Weekly Legislative Update
Week of March 12, 2018
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider
under suspension of the rules, including the Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 4465), which would extend endangered fish recovery programs in the Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins through Sept. 30, 2023; the Right to Try Act of 2018, which would improve access to experimental treatments for patients with terminal diseases or conditions; the Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018 (H.R. 4909), which would reauthorize DOJ's Secure Our Schools program at $75 million annually for FYs 2019-2028; and the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3249), which would formally establish a DOJ grant program, Project Safe Neighborhoods, to combat gun and gang violence and authorize $50 million annually from FYs 2018-2020 for the program. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on three financial services-related bills: the Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk (TAILOR) Act of 2017 (H.R. 1116), which would require federal regulators to tailor the rules they issue to the risk profile and business models of the banks that they oversee; the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act (H.R. 4545), which would give large financial institutions a chance to appeal adverse findings of bank examiners; and the Regulation A+ Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 4263), which would allow companies to raise as much as $75 million a year from securities sold to the public with limited registration and disclosure requirements, a $25 million increase to the current threshold.
The Senate will resume consideration of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155), which would roll back several Dodd-Frank Act regulations for small and medium-sized banks. The Senate will consider a manager's amendment from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID), which would clarify that foreign banks with more than $100 billion in consolidated U.S. assets would still be subject to stricter Federal Reserve oversight. Senate leaders are also trying to negotiate a package of amendments; each party would have the chance to offer amendments for floor consideration, likely with 60-vote thresholds for adoption. Crapo has said top Republican amendments include one to authorize a comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve System and one to place funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under annual congressional appropriations. The Senate will also vote on the nomination of Kevin McAleenan to be Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Senate may also vote on a resolution (S.J. Res. 54) directing the removal of U.S. Armed Forces from ongoing hostilities in Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress, under a provision of the 1973 War Powers Act.
House and Senate negotiators are still trying to complete an agreement on a must-pass $1.2 trillion spending measure to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2018. Current stopgap spending runs through Friday, March 23, giving lawmakers less than two weeks to pass a bill. Negotiators are trying to resolve disputes over various policy riders, including a Republican proposal to curb funding of Planned Parenthood, that have held up agreement on the bill. The House may vote on the FY18 omnibus this Friday if the bill is publicly filed and finalized by the middle of this week, with Senate consideration during the week of March 19.
On Monday, President Trump will host and meet with the 2017 world champion Houston Astros. On Tuesday, Trump travels to San Diego, California to view eight U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes constructed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. On Wednesday, Trump travels to Boeing's St. Louis, Missouri plant to talk about tax cuts and economic growth. On Thursday, Trump will host the Prime Minister of Ireland at the White House and then head to the U.S. Capitol for the annual St. Patrick's Day lunch.
On Tuesday, voters in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District will vote in a special House election, as a result of former Rep. Tim Murphy's (R-PA) resignation on October 21, 2017. Republican state legislator Rick Saccone is running against Democratic former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb.
Trump Signs Steel and Aluminum Tariff Proclamations
On March 8, President Trump
two Presidential Proclamations ordering tariffs of
25 percent on steel imports
10 percent on aluminum imports
. All countries affected were invited to negotiate for exemptions if they can address the threat their exports pose to the United States. Trump signed the proclamations under
of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which provides the President with the authority to adjust imports being brought into the U.S. in quantities or under circumstances that threaten to impair national security. Canada and Mexico are exempted from the tariffs as a "special case" while negotiating changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The tariffs will go into effect beginning March 23, 2018.
Trump Signs Three Bills Into Law
On March 9, President Trump
the following three bills into law:
- Public Law 115-130, which requires the VA to report on the progress of an initiative to improve processing of certain veterans' claims for disability benefits;
- Public Law 115-131, the "Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017," which requires the VA to publish on its Internet website a warning about certain financial and legal practices that could alter a veteran's eligibility for benefits; and
- Public Law 115-132, which designates the health care system of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Lexington, Kentucky, as the Lexington VA Health Care System and makes certain other designations.
Senate Democrats Unveil $1 Trillion Infrastructure Proposal
On March 7, Senate Democrats released their own 37-page "
Jobs & Infrastructure Plan for America's Workers
," which consists of a little over $1 trillion dollars in spending on transportation, housing health, education, broadband, etc. While the current Senate Republican majority will very likely not consider the proposal, it provides a blueprint for Senate Democrats' priorities for infrastructure moving forward.
House Passes FCC Reauthorization and Broadband Spectrum Bill
On March 6, the House passed, by voice vote, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (RAY BAUM'S) Act of 2018 (
), which would reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission for FYs 2019 and 2020 at $333.1 million annually and includes key provisions from the Senate-approved
Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (
MOBILE NOW) Act (
) to boost the development of next generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more spectrum-both licensed and unlicensed-for private sector use.
