Today on the Hill: Cures Set for House Vote, White House Announces Support; Trump Makes Picks for Treasury, Commerce, Transportation

November 30, 2016

A long-awaited vote on the medical innovation measure known as the 21st Century Cures Act is on the agenda for the lower chamber today. The package, which will be included on an unrelated legislative vehicle (H.R. 34), aims to address opioid addiction, improve mental health programs, make changes to Medicare, and invest significantly in health research through the National Institutes of Health and other bodies. While some lawmakers in the Senate had voiced concerns on the package earlier this week, it is expected to be passed comfortably in the House. Moreover, the bill marks a rare instance of overlap in policy between the House and the Obama Administration, with the White House issuing a statement of administration policy today strongly supporting the bill. The attached TRP note from Monday breaks down what is included in the massive health package.    

The House also has a slate of thirteen suspension bills to vote on today, plus one holdover from the measures considered yesterday. One of the measures to be voted on today (H.R. 6393) would reauthorize intelligence programs and make policy changes challenging Russia, including restricting the travel of Russian diplomats in the United States and creating an inter-agency committee dedicated to countering Russia’s “covert influence” in the U.S. and abroad. Russia, whose relationship with the West has deteriorated due to armed conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, has threatened to retaliate in-kind on American diplomats in Moscow. Other issues covered by the suspension bills include raising the cap on overtime pay for Secret Service agents (H.R. 6302), protecting federal whistleblowers from retaliation (H.R. 6186), and the bill originally slated to be considered yesterday that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to notify students about transferring coursework credit when changing schools (H.R. 5047).

Additionally, House Democrats will be meeting this morning to vote in their leadership elections, with current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) facing a challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan to take the top spot for Democrats. Despite Democrats’ electoral challenges, Pelosi is expected to retain her position as the party’s leader in the lower chamber.

While no votes are officially scheduled in the Senate today, lawmakers have reached an agreement to vote at a time determined by the chamber’s leaders on an Iran sanctions bill (H.R. 6297). The measure – which passed in the House on a 419-1 margin – would authorize the White House to extend sanctions related to Iran’s energy sector for 10 years, through Dec. 31, 2026. However, it requires action from the President and would not immediately undermine the nuclear deal struck with Tehran last year.  

Finally, President-elect Trump’s transition team has kicked into a higher gear, naming three cabinet officials yesterday, namely for Transportation, Treasury, and Commerce. Specifically, the picks are: Elaine Chao, who was Labor Secretary in the Bush Administration and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for the Department of Transportation; Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and film producer, to head the Treasury Department; and Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor and banker, for the Department of Commerce.