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Window On Washington - April 23, 2018, Vol. 2, Issue 16

Apr 23, 2018

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

FY19 Appropriations. The House and Senate Appropriations Committee are steadily working on their appropriations bills in an attempt to get back to regular order for FY19 and avoid the need for another large omnibus spending bill. Senate Appropriations Chairman Shelby and House Appropriations Chairman Frelinghuysen are planning on coordinating the spending allocations for each individual subcommittee in order to avoid a lengthy conference process. Last year, the House and Senate used vastly different starting points for each bill but the two-year budget deal passed earlier this year allows the Committees to start on the same page for FY19. Senator Shelby announced last week that he hopes that the Senate will pass the first individual bill on the floor in early June. The House is working on a similar schedule and Congressman Frelinghuysen has said that he will work to gain Democratic support for the bills on the Committee level in able to ensure smoother passage on the House floor.     

Opioids Legislation. Both the House and Senate are working on legislation to address the opioid epidemic but are using different paths to do so. The Senate is working on a massive bipartisan bill made up of around 40 different proposals while the House is planning to consider and pass dozens of individual bills over the course of three days. The House would like to have its work completed on the floor by Memorial Day.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Budget

House and Senate Continue Appropriations Work: The House and Senate continue to maintain an aggressive hearing schedule and the House could hold its first markups this week of the Military Construction and Legislative Branch Committees. Attorney General Sessions is scheduled to testify before both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the budget justification for the Department of Justice. (Clark Hill Insight)

White House to Release Spending-cuts Package in Coming Weeks: White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the White House hopes to send Congress a package of new spending cut proposals in the coming weeks. Some House Republicans are bullish on putting together a so-called “rescissions” package to try to claw back some of the spending in the bill, and Mr. Mulvaney said the White House hopes to work with lawmakers in the coming months on a package. (Washington Times)

Tax Reform

Trump Touts GOP Tax Law Amid Wavering Support:  President Trump on Friday promoted the GOP's tax-reform law, passed in December, as Republicans head into election season to campaign on their legislative success and polls show uneven support among Americans.  In a tweet early Friday morning, the president took aim at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who he says is "going crazy" over the law and was working with House Democrats to repeal it. (The Hill)

Treasury Agrees to OMB Review of Regs Implementing Tax Reform Law:   Mick Mulvaney’s Office of Management and Budget will play a role in shaping the rules to implement the GOP tax overhaul, the Trump administration announced last week, a development that settles a turf war that was brewing within the executive branch since the law was signed. The OMB and Treasury jointly announced that they had reached an agreement to allow OMB to review tax rules issued by the Treasury, and subject them to cost-benefit analysis. Previously, tax rules had been exempt from this kind of OMB oversight, which rules issued by other agencies face. Part of the agreement, though, is that the OMB must act quickly — within 10 days for rules implementing the Trump tax cuts — if demanded by the Treasury. (Washington Examiner)

Health

Senators Push HHS to Negotiate Lower Prices on Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug: A group of senators is urging the Department of Health and Human Services to take measures to reduce the price of a potentially life-saving medication reversing the effects of an opioid overdose. (The Hill)

Democrats Push for $100 Billion to Fight Opioid Crisis: Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD) are pushing bills that commit $100 billion to the problem over a 10-year period, saying Congress should follow the model it used during the HIV/AIDS epidemic three decades ago, when it helped fund both disease prevention and medical research. (Washington Times)

Transportation

FAA Authorization Headed for House Floor Vote This Week:  The House will vote this week on a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and change disaster relief policy to focus more on mitigation than recovery – it would reauthorize the FAA through fiscal 2023 as well as include provisions of a bill previously passed by the House that makes changes to Federal Emergency Management Administration policy.  The House Chairman, Bill Shuster (R-PA), introduced the bill last week after accepting that a version he wrote last year and moved through committee would not have enough votes to pass because it included a provision to remove the air traffic control system from the government. The new bill won’t include the air traffic control spinoff. (Roll Call)

Banking and Housing

Changes to Volcker Rule Coming With or Without House Bill:  The House passed a bill last week seeking to modify the Volcker Rule, earning a hefty dose of support from Democrats. Yet while the legislation’s future remains in doubt, changes to the Dodd-Frank Act’s controversial ban on proprietary trading are all but a given at this point.  The measure would exempt community banks under $10 billion of assets from the ban on proprietary trading — and, crucially, would cede primary authority for the joint rule to the Federal Reserve. (American Banker)

Labor and Workforce

States Aren't Waiting for Washington to Require Poor Residents to Work:  President Trump and Republicans in Congress are setting the stage to make more low-income Americans work for benefits. But a growing number of states are already doing just that.  Many of the states' efforts focus on the food stamp program, which already requires some recipients to work.  Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 who don't have minor children must work or enroll in a training program for 20 hours a week. Otherwise, they can only receive benefits for up to three months every three years. (CNN)