House Passes Comprehensive Regulatory Review Act
On March 6, the House passed, by a vote of
, the Comprehensive Regulatory Review Act (
), which would require the federal banking regulators (i.e., the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) to complete a review, once every seven years (instead of the current 10 years), of all the regulations they have issued and identify outdated or unnecessary regulations on banks and credit unions.
House Passes Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act
On March 7, the House passed, by a vote of
, the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2017 (
), which would
prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing two 2015 final Clean Air Act rules governing the emissions of air pollutants: the Brick and Structural Clay Products rule and the final Clay Ceramics Manufacturing rule (known as the Brick and Clay MACTs). The bill would delay implementation of these rules until ligation related to the rules is completed, "judgment becomes final, and (is) no longer subject to further appeal or review."
House Passes SENSE Act
On March 8, the House passed, by a vote of
, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act (
), which would allow existing electric power plants that convert coal refuse into energy to increase their air pollution emissions under the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), resulting in the emission of more sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere. The bill blocks the EPA from ever strengthening
Maximum Achievable Control Technology (
MACT) standards for waste coal plants, even if future technology could better control their toxic pollution.
Senate Passes Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act
On March 7, the Senate passed, by voice vote, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 (
), which would create partnerships between private-sector innovators in nuclear energy with government researchers to create the next generation of clean, advanced nuclear power. The bill would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize partnering with private innovators to test and demonstrate advanced reactor concepts. The measure authorizes the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of the National Labs and DOE to enable the construction of experimental reactors.
Trump Signs Executive Order on Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry
On March 7, President Trump signed
Executive Order (E.O.) 13826
entitled "Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry." The E.O. creates a new Council, co-chaired by Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Andrew Bremberg, with the aim of reducing crime while looking for ways to "provide those who have engaged in criminal activity with greater opportunities to lead productive lives." The E.O. asks for a report from the Council within 90 days that will outline a timeline for ways to reduce crime and recidivism.
Senate Confirms 12 Trump Administration Nominees
During the week of March 5, the Senate confirmed the following three Trump Administration judicial nominees by recorded vote:
- Karen Scholer to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, by a vote of 95-0;
- Tilman "Tripp" Self III to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia, by a vote of 85-11; and
- Terry Doughty to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana, by a vote of 98-0.
The Senate also confirmed nine nominees by voice vote:
- Jeffrey Gerrish to be a Deputy U.S. Trade Representative (Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Industrial Competitiveness);
- Michael Rigas to be Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management;
- Jeff Tien Han Pon to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management;
- McGregor W. Scott to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California;
- Billy Williams to be U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon;
- Gary Schofield to be U.S. Marshal for the District of Nevada;
- Mark James to be U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Missouri;
- Daniel Mosteller to be U.S. Marshal for the District of South Dakota; and
- Jesse Seroyer, Jr. to be U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Alabama.
Trump Sends Seven Nominations to Senate and Announces Intent to Nominate 13 Individuals to Key Administrative Posts
On March 6, President Trump formally sent seven nominations to the Senate for consideration, including:
- James Campos to be Director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact, Department of Energy;
- Michael Desmond to be Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and an Assistant General Counsel in the Department of the Treasury;
- Patrick Fuchs to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board for the term of five years;
- Jon Peede to be Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities for a term of four years;
- Lisa Porter be a Deputy Under Secretary of Defense;
- Michelle Schultz to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board for the term of five years; and
- Peter Wright to be Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste, Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump also announced his intent to nominate 13 individuals to positions in the Trump Administration during the week of March 5, including:
- Kimberly Breier to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs);
- Dallas Carlson to be U.S. Marshal for the District of North Dakota;
- Sonya Chavez to be U.S. Marshal for the District of New Mexico;
- Gregory Forest to be U.S. Marshal for the Western District of North Carolina;
- Brendan Heffner to be U.S. Marshal for the Central District of Illinois;
- Bradley Maxwell to be U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Illinois;
- Theodor Short to be U.S. Marshal for the District of Maine;
- Dennis Kirk to be a Member and Chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board for the remainder of a seven year term expiring March 1, 2023;
- Andrew Maunz to be a Member and Vice Chairman of the Merit Systems Protection Board for a term of seven years beginning March 1, 2018;
- James Morris to be U.S. Representative on the Executive Board of the United National Children's Fund (UNICEF);
- Elizabeth Darling to be Commissioner on Children, Youth, and Families, Department of Health and Human Services;
- Judith Stecker to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services (Public Affairs); and
- James McDonnell to be an Assistant Secretary (Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction), Department of Homeland Security.