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order. The bill — which cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee on a party-line vote following a contentious markup — is expected to pass the lower chamber but is considered dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

 

Health Policy Report

The Week in Review

Last week, Senators failed to advance a sweeping supplemental disaster aid relief bill for states impacted by recent natural disasters amid a fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump over relief aid for Puerto Rico. Congressional Democrats have argued that the funding included for Puerto Rico's nutritional assistance program is inadequate in the Senate GOP’s measure, while the president has opposed sending any additional aid to the island, claiming, without evidence, that previous federal assistance to the island had been badly mismanaged. Negotiations on the disaster aid package will continue behind the scenes, however, it remains to be seen if lawmakers can reach a compromise.

 

Financial Services Report (4/8)

Last week, in a lengthy post on LinkedIn, investor Ray Dalio put forth his ideas on “Why and How Capitalism needs to be reformed.”  Refraining from questioning how certain Republican Congressmen would quantify Mr. Dalio’s position, his essay raises significant questions about whether or current structure of government is able to take on the very serious challenge he sees on the horizon.  Dalio, of course, is not the first to call attention to these issues, nor even the first billionaire, and I am confident he will not be the last.  And while there is much to dissect in Dalio’s post, let us focus on one part, his call for strong political leadership to right this ship.  It is worth noting that while it has been popular of late to blast the moderates, the fact is that reforms outlined by Dalio, and others require a strong center, because Democracy demands the ability to compromise, and unfortunately the leadership from the fringes of both parties’ views compromise as capitulation. This mindset easily leads at worst to an  authoritarian position, trampling minority rights, or at best, in a closely divided electorate such as America, a frequent flip-flopping between ideological extremes.  In many ways the capitalist society of our country has been predicated on a strong rule of law – overly politicizing our government threatens to undermine that stability. If you believe in Dalio’s thesis then it seems you should support the moderates in both parties.

 

Next Week on the Hill: House Tees Up Bill to Restore Net Neutrality

Both chambers of Congress have wrapped up their legislative work for this week and will reconvene next Monday. In the House, Democratic leadership has teed up a bill (H.R. 1644) that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order. The bill — which cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee on a party-line vote following a contentious markup — is expected to pass the lower chamber but is considered dead-on-arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.

 

Today on the Hill: Showdown over Senate Rules Change Looms

Yesterday evening, Senators failed to advance (51-48) a change to the Senate rules that would speed up the presidential nominee confirmation process due to opposition from Senate Democrats. The resolution (S.Res. 50) — approved by the Senate Rules Committee in February — would limit the post-cloture debate time from 30 hours to two for executive branch nominees and District Court judges, but would not apply to Cabinet or Supreme Court nominees. In response to the failed vote, Senate Republicans appear likely invoke another rule change at some point this week, known as the “nuclear option,” that would allow the resolution to pass with a simple majority rather than a 60 vote threshold.