Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of September 11, 2017
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will consider 12 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017 (H.R. 3284), which would formally authorize FEMA to hold counterterrorism workshops with state and local officials. The House will complete consideration of the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 3354), which contains the FY 2018 Interior-Environment, Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD Appropriations bills. Before taking a final vote on the minibus appropriations bill, the House will also consider 149 additional amendments to the Interior-Environment, Commerce-Justice-Science, Labor-HHS-Education, and Financial Services-General Government divisions of the bill. The House will also vote on the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act (H.R. 3697), which would bar criminal gang members from coming to the U.S., deport foreigners who are gang members and participate in criminal activities, and would ensure that such individuals are ineligible for immigration benefits, such as asylum, special immigrant juvenile status, and temporary protected status.     
 
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810) this week, which the House passed on July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Senators face several policy minefields, including strategies for Afghanistan and North Korea's nuclear threat as well a possible new round of military base closures. An effort to stall President Trump's order to bar transgender persons from serving in the military also could be part of the debate.
Week in Review

President Trump Signs 10-Week Continuing Resolution Into Law
 
On September 8, President Trump signed the "Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017" (H.R. 601) into law; a summary is available here. The Senate passed the bill on Sept. 7 by a vote of 80-17 and the House passed it on Sept. 8 by a vote of 316-90. The bill was brokered between President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to fund the federal government at enacted FY 2017 levels for ten weeks, through Friday, December 8, 2017. With FY 2017 funding elapsing on September 30, Congress needed to pass a funding bill by that date in order to avert a government shutdown beginning Oct. 1.
 
In addition to the government funding aspect of the Continuing Resolution (CR), there are other important components of the legislation:  
  • Temporarily suspends the federal statutory debt limit through December 8, 2017, in order to avoid a federal default which would have taken place on Sept. 29;
  • Provides $15.25 billion in emergency supplemental funding for Texas and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, including $7.4 billion for FEMA, $450 million for the Small Business Administration's Disaster Loans Program, and $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding;
  • Authorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through December 8, 2017 (was set to expire on Sept. 30);
  • Extends authority for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide emergency drought assistance from prior year appropriations through the expiration of the CR;
  • Allows the Disaster Relief Fund spending flexibility to accommodate Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and other ongoing disaster response efforts; and
  • Provides, through the duration of the CR, a higher rate for operations to cover costs associated with ongoing water infrastructure projects. 
Two vital pieces of legislation that must also be enacted by the end of September, but which were omitted from the CR include: extensions of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) authority to operate and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Without congressional action by Sept. 30, the FAA would be unable to collect and use fees, while CHIP would no longer be able to provide insurance for an estimated 9 million children. The FAA is likely to get a simple extension in the coming weeks. The House first is attempting to pass a bill from House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) that would privatize air traffic control. On health insurance, the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday they are trying to craft a either a bipartisan long-term re-authorization of the program or a long-term extension. Because the FAA and CHIP are considered "must-pass" this month, lawmakers may use the occasion to attach other unrelated items to them. One possibility is a bill aimed at stabilizing Affordable Care Act insurance markets.
 
President Trump Announces DACA Rescission in Six Months
 
On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by the Obama Administration on June 15, 2012 with the issuance of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum entitled "Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children," will be rescinded, as well as any related memoranda or guidance, beginning March 5, 2018. The DACA program currently allows nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. The six-month delay of the rescission of the DACA program will provide Congress an opportunity to consider appropriate legislative solutions creating a program similar to DACA, however, there is no guarantee that the House and Senate will be able to pass such legislation by the March 5 deadline. Additional details on the DACA rescission are available from the Department of Homeland Security. Read more...
House Begins Consideration of FY 2018 Minibus Appropriations Bill
 
During September 6-8, the House considered 160 amendments (see here and here) to the Agriculture-Rural Development, Transportation-HUD, Homeland Security, State-Foreign Operations, and Interior-Environment divisions of the FY 2018 Appropriations minibus bill, approving 118 amendments and rejecting 42 amendments. Before taking a final vote on the minibus appropriations bill this week, the House will also consider 149 additional amendments to the Interior-Environment, Commerce-Justice-Science, Labor-HHS-Education, and Financial Services-General Government divisions of the bill. The text of all the amendments may be found here.
U.S. Court of Appeals Rejects Trump Administration's Bid to Bar Most Refugees
 
On September 7, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit  rejected the Trump Administration's effort to temporarily bar most refugees from entering the country, ruling that those who have relationships with a resettlement agency should be exempt from the Executive Order 13780, signed on March 6, banning refugees. The panel also ruled that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of legal U.S. residents should be exempted from President Trump's order, which banned travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. The ruling is the latest legal blow to the President's sweeping executive order barring travelers from Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, which the Republican president said was necessary for national security. The Justices said that the government did not persuasively explain why the travel ban should be enforced against close relatives of people from the six countries or refugees with guarantees from resettlement agencies. The 3-0 ruling was scheduled to take effect on September 12; however, on Sept. 11, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy put a temporary hold on limits imposed by the 9th Circuit panel's ruling. Kennedy's action gives the full Supreme Court time to consider the merits of the Trump administration's emergency request in full. The broader question of whether the revised travel ban discriminates against Muslims in violation of the U.S. Constitution will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in October. Read more...
House Passes SELF DRIVE Act
 
On September 6, the House passed, by voice vote, the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act ( H.R. 3388), which would designate the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as the federal agency responsible for regulating self-driving car safety and would allow NHTSA regulations to preempt all state and local laws in this area. The legislation is the first bill passed at the federal level to address self-driving technology. Read more...
Senate Passes SMASH Act
 
On September 6, the Senate passed, by voice vote, the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act ( S. 849), which would help give states and localities the tools they need to fight back against mosquitos and the viruses they carry. The bill would reauthorize critical public health tools that support states and localities in their mosquito surveillance and control efforts, especially those linked to mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, and improve the nation's preparedness for Zika and other mosquito-borne threats like West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis ("triple-e") virus. The legislation has been endorsed by the National Pest Management Association, the American Mosquito Control Association, the Entomological Society of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration. Read more...
Trump Announces Nominations to Administrative Posts
 
Last week, the White House announced that 66 nominations had been sent to the Senate for consideration, including:  
  • Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration;
  • Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) to be Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; 
  • David Ross to be an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water; 
  • Matthew Leopold to be an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Counsel; 
  • William Wehrum to be an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Air and Radiation;
  • Margaret Weichert to be Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget;
  • Thomas Modly to be Under Secretary of the Navy; 
  • Emily Murphy to be Administrator of General Services; 
  • Timothy Gallaudet to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere; 
  • Gregory Ibach to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs; 
  • Stephen Vaden to be General Counsel, Department of Agriculture;
  • Bruce Walker to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy, Electricity, Delivery and Energy Reliability; 
  • Steven Winberg to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy, Fossil Energy;
  • William Northey to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm Production and Conservation; 
  • Suzanne Tufts to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Administration;
  • Jeffery Baran to be a Member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the term of five years expiring June 30, 2023 (reappointment);
  • John Demers to be an Assistant Attorney General;
  • Dean Winslow to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense;
  • Katherine McGuire to be an Assistant Secretary of Labor;
  • Jeff Tien Han Pon to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management for a term of four years; and
  • Randy Reeves to be Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorial Affairs 
Trump also announced his intent to nominate six individual last week, including:
  • James Geurts to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development and Acquisition;
  • Manisha Singh to be Assistant Secretary of State, Economic and Business Affairs;
  • Howard Elliott to be Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation; and
  • Paul Trombino III to be the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation.