Today on the Hill: Congress Continues Regulatory Rollback, Cabinet Confirmation Process

The week will bring a sense of déjà vu to Washington as the House lines up another series of resolutions taking aim at Obama-era agency regulations and the Senate plods through the confirmation process for more of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Under the powers of the Congressional Review Act, the House plans votes to walk back five separate rules related to: (1) drug testing of certain unemployment compensation applicants (H.J. Res. 42); (2) a predator hunting rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (H.J. Res. 69); (3) federal funding of family planning services (H.J. Res. 43); (4) auto-enrolling employees in state-run retirement plans (H.J. Res. 66); and (5) allowing large cities and counties to set up auto-enrollment retirement savings programs (H.J. Res. 67). The family planning resolution is a part of Republicans’ continued effort to drain federal funding from the health organization and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, with the measure specifically undoing an Obama Administration rule that prohibited states from denying Planned Parenthood funding for non-abortion medical services.

The Senate returns today for a fourth straight week of partisan debates over President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominations, with a vote planned today on Treasury Secretary-designee Steven Mnuchin. Later in the week, the upper chamber will turn to David Shulkin’s nomination to be Veterans’ Affairs secretary and then to Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick to lead the Small Business Administration. Also waiting in the wings for confirmation are two Republican congressmen, Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Trump’s pick to lead the Department of the Interior. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) awaits confirmation to head the Energy Department, as does Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats have stretched out debate on many of Trump’s Cabinet choices, requiring procedural votes and overnight debate before Republicans could confirm them along party lines.

In significant committee action, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear in front of Congress for the first time since President Trump took office last month. In appearances for the Senate Banking Committee tomorrow and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, the Fed Chair is likely to face tight scrutiny on her role in regulating the financial industry and her opinions on the various options proposed by Republicans to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Additionally, two significant nominees will have confirmation hearings this week: fast food executive and Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator nominee Seema Verma. Puzder is scheduled to have his long-awaited confirmation hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Thursday, while Verma will appear before the Senate Finance Committee that same day.

Ahead of their work rolling back regulations, the House has four veterans bills to consider under suspension of the rules today, namely:

  • H.R. 609 – A bill to designate a Department of Veterans’ Affairs clinic in Pennsylvania after World War II veteran Abie Abraham.
  • H.R. 512 – The Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now (WINGMAN) Act would authorize congressional staffers to access veterans’ claims information to allow for better services in making requests to federal agencies.
  • H.R. 244 – The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) Veterans Act would make employers that hire a significant number of veterans eligible for awards from the Labor Department.
  • H.R. 974 – The Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment (BRAVE) Act would allow the Veterans’ Affairs Department to give procurement preferences to contractors that employ veterans when awarding contracts.