Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of December 21, 2015
  
Congressional Outlook

Week of January 4th 

The House is in session this week while the Senate is in recess until Monday, January 11. The House will first vote on the "Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015" ( H.R. 3762 ), which would repeal key portions of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood for one year, which the Senate passed on December 3 by a vote of 52-47 and which President Obama has already threatened to veto. Congressional Republicans intend to schedule a veto override vote for H.R. 3762 on January 22, when anti-abortion activists hold their annual march in Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Additionally, the House will vote on the following three bills: the "Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act of 2015" ( H.R. 1155 ), which would create a federal commission to identify government regulations that should be rescinded  because they impose too great an economic cost ; the "Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2015" ( H.R. 712 ), which would require federal agencies to publish any proposed consent decree or settlement two months ahead of time and also submit monthly reports on the nature and cost of upcoming rule makings; and the "Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015" ( H.R. 1927 ), which would limit class-action litigation by making it harder for individual plaintiffs suing companies to get court approval to band together to press their claims.
 
The biggest legislative fights of 2016 in Congress will likely be over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Puerto Rico's debt crisis, criminal justice reform, mega-mergers, and environmental regulations, including the "Waters of the U.S." rule, the Clean Power Plan, and new ozone and methane emissions standards. Additionally, Congressional leaders in both parties say they want to do something this year that hasn't happened in decades - separately pass each of the 12 bills that comprise the federal appropriations process under "regular order." Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has also said he wants the GOP conference to put forward some kind of tax reform proposal, perhaps to the international portion of the code, and also wants lawmakers to deliver a robust Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Additional policy fights set to erupt in 2016 include Syrian refugees, closing GuantanĂ¡mo Bay, fighting ISIS, and gun control. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated that goals for his final year in office include raising the minimum wage, revisiting the visa waiver program, and finding funding for transportation projects.    
 
President Obama is expected to unveil a push for gun control later this week. He will meet on Monday with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss executive action on gun control, and he's scheduled to speak on gun violence at a town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia on Thursday entitled "Guns in America." President Obama will deliver his seventh and final State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 12.
Week in Review

President Obama Signs Two Bills Into Law

On December 28, President Obama signed the following two bills into law:
  • H.R. 1321, the "Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015," which prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads; and
  • S. 2425, the "Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act," which makes changes to Medicare payments for certain complex rehabilitation technology and radiation therapy services, provide flexibility in applying a hardship exception from meaningful use of electronic health records, and improve Medicare and Medicaid program integrity.
President Obama Vetoes Resolutions Striking Down EPA Climate Rules
 
On December 18, President Obama vetoed S.J. Res. 23 and S. J. Res. 24, which would nullify the EPA's greenhouse-gas emission rule for new, modified or rebuilt power plants and the EPA's emission standards for existing power plants, respectively, under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch. The House voted 235-188 on Dec. 1 and the Senate voted 52-46 on Nov. 17 to pass S.J. Res. 23, while the House voted 242-180  on Dec. 1 and the Senate voted 52-46 on Nov. 17 to pass S.J. Res. 24. The decision was widely expected; President Obama and his staff have repeatedly threatened to veto the resolutions (see here and here) as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.The White House announced on Dec. 19, as President Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he was formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a "pocket veto" under the law. In addition to the veto, President Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them. President Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation in his seven years in office, including five in 2015, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress. Because President Obama pocket vetoed the two resolutions, the House and Senate cannot attempt to override his veto on the two measures.  Read more...
Congressional Schedule

Tuesday, January 5
  • House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R. 712, the "Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2015"; H.R. 1155, the "Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act of 2015"; and H.R. 3762, the "Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015"      
Wednesday, January 6
  • House Rules Committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R. 1927, the "Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015".
  • House Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process legislative hearing on H.R. 1610, the "Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2015."
  • House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing entitled "Army Fee Assistance Program: Part II."
  • Full House Small Business Committee hearing entitled "Attention Needed: Mismanagement at the SBA-The GAO Findings."
Thursday, January 7
  • Full House Foreign Affairs Committee markup of H.R. 1797, the "End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act"; H.R. 3662, the "Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act"; and H.R. ____, the "Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2015."
  • Full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Document Production Status Update."
  • Full House Small Business Committee hearing entitled "Attention Needed: Mismanagement at the SBA-The Administrator Responds." 
Friday, January 8
  • Full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Treasury Oversight of TARP's Hardest Hit Fund."
  • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittees on Research and Technology & Oversight joint hearing entitled "Cyber Security: What the Federal Government Can Learn from the Private Sector."