Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of November 13, 2017
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 12 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017 (H.R. 4174), which would require federal agencies to make more data available to the public in an open, free, and unrestricted format, and would require agencies to develop evidence-based policies and share statistical information while protecting confidentiality. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Conference Report to accompany the $700 billion FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810); the 21st Century Flood Reform Act (H.R. 2874), which would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through FY 2022, limit future coverage and discounts for high-risk properties, modify premiums and surcharges paid by policyholders, expand opportunities for private insurers to sell policies, offer assistance to low-income households, and authorize funding for flood mitigation assistance; and, finally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), the tax reform bill which would lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, collapse seven individual income-rate brackets into four, and alter or eliminate dozens of current tax deductions.
 
The Senate will vote on several nominations this week, including: Derek Kan to be Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy; Stephen Bradbury to be General Counsel to the Department of Transportation; David Zatezalo to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health; Joseph Otting to be Comptroller of the Currency at the Department of the Treasury; Donald Coggins Jr. to be U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina; and Dabney Freidrich to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia. The Senate may also consider the Conference Report to accompany the $700 billion FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810), after the House likely passes it on Tuesday.
 
The Senate Finance Committee will begin marking up their own version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Monday, with the multi-day markup likely concluding on Wednesday or Thursday, and a floor vote the week of November 27. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch's (R-UT) mark of the bill contains a number of differences from the bill headed to the House floor this week. Unlike the House bill, which would immediately lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, the Senate draft would delay the reduced rate until Jan. 1, 2019. Additionally, the Senate draft would keep seven income tax brackets while the House bill reduces it to four. As an alternative to the House's outright repeal of the inheritance tax, the Senate proposal would double the exclusion from taxation estates valued up to $5.49 million for individuals and up to $10.98 million for married couples. Other major differences include: the House version would wipe out the deduction for medical expenses while the Senate draft would retain it; the House version would cap the state and local property tax deduction at $10,000/year while the Senate draft would completely eliminate all state and local tax deductions (SALT); the House version would reduce the mortgage interest deduction to $500,000 while the Senate draft would keep it at the current level of $1 million; and the House and Senate versions treat "pass through" companies (i.e., sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and S-Corporations) differently.
 
President Trump ends his Asia trip this week by attending the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Philippines on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, Trump will make a ' major' announcement on trade at the White House upon returning from his Asia trip. The announcement will detail Trump's discussions with world leaders during his 12-day, five-country tour of Asia. 
Week in Review

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
 
On November 9, the House Ways and Means Committee favorably reported to the full House, by a party-line vote of 24-16, the amended 447-page version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act ( H.R. 1; summary available here). The $1.5 trillion legislation lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent; collapses seven individual income-rate brackets into four (12%, 25%, 35%, and 39.6%); and either altering or eliminating many current tax deductions, including capping the Home Interest Mortgage Interest Deduction at $500,000 instead of $1 million and eliminating the following deductions and tax credits: State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction; Private Activity Bonds deduction; New Markets Tax Credit; Work Opportunity Tax Credit; Rehabilitation Credit for Historic Buildings Tax Credit; advance refunding bonds; and tax credit bonds. Leading up to the final vote, the Committee's GOP majority rejected 25 amendments offered by Democrats over the course of four days, while approving two manager's amendments (see here and here) from Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). The House Rules Committee is scheduled to move the bill on Wednesday and the House will likely vote on the bill on Thursday. The Senate Finance Committee is marking up its own version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act from Monday-Thursday, and the full Senate is likely to vote on that bill during the week of November 27. House and Senate Republicans' goal is to have a bill to President Trump's desk by the end of 2017. Read more...
House Passes Save Local Business Act
 
