With the House in recess due to the Democratic issues retreat in Baltimore, floor action today will be limited to another bout in the Senate battle over President Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) confirmation yesterday as Attorney General means that Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is next in the queue. Like the other nominees confirmed this week, Price is expected to draw no votes from most of the Democratic caucus – in this case, over his trading of health-care stocks and outspoken stance on fully repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republicans are expected to remain united in their support, meaning that his final confirmation vote – expected either late tonight or at some point tomorrow – is a foregone conclusion. Cloture has also been filed on the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary, although his confirmation is likely to slip into next week.
- A relatively tame week could be on tap as the Senate continues to slog through the nominations process, while the House continues to push through a series of Congressional Review Act resolutions.
- The House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to meet to approve the Committees’ oversight plan for the coming year. Following last week’s contentious organizing meeting, it likely that Democrats will not concur with the Majority’s view for the coming year.
- February 14th and 15th will have Fed Chair Yellen before the House and Senate for her semi-annual appearance
- President Donald Trump has been invited to present a joint address to Congress on February 28th.
According to House Republicans, these are the following goal posts for the House to hit in 2017
- FY2017 Reconciliation – March
- Border Defense Supplemental – March / April
- FY 2018 Budget – April
- FY 2017 Funding Expires – April 28
- FY 2018 Reconciliation bill – May / June
- FDA User Fees – June
- FY 2018 NDAA – June
- CHIP Reauthorization – July
- Debt Ceiling – July / September
- FAA Reauthorization – September 30th
- Flood Insurance – September 30th
- FY 2018 Appropriations – September 30th
- FISA Section 702 – December 31st
While the House has departed for the week to allow Democrats to hold their annual policy retreat in Baltimore, the Senate’s work on advancing President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees threatens to stretch into the weekend after a second straight overnight Democratic talk-a-thon. In addition to drawing out debate on fellow Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) nomination to be attorney general, Democrats plan to delay confirmation votes on Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be Health and Human Services Secretary and possibly on Steven Mnuchin to lead the Treasury Department.
Democrats are using every tool at their disposal to prevent the one Cabinet nominee who has attracted some Republican opposition – Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos – from being confirmed on the Senate floor. The minority party kept the upper chamber in session throughout the night in an attempt to convince one additional Republican to oppose her confirmation. Lawmakers speaking against DeVos have cited concerns on her long history of supporting voucher programs and private schooling over the public system, as well as her shaky hearing performance where she appeared to be ambivalent on the Education Department’s regulations related to civil and disability rights. With Democrats united and Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also opposing DeVos, today’s final vote looks to be set for a 50-50 tie, meaning that Vice President Mike Pence will need to be on hand to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of President Trump’s selection. Cloture has already been filed for the next Cabinet confirmation due to hit the Senate floor, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, who has also been the subject of intense criticism from many Democrats over his time as Alabama’s Attorney General and his role in crafting President Trump’s recent travel ban targeting certain Muslim-majority countries.
Education policy hits the spotlight this week as Republicans look to install Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary and undo education guidelines set by the previous administration. Despite efforts from Democrats to slow down the process, the Senate is moving forward on confirming President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, starting with a final vote on Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Education Secretary scheduled tomorrow. The upper chamber successfully invoked cloture on DeVos’ confirmation Friday morning on a 52-48 party-line vote; however, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have both signaled that they will oppose DeVos in the final vote, meaning that Vice President Mike Pence will need to vote to break the tie – assuming there are no other Republican defections.
The Week in Review
Congress continued to take aim at Obama-era regulations last week, with both chambers passing disapprovals of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring companies to publish the payments they make to foreign governments as a part of their attempts to extract natural resources (H.J. Res. 41), an environmental regulation that aims to protect U.S. streams from waste (H.J. Res. 38), and a Bureau of Land Management rule related to the emission of the powerful greenhouse gas methane (H.J. Res. 36). Democrats opposed the moves, but the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) allow for Congress to disapprove of rules finalized within the last 60 legislative days of the previous session on a simple majority vote in both chambers. President Trump joined in on the regulatory rollback, signing executive orders that would require the repeal of two regulations for every new one implemented and another that targets the implementation of Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reforms.
- The House starts up the Congressional Review Act process by teeing up votes on a handful of regulations, including on Dodd-Frank era SEC rule requiring disclosure of payments made for mineral extraction.
- In the Senate, lawmakers will continue to work through President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, with floor votes scheduled for Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson, and Transportation nominee Elaine Chao At the committee level, votes for Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry, Office of Management and Budget Director nominee Mick Mulvaney, and Small Business Administrator nominee Linda McMahon are all expected.
- Fed Chair Yellen comes to the Hill for the semi-annual testimony. She will be on the Senate side on the 14th of February and then on the House side the next day.
- President Trump is scheduled to speak before a joint session of Congress on February 28th.
Despite efforts from Democrats to slow down the process, the Senate is moving forward on confirming President Trump’s Cabinet nominees, starting with a final vote on Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Education Secretary scheduled for Monday. The upper chamber successfully invoked cloture on DeVos’ confirmation this morning on a 52-48 party-line vote. However, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have both signaled that they will oppose DeVos in the final vote, meaning that Vice President Mike Pence will need to vote to break the tie – assuming there are no other Republican defections. Following the DeVos vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to race through floor action on the nominations of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, Rep. Tom Price to be Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary, and Scott Pruitt to be Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. Democrats are largely opposed to all of those selections, but without Republican defections, they are powerless to stop them from moving forward.
One of President Trump’s most controversial selections for his Cabinet is – Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos – due to hit the Senate floor today, with another contentious pick, Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), next in line for floor consideration. DeVos will be first because Republicans want to make sure that Sessions – who will have voting power in the Senate until he is confirmed as Attorney General – can cast his vote to confirm the school choice advocate as the nation’s head of education policy in what is expected to be a very close vote. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced yesterday that they will oppose her confirmation, meaning that Republicans cannot afford any more defections from their 52-vote majority. Assuming there are no other surprises, DeVos would be confirmed on a 51-50 vote with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. The cloture vote for her confirmation is expected tomorrow, meaning that Sessions’ floor consideration will likely slip into next week.
President Trump kept his blistering pace of major announcements going last night, naming Colorado federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch neatly fits the mold of the justice he will be replacing, the late Antonin Scalia, as a graduate of Harvard Law School, “originalist” interpreter of the Constitution, and conservative scholar. He was confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote to become a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006, but can expect a much tougher battle for his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Some Democrats – feeling slighted that former President Obama’s choice for the seat was never considered last year – have promised to fight the nominee, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Gorsuch will need to “prove himself to be within the legal mainstream.” Gorsuch begins his trips to Senate offices today, starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has promised that Gorsuch will be confirmed.