Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of December 19, 2016
Congressional Outlook

Week of December 19th

The House and Senate have adjourned for the remainder of the year, and will return for the first day of the new 115th Congress at noon on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017. On Monday, December 19, the 538 members of the U.S. Electoral College will cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in the 50 state capitals and the District of Columbia. These electoral votes will then be  officially counted on January 6th during a joint session of Congress, where the winner will be finalized prior to the January 20th Inauguration.
Congressional Republicans have a busy agenda for President-elect Donald Trump's first year in office. In addition to confirming Trump's Cabinet appointments, GOP leaders aim to repeal Obamacare, push through tax reform and pass a massive infrastructure package in the first few months of the 115th Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Republicans would begin preparations to repeal the Affordable Care Act when the Senate reconvenes on January 3rd. Republicans plan to adopt two budget resolutions next year, which would give them two shots at "reconciliation," which allows for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation which cannot be filibustered (i.e., it only needs a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate to pass). GOP leaders plan to use the first resolution to repeal Obamacare, and the second one to push through tax reform.

Congressional Republicans and President-elect Trump will also face a slew of tough budget and legislative deadlines next year. These deadlines include:  
  • February 6th, 2017: the deadline for the incoming Trump Administration to submit its FY 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which will outline his policy priorities. The Trump Administration is unlikely to meet that deadline (most new Presidents do not), but an outline of the Administration's FY 2018 budget proposal may appear sometime in February, followed by a more detailed version of the budget later in the year.
  • March 16th, 2017: the current debt-limit deal expires.It's the first time Congress will have to raise the $20 trillion debt ceiling since the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was enacted on November 2nd, 2015, which suspended the debt limit for more than a year.The Treasury Department will likely use "extraordinary measures" to push the deadline for raising the ceiling until at least mid-summer 2017.
  • April 15th, 2017: the statutory deadline for Congress to pass a concurrent federal budget resolution occurs. Republicans are indicating they'll pass two budget resolutions this year: one right out of the gate in January as a vehicle for repealing Obamacare, and another to focus on tax reform in the spring. In order to use reconciliation, Congress must pass a budget resolution first. 
  • April 28th, 2017: current funding for the federal government expires under the recently enacted Continuing Resolution (CR). Either another 155-day CR will need to be enacted, or an Omnibus, to fund the government through Sept. 30th.
  • September 30th, 2017: FY 2018 funding for the federal government needs to be enacted, either through separate appropriations bills, a CR, or an omnibus, in order to prevent a government shutdown from occurring.
  • September 30th, 2017: Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding ends, which provides states with funding to expand healthcare coverage to uninsured children ineligible for Medicaid.
  • September 30th, 2017: theNational Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is poised to expire after five years of being authorized under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
  • September 30th, 2017: authority for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization will expire.
  • December 31st, 2017: a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), known as Section 702, will expire.It allows intelligence agencies to collect data on foreigners outside of the U.S., though the National Security Agency (NSA) has acknowledged that it has collected information on Americans. 
While President Obama plans to spend his Christmas break in Hawaii, President-elect Trump plans to spend much of his holiday break at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Week in Review

President-elect Trump Announces Additional Cabinet members
President-elect Donald J. Trump announced several Cabinet-level and executive nominations over the past week, including:  
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation CEO Rex Tillerson, to serve as U.S. Secretary of State;
  • Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior;
  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy;
  • Retired Marine General John F. Kelly, to serve as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn, to serve as Director of the National Economic Council;
  • Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), to serve as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget;
  • Bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel;
  • Billionaire businessman Vincent "Vinnie" Viola, to serve as Secretary of the Army;
  • Retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, as Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council;
  • Fox News commentator Monica Crowley, as Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the National Security Council; and
  • Political operative Stephen Miller, to serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy. 
Additional nominations are expected to be made this week by President-elect Trump, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Trade Representative, and the Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 
President Obama Signs WIIN Act Into Law
On December 16th, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (S. 612) into law. The House passed the bill on December 8th by a vote of  360-61 and the Senate passed the bill on December 10th by a vote of 78-21 . The bill includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 and specific California and Western drought legislation. The WIIN Act WRDA provisions provide for harbor dredging and projects related to dams and locks around the country, as well as environmental restoration in the Everglades and Great Lakes, among other areas. It also authorizes $170 million in funding to aid Flint, Michigan with their water quality issues concerning lead in the drinking water, with the funding provided in the 140-day continuing resolution (CR) which was signed into law on December 10th. President Obama also said that the drought language in the WIIN Act was consistent with, and did not impinge on, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), an issue that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said was the reason she actively opposed the bill in the Senate. President Obama expressed support for longer-term provisions of the California measure as well. Those would promote water storage, flood control and desalination projects. A more detailed summary of the WIIN Act is available here . Read more...   
President Obama Signs 21st Century Cures Act Into Law
On December 13th, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act ( H.R. 34) into law. The House passed the bill on November 30th by a vote of  392-26 and the Senate passed the bill on December 7th by a vote of 94-5 . The bill modifies current medical research and drug development and delivery processes; reauthorizes the National Institutes of Health and a number of other HHS programs and activities, including the cancer "moonshot" initiative; funds State efforts to prevent and treat opioid abuse; makes changes to health and justice authorities with respect to mental health and substance use disorders; and makes a variety of updates with respect to Medicare, Medicaid, and health information technology. A more detailed summary of the 21st Century Cures Act is available here . Read more...
President Obama Signs Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 Into Law
On December 16th, President Obama signed the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016 ( S. 2577) into law. The House passed the bill by voice vote on November 29th while the Senate passed it by Unanimous Consent on December 1st. The bill would modify and reauthorize a variety of programs to aid crime victims, process and preserve evidence, test post-conviction DNA evidence, support crime laboratories and enhance training. The bill provides $56 million in funds to further reduce the national backlog of untested rape kits, provide housing protections for victims of domestic violence, expand forensic testing capabilities to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent, and address the training and equipment needs of our Nation's crime labs. Additionally, S. 2577 also requires the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist state and local governments to improve their indigent defense systems and ensure implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act. A more detailed summary of the bill is available  here . Read more...
President Obama Signs Additional Bills Into Law
On December 15th and 16th, President Obama Signed 69 additional bills into law, including:  
  • S. 1550, the "Program Management Improvement Accountability Act," which modifies federal project and program management by, among other provisions, creating agency Program Management Improvement Officers and an interagency Program Management Policy Council, establishing new Government-wide standards for program management and program management personnel, and placing additional responsibilities on the Office of Management and Budget to oversee management of Federal programs;
  • S. 1808, the "Northern Border Security Review Act," which requires the Department of Homeland Security to submit to specified Congressional committees a northern border threat analysis;
  • S. 1915, the "First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act," which requires the Department of Homeland Security to carry out a 5 year pilot program to make anthrax vaccines available to emergency response providers who are at high risk of exposure to anthrax and who voluntarily consent;
  • S. 2873, the "Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes (ECHO) Act," which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct studies and issue reports examining technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity building models;
  • S. 2974, which allows the Department of Health and Human Services to fund the national human trafficking hotline from appropriations made available to the Department to assist victims of trafficking;
  • S. 3183, the "Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act of 2016," which prohibits the circumvention of control measures used by Internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for certain events;
  • S. 3395, the "Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2016," which restricts the U.S. Forest Service from authorizing a prescribed burn on federal land;
  • H.R. 3784, the "SEC Small Business Advocate Act of 2016," which establishes, within the Securities and Exchange Commission, an Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and a Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee;
  • H.R. 4352, the "Faster Care for Veterans Act," which authorizes VA to conduct a pilot program to establish a patient self-scheduling appointment system;
  • H.R. 4465, the "Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act of 2016," which establishes an independent board to be known as the Public Buildings Reform Board to identify opportunities for the Government to reduce significantly its inventory of civilian real property and reduce costs to the Government;
  • H.R. 4680, the "National Park Service Centennial Act," which authorizes certain programs relating to the National Park Service and for other purposes;
  • H.R. 5015, the "Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016," which directs the Department of Defense to restore improper tax withholdings from individuals separated from service;
  • H.R. 5065, the "Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act," which requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to notify air carriers and airport security personnel of TSA's guidelines regarding permitting baby formula, breast milk, and juice on airplanes; 
  • H.R. 5687, the "GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2016," which eliminates or modifies reporting requirements of the Government Accountability Office;
  • H.R. 6014, which authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enter into a reimbursable agreement with a State or local government agency to carry out certain projects at an airport for which notice to the FAA is required by Federal regulation;
  • H.R. 6416, the "Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016," which amends Department of Veterans Affairs authorities related to:  (1) health care; (2) homelessness matters; (3) educational assistance and vocational rehabilitation; (4) disability compensation and claims appeals; (5) small business and employment matters; (6) burial and memorial affairs; and (7) construction reforms;
  • H.R. 6450, the "Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016," which modifies the authorities and responsibilities of agency Inspectors General and the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency by, among other provisions:  (1) granting timely access to agency information and federal grand jury materials; (2) requiring the Council to resolve jurisdictional disputes between Inspectors General; (3) adjusting the membership and procedures of the Council's Integrity Committee; (4) requiring additional reporting information to the Congress on investigations; (5) expanding certain agencies' authority to restrict access to information to protect national security or interests; and (6) exempting Inspector General investigations from certain statutes;
  • S. 546, the "Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation(RESPONSE) Act of 2016," which establishes the Railroad Emergency Services Preparedness, Operational Needs, and Safety Evaluation Subcommittee under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Advisory Council to provide recommendations on emergency responder training and resources relating to hazardous materials incidents involving railroads;
  • S. 2854, the "Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016," which reauthorizes the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act and expands it to apply to certain civil rights crimes that occurred before 1980;
  • S. 2971, the "National Urban Search and Rescue Response System Act of 2016," which authorizes in statute the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Urban Search and Rescue Response System; and
  • H.R. 6452, the "Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act," which implements two international fisheries conventions related to the Pacific Ocean.
Congressional Schedule

There are no scheduled hearings this week as the House and Senate are in recess.