Today on the Hill: Congress Continues Confirmations, Regs Work Ahead of Trump Address Tuesday

Both chambers are picking up on the work they left off before last week’s recess, with the Senate working through the remaining confirmations for President Trump’s Cabinet and the House targeting executive branch regulations. Wilbur Ross’ confirmation as Secretary of Commerce starts action in the Senate, and given that a cloture vote for his nomination passed prior to this week’s recess, he is likely to be installed sometime this evening. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already filed cloture for the three nominees to follow Ross, namely Rep. Ryan Zinke for Secretary of Interior, Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Rick Perry for the Secretary of Energy. While this batch of nominees is considered less controversial than some previous selections, Democrats are likely to continue using the maximum allotment of debate time in order to delay votes on each nominee.

In addition to another disapproval resolution to rescind an Obama-era rule, House lawmakers will consider a trio of bills targeting federal agencies’ latitude in crafting regulations. Those bills would require federal agencies to repeal existing regulations in order to offset the cost of any newly finalized rules, as well as creating a new “Retrospective Regulatory Review Commission” to recommend further regulatory repeals (H.R. 998); prevent federal agencies from using social media and other communications methods in order to attract public support for agency actions (H.R. 1004); and bar federal agencies from issuing any significant new rules without receiving input – including cost-benefit analyses – from the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) (H.R. 1009). The disapproval resolution (H.J. Res. 83) scheduled to be considered this week targets a record-keeping rule published by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would have required employers to maintain records on workplace injuries for five additional year.

The biggest event of the week will come in primetime as President Trump is scheduled to speak to a joint session of Congress tomorrow evening on his legislative priorities. While not a formal State of the Union address, political observers are hoping to see the President elaborate on the White House’s vision for big spending projects, most notably a major overhaul of the tax code and a federal infrastructure investment. Additionally, President Trump will be meeting with leaders from the health insurer industry today to discuss Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Trump called an “absolute and utter catastrophe” in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last Friday.

Five measures are on the House floor today under suspension of the rules, namely:

  • H.R. 88 – The Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act would add 2,100 acres to the Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee.
  • H.R. 228 – The Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act would modify a 1992 bill to give Indian tribes more flexibility in using federal funds for workforce assistance programs.
  • H.R. 699 – The Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act would expedite a land exchange agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and a ski resort near Mount Hood in Oregon.
  • H.R. 863 – This bill would allow the National Park Service to find an alternative location for the administrative facilities of the Coltsville National Historical Park in Connecticut.
  • H.R. 1033 – The Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act would require federal agencies to disclose the funds they use for legal costs and awards to individuals in administrative proceedings and create a publicly available database for that information.