Today on the Hill: Puzder Withdraws, Mulvaney Due for Close Vote; House Targets Planned Parenthood, Hunting Rules

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The White House suffered its first casualty in the Cabinet confirmation process yesterday after Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder withdrew his name for consideration due to mounting opposition within the Republican caucus. As many as 11 Republican senators were reportedly on the fence about voting for the fast food executive, and given united Democratic opposition, it is unlikely that he would have survived a vote on the Senate floor. Puzder was the only Cabinet-level official who had yet to appear in front of a Senate panel and was always considered a troublesome pick given past controversies in his personal and professional life. President Trump will now need to submit a new name for the Labor post, with former National Labor Relations Board members Peter Kirsanow and R. Alexander Acosta reportedly leading the early list of candidates.

While his nomination is not considered to be in danger, Mick Mulvaney – nominee for Director of the Office of Management and Budget – is set to be confirmed on a razor-thin margin this morning. The South Carolina Congressman has attracted opposition over his staunch belief in drastically slashing government spending, including for the military, which has led Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to oppose his confirmation. As it stands, Mulvaney will likely go through on a 51-49 vote, although Republicans can afford one more defection and rely on Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie. A vote to invoke cloture on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled for after the Mulvaney vote.

The House will close out its legislative work for the week by tackling two additional Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions, dealing with family planning funding and hunting rules. The family planning resolution (H.J. Res. 43)  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 wildlife resolution (H.J. Res. 69) will undo rules that bar predator population-control hunting on national wildlife refuges in Alaska and restricts other game hunting in the state.

Finally, in health care news, the nominee to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), health care consulting executive Seema Verma, will appear before the Senate Finance Committee today for her confirmation hearing. Verma’s views on the Medicaid program, which she has called “dysfunctional,”  will be a particular point of concern for Democrats on the committee, in addition to her broader perspective on the ongoing debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a separate development, Republican leaders are planning to present a plan today for replacing the Medicaid expansion piece of the ACA.