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Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of September 10, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will consider 33 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act of 2018 (H.R. 4824), which requires the Interior and Agriculture Departments to set up programs to allow states and American Indian tribes to conduct required environmental reviews for deployment of broadband facilities on existing transportation and utility rights-of-way through relevant federal or tribal land, and create a categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act for such projects. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Save American Workers Act of 2017 (H.R. 3798), which suspends the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, modifies the definition of a full-time employee used to determine if an employer is subject to the mandate, repeals the ACA's tanning tax, and delays the "Cadillac" tax on high-cost insurance plans for an additional year. The House will also likely vote on the final Conference Report for the $145 billion FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Appropriations minibus package (H.R. 5895). Lastly, the House may vote on a new version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018 (H.R. 8), which includes disaster preparedness and resilience measures.
 
The Senate will vote on the nomination of Chuck Rettig to be Commissioner of Internal Revenue at the IRS for a term expiring on November 12, 2022. The Senate will then proceed to a substitute amendment to the House-passed opioid bill, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6), which incorporates dozens of bills from four Senate committees that cover Food and Drug Administration rules, Medicare and Medicaid policies, Health and Human Services Department grants, Justice Department programs, Transportation Department drug testing, and more. Senators have also reached an agreement to consider the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554), which would ban gag clauses for drug plans providing employee benefits and for insurance exchanges. Such clauses prevent pharmacists from telling patients about the cheapest drugs available at the pharmacy, with or without insurance coverage. The Senate will first vote on an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that would strike a section of the bill that would require biosimilar patent settlements to be reported to the government.
 
Voters in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York will head to the polls this week to vote in Democratic and Republican primary elections for local, state, and federal elections.
Week in Review

House and Senate Announce Conferees for Two FY 2019 Minibus Appropriations Packages
 
On Sept. 4 and Sept. 6, the House and Senate, respectively, agreed to form a conference committee by voice vote/Unanimous Consent for the $854 billion FY 2019 Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations minibus package (H.R. 6157). House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that they appointed eight Republicans and five Democrats to the conference committee, respectively, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) appointed four Republicans and three Democrats, respectively.
 
On Sept. 6, the House and Senate, respectively, agreed to form a conference committee by voice vote/Unanimous Consent for the $154 billion FY 2019 Interior-Environment, Financial Services and General Government, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, and Transportation-HUD Appropriations minibus package (H.R. 6147). Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi announced that they appointed nine Republicans and six Democrats to the conference committee, respectively, while Leaders McConnell and Schumer appointed six Republicans and five Democrats, respectively.
 
The House and Senate have until September 30, 2018 to pass these two minibus packages prior to the start of fiscal year 2019, in addition to the Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA package (H.R. 5895). If Congress doesn't pass the packages in time, a Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the government through mid-December will need to be enacted in order to avoid a government shutdown from occurring.
Jon Kyl Sworn-in as McCain's Successor in the Senate
 
On September 4, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that he had appointed former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to succeed the late John McCain in the Senate; Kyl was sworn-in to the position on Sept. 5 by Vice President Mike Pence. Kyl, who previously served in the House from 1987-1995 and the Senate from 1995-2013, has agreed to serve in the Senate at least through the end of 2018, however, he may serve until November 2020 if he chooses, at which a point a special Senate election would occur to elect a new Senator for the remaining two years of Sen. McCain's six year term, through January 3, 2023. Read more. 
House Passes Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act
 
On September 5, the House passed, by a vote of 406-4, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act ( H.R. 1635). The bill promotes greater financial literacy tools for borrowers through enhanced counseling for recipients of student aid so students and their parents can make more informed decisions when planning for higher education. H.R. 1635 would help borrowers by: (1) providing more comprehensive counseling, including better upfront, ongoing, and exit counseling so borrowers better understand the impacts of their decisions; (2) requiring certain private loan disclosures, including the borrower's rights as a consumer when taking out these loans; (3) requiring the Secretary of Education to create a consumer tested online counseling program that schools can use to help borrowers better understand what they are taking on; and (4) directing the Institute of Education Sciences to study the impact and effectiveness of the student loan counseling. The House also adopted seven amendments by voice vote to the bill. Read more. 
House Passes Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act
 
On September 6, the House passed, by a vote of   260-146, the Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act ( H.R. 4606). The bill seeks to codify the Department of Energy's (DOE) recently revised approval process for applications to export relatively small amounts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States. The bill amends the Natural Gas Act of 1938 to provide DOE with authority to deem small-scale natural gas imports and exports consistent with the public interest and grant approval without modification or delay, provided that the application proposes to export no more than 0.14 Bcf/d, and the proposed exports does not require an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The House rejected two amendments to the bill. Read more. 
House Passes Community Safety and Security Act
 
On September 7, the House passed, by a vote of 247-152-2, the Community Safety and Security Act of 2018 (H.R. 6691). The bill would restore the federal government's ability to deport immigrants for a wide variety of violent criminal offenses. H.R. 6691 aims to address an April Supreme Court ruling that found that the federal definition of a "crime of violence," which under immigration law prompts the mandatory deportation of a noncitizen, is impermissibly vague. The bill specifically enumerates more than a dozen crimes that would qualify, including murder, assault, sexual abuse, burglary, and terrorism. Read more.
Trump Signs Two Bills Into Law
 
On September 4, President Trump signed the Pro bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Actof 2018 (Public Law 115-237) into law, which requires the chief judge for each judicial district to host, at least annually, a public event to promote pro bono legal services to empower survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The House passed the bill on July 17 by voice vote and the Senate passed it on August 15 by Unanimous Consent. Read more. 
 
On September 8, Trump signed the Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act (Public Law 115-238) into law, which clarifies the availability of medical leave for certain service-disabled veterans employed in VA healthcare positions. The House passed the bill on July 16 by voice vote and the Senate passed it on August 22 by Unanimous Consent. Read more.