Today on the Hill: Dems Hold Senate Floor over DeVos Opposition; House Votes on CRA Resolutions; Gorsuch to Meet Schumer

February 7, 2017

Democrats are using every tool at their disposal to prevent the one Cabinet nominee who has attracted some Republican opposition – Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos – from being confirmed on the Senate floor. The minority party kept the upper chamber in session throughout the night in an attempt to convince one additional Republican to oppose her confirmation. Lawmakers speaking against DeVos have cited concerns on her long history of supporting voucher programs and private schooling over the public system, as well as her shaky hearing performance where she appeared to be ambivalent on the Education Department’s regulations related to civil and disability rights. With Democrats united and Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also opposing DeVos, today’s final vote looks to be set for a 50-50 tie, meaning that Vice President Mike Pence will need to be on hand to cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of President Trump’s selection. Cloture has already been filed for the next Cabinet confirmation due to hit the Senate floor, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, who has also been the subject of intense criticism from many Democrats over his time as Alabama’s Attorney General and his role in crafting President Trump’s recent travel ban targeting certain Muslim-majority countries.  

The House is set to hold its final votes of the week this evening before Democrats head up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to their annual policy retreat in the Charm City tomorrow. The three resolutions on the floor today are all governed under the processes of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows for Congress to disapprove of certain executive regulations finalized in the last 60 days of the previous session. Specifically, the rules due for rollback include an Education Department standard that requires states to report more information on the effectiveness of their teacher preparation programs (H.J. Res. 58), another education rule that implements new standards related to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act that Republicans have accused of overreaching and diminishing the authority of local education leaders (H.J. Res. 57), and a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regulation that creates new opportunities for public input in BLM planning and centralizes the drafting of land use plans from various BLM field offices to officials in Washington (H.J. Res. 44).  

Away from the House and Senate floors, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is scheduled for an important meeting today with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in his office on Capitol Hill. The Democrat leader has been careful not to announce his stance on Gorsuch, but has insisted that the nominee will need to prove himself to be in the “mainstream” of legal thought. There will also be significant action in two House committees today; the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will be marking up two bills related to the Medicaid program, and the House Financial Services Committee will meet privately to plan its course of action on Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s proposal rolling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.