With the Senate out of town, it is looking like a relatively tame legislative week on Capitol Hill. House lawmakers will meet today to consider seven suspension bills, dealing mostly with the naming of federal buildings, before moving to the week’s more substantial work in the form of a federal whistleblower protection bill (S. 585) and a still-emerging disaster relief package. The former was passed by the Senate under unanimous consent in May, but will be considered pursuant to a rule in the House on Thursday. The bill aims to boost protections for federal employees reporting waste, fraud or abuse by increasing awareness of legal protections and requiring discipline for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers.
The Week in Review
House lawmakers approved their version of a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) for the 2018 fiscal year, taking the first legislative step towards creating a comprehensive tax reform package through the budget reconciliation process. The next step will be for the Senate to do the same, which should happen in short order since the Senate Budget Committee approved their budget resolution (text) in a markup last week. Assuming the full Senate approves the resolution — which only requires a simple majority — the two chambers will then reconcile their respective versions in conference. In order for Republicans to meet their ambitious goal of getting tax reform legislation to the president’s desk before the end of the year, GOP lawmakers are hoping the conferencing and re-approval process will be done at a breakneck pace.
House lawmakers approved their version of a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) for the 2018 fiscal year yesterday on a 219-206 vote, taking the first legislative step towards creating a comprehensive tax reform package through the budget reconciliation process. The next step will be for the Senate to do the same, which should happen in short order after the Senate Budget Committee approved their budget resolution (text) in a markup yesterday. Assuming the full Senate approves the resolution — which only requires a simple majority — the two chambers will then reconcile their respective versions in conference. In order for Republicans to meet their ambitious goal of getting tax reform legislation to the president’s desk before the end of the year, the conferencing and re-approval process will likely be done at a breakneck pace.
The House is expected to pass their version of a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) for the 2018 fiscal year, facilitating Republicans’ goal to reform the nation’s tax code through the budget reconciliation process. Lawmakers have sought to use the floor process as a messaging opportunity, with Democrats pitching two alternative budgets yesterday in the form of a pair of futile substitute amendments that would increase spending on social safety net programs and make a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure and job training programs over the next five years. An additional two alternative plans will be offered as amendments today — one from Democrats and another from the conservative Republican Study Committee that would balance the budget in five years — before lawmakers are expected to vote on and approve the underlying resolution. The vote will likely mark the last action in the House this week.
The first legislative step on the long road to comprehensive tax reform starts today as House lawmakers begin consideration of the budget resolution for the 2018 fiscal year. The budget is behind schedule, but passage in both chambers will allow for Republicans to use the reconciliation process to push through tax reform on a simple majority and avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. House passage of the budget resolution is expected by the end of the week, while the Senate Budget Committee will start a two-day markup of its version of the FY18 budget resolution this morning.
As details from Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas continue to emerge, the gun control debate has reignited in Washington along predictable lines. A bipartisan pair of legislators — Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) — are reportedly preparing to reintroduce legislation to require background checks on all commercial firearm sales, while many Democrats have called for further measures such as preventing the sale of high-capacity magazines and certain types of military-style rifles. With Republicans controlling all three major levers of power, it is unlikely that any of those efforts will ultimately be enacted into law, but some proponents of stricter gun laws are hoping that the unconventional President Trump may be willing to listen on the issue. Speaking to reporters at the White House earlier today, the President sidestepped questions on specific proposals to restrict gun sales, only saying, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on.”
The tax reform debate will begin in earnest next week, as both the House and Senate will be working on Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget resolutions that will include reconciliation instructions designed to avoid a Senate filibuster. The Senate Budget Committee has released their FY 2018 budget resolution ahead of hearings this week, allowing for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade. Meanwhile, the House is expected to vote on its own budget resolution on the House floor. While it’s unclear how the chambers ultimately plan to reconcile their respective budgets, the result is likely to set the stage for Republicans to pass their tax overhaul with a simple majority in the Senate.
The Week in Review
While the Graham-Cassidy ‘repeal and replace’ bill was once expected to headline the week on Capitol Hill, the bill’s swift demise ultimately set the stage for other legislative business — as well as the resignation of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price. The embattled cabinet official had already lost favor with President Donald Trump over his failed leadership on health care reform, and ultimately succumb to a wave of criticism over his decision to travel via expensive private flights. Meanwhile, Republicans' latest failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) all but ensures that congressional Republicans — who for seven years have vowed to repeal Obamacare — will fail to make good on their promise to voters during President Donald Trump's first year in office.
Before leaving Washington for the week, lawmakers in both chambers voted yesterday on a bill (H.R. 3823) to extend federal aviation programs before a Saturday deadline and provide tax relief for people affected by recent hurricanes. The six-month reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (H.R. 3823) also includes provisions to extend a few expiring public health care programs. Health care measures in the bill included short-term extensions of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, as well as a three-year extension a of Medicare demonstration allowing patients with weakened immune systems to receive in-home care.
The tax reform debate has officially begun in earnest, as the Senate has closed the door on a September vote on ACA ‘repeal and replace’ and the group of Republican leaders known as the “Big Six” released the most detailed look yet at the party’s plan to overhaul the nation's tax code. The tax plan is now expected to head to the committees of jurisdiction to be crafted into formal legislation. The pressure to pass a package will be particularly acute this fall as lawmakers begin to plan their campaigns for the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans are hoping that tax reform will prove to be a more consensus issue than healthcare, but the many “winners and losers” of any tax reform package will undoubtedly cause some divisions among Republican rank-and-file members.