On November 7, the House passed, by a vote of 242-181, the Save Local Business Act ( H.R. 3441), which would overturn an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that made companies potentially liable for labor law violations committed by their subcontractors.Republicans say the activist labor board under the Obama Administration created massive confusion when it ruled in 2015 that an employer is considered a joint employer with a subcontractor if it has "indirect" control over the terms and conditions of employment or has the "reserved authority to do so." The bill would change that definition under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act to state a company is only considered a joint employer if it "directly, actually and immediately" has control over essential terms and conditions of employment Read more...
House Passes Hydropower Policy Modernization Act
 
On November 8, the House passed, by a vote of 257-166, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 ( H.R. 3043), which aims to speed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) regulatory approval process for hydropower projects by designating FERC as the lead agency to coordinate the licensing process. The bill would streamline the hydropower relicensing process by allowing FERC to extend preliminary 4-year permits for hydropower projects and require FERC to establish a process for setting a schedule for a licensing review. The bill would also modify the federal definition of renewable energy to include hydroelectric energy.  The bill also contains a provision that requires federal resource agencies to not only consider their respective missions to protect clean water or species from going extinct, but also to require them to give equal consideration to energy supply, navigation, flood control, and air quality. Another provision takes away the authority of regional offices of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Interior by preventing the Secretaries of those respective agencies from delegating authority to them. The House considered four amendments to the bill, adopting three and rejecting one. Read more...
House Passes Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act
 
On November 9, the House passed, by a vote of 232-188, the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act ( H.R. 2201), which would  exempt small securities offerings sold to a limited number of investors from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission registration requirements and state securities laws. The bill would weaken investor protections by creating a new exemption that would enable the sale of micro-cap offerings (those involving sales of securities valued at $500,000 or less in a single year). The bill would limit the total number of investors in the sale of micro-cap offerings to thirty five or fewer purchasers and only requires that investors have a "pre-existing relationship" with an officer, director, or major shareholder of the issuer. The bill would also allow unregistered securities purchased under the exemption to not be characterized as "restricted," and could thus be immediately sold to other investors. The House adopted one amendment to the bill. Read more...
Senate Confirms 22 Trump Administration Nominees
 
Last week, the Senate confirmed the following four nominees by recorded vote:  
  • Steven Engel to be Assistant Attorney General, by a vote of 51-47;
  • John Gibson to be Deputy Chief Management Officer of the Department of Defense, by a vote of 91-7;
  • Peter Robb to be General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board for a term of four years, by a vote of 49-46; and
  • William Wehrum to be an EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, by a vote of 49-47. 
The Senate also approved, by Unanimous Consent, 18 other Trump Administration nominees:  
  • David Redl to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce;
  • Melissa Glynn to be an Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Enterprise Integration;
  • Cheryl Mason to be Chairman of the Board of Veterans' Appeals for a term of six years;
  • Randy Reeves to be Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorial Affairs;
  • Robert Duncan, Jr. to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky;
  • Charles Peeler to be U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia;
  • Bryan Schroder to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska;
  • Scott Blader to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin;
  • John Lausch, Jr. to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois;
  • J. Douglas Overbey to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee;
  • Mark Klaassen to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming;
  • William Lamar to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi;
  • John Bash to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas;
  • Erin Cox to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas;
  • R. Andrew Murray to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina;
  • Matthew Martin to be U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina;
  • Christine Nolan to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont; and
  • Peter Hoekstra to be U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands.
Senate Passes 11 Bills by Unanimous Consent
 
Last week, the Senate passed the following 11 bills by Unanimous Consent:  
  • H.R. 1370: Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act of 2017;
  • H.R. 3031: TSP Modernization Act of 2017;
  • S. 1088: Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2017;
  • S. 1015: National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2017;
  • H.R. 3243: FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017;
  • H.R. 194: Federal Agency Mail Management Act of 2017;
  • S. 906: Reducing DHS Acquisition Cost Growth Act;
  • S. 886: DHS Acquisition Review Board Act of 2017;
  • S. 1266: Enhancing Veteran Care Act;
  • S. 1153: Veterans Acquiring Community Care Expect Safe Services (ACCESS) Act; and
  • S. 324: State Veterans Home Adult Day Health Care Improvement Act of 2017.