Agriculture

GOP Presses for Stiff Work Requirements for Food Stamps: House Republicans are pushing for stricter work requirements in the food stamp program, the first concrete legislative step this year targeting the nation’s public assistance programs. The legislation would dramatically expand mandatory state workforce training programs and would require all adults aged 18 to 59 to work at least 20 hours a week or be enrolled in a training program in order to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The legislation budgets $1 billion per year to pay for the expansion. (The Hill)

Energy

House Panel Advances Bills to Guard Energy Grid from Cyberattacks: A House panel has approved a string of bills aimed at securing U.S. energy infrastructure from cyber threats following revelations of Russian cyberattacks targeting grid operators. The four bipartisan legislative proposals aim to elevate the Department of Energy’s efforts on cyber response and engagement and to create new programs to address grid and pipeline security. (The Hill)

Defense

House Democrats Want War Authorization Repealed: Democrats are in wide agreement the post-2001 war authorizations should be repealed. But what to replace it with opens up a tough conversation about where the military should be used, and where it shouldn’t. Earlier this week in the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unveiled a major rewrite of the war authorizations, which would give President Donald Trump new abilities to fight terror groups while reserving Congress the ability to limit the president. (Defense News)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

HHS

HHS Again Delays Common Rule Implementation: In January 2017, HHS finalized several changes to the so-called "Common Rule," which has been in place in its current form since 1991 and governs research on people and human biological specimens. Although the changes were supposed to kick in on July 19, HHS is now proposing to move the effective and compliance date to Jan. 21, 2019. (Modern Healthcare)

NIH Reverses Course and Will Not Accept Drug Company Funding: National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry had previously agreed to a opioids research partnership worth roughly $400 million and each partner would pay for half with the research aimed at discovering new medicines to treat addiction or serve as alternatives to opioids. But in an abrupt shift, the agency announced late last week that it won’t accept funds from drug makers after all citing ethical concerns raised earlier this month by an NIH advisory panel. (STAT News)

DOJ

DOJ Loses Another Sanctuary Cities Case: A federal appeals court struck another blow to the Trump administration's efforts to pressure sanctuary cities, upholding a court order preventing the Justice Department from imposing conditions on grants to cities. The three-judge panel from the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision blocking the Justice Department from adding new conditions on policing grants that had required some cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. (CNN)

DOJ Investigates AT&T and Verizon for Collusion Over SIM Cards: US Department of Justice is reportedly looking into whether AT&T and Verizon coordinated efforts thwart a tech known as eSIM, which would make switching between carriers easier. Apple may have filed the initial complaint. (CNET)

Interior

Zinke Signs Secretarial Orders to Increase Recreational Opportunities on Public Lands and Waters: Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today signed two secretarial orders continuing his efforts to prioritize the Department of Interior’s recreation mission and increase access to public lands. Secretarial Order 3366 directs certain Interior bureaus to create and deliver plans to the Department within 90 days that focus on developing or expanding recreational opportunities on public lands and waterways. This order also directs bureau heads to designate one full-time employee charged to oversee recreational opportunities. (doi.gov)

Treasury

In Major Change, Regulatory Reform Comes to Tax Regulation: For decades, tax regulations have been viewed as exempt from required regulatory review under Executive Order 12866 of October 4, 1993, on Regulatory Planning and Review. That Executive Order (“EO”) directs federal agencies to submit all new regulations that have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, or other significant impacts, to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB”) for review of the need for the rule and its costs and benefits.  Under the terms of what Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch characterized in an October 11, 2016 letter as a “long-secret Memorandum of Agreement” (“MOA”) between OMB and the Department of the Treasury, tax regulations were placed in a special status, not subject to normal interagency review.  In a striking example of the broad changes that are occurring under the banner of regulatory reform, that status was abruptly revoked and the prior MOA superseded on April 11, 2018, with the signing of a new MOA between OIRA and the Treasury Department, which provides for OIRA review of significant new tax regulations. (Clark Hill Insight)

EPA

EPA to Unveil Policy Aimed at Avoiding Legal Action Over Oil and Gas Polluters: The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office of enforcement will announce a new policy aimed specifically at helping polluters in the oil and gas industry, The Hill has learned. The new policy, which has not been finalized, will focus on offering more flexibility to oil and gas companies that choose to self-audit their emissions and report any failures to meet EPA’s regulations, according to an EPA employee with knowledge of the plan. (The Hill)

DOD

Pence Announces New Space Traffic Management Policy: The National Space Council has formulated a comprehensive space traffic management policy, which it will soon be sent to the president’s desk for approval. This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use based on the space catalog compiled by the Department on Defense which will in the future would only focus on national security assets in space. (Defense News)

Pentagon Developing Artificial Intelligence Center: The Pentagon is working on a plan to stand up an artificial intelligence center in order to streamline the department’s myriad AI programs. The idea, which comes as defense officials are increasingly concerned about China’s investments in AI capabilities, has now been embraced by both Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. (C4ISRNet)

GAO

GAO Bid Protests Go Electronic on May 1, 2018 (and with a Fee): The U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) announced that, beginning May 1, 2018, bid protests with the GAO must be submitted electronically through its new electronic bid protest docketing system.  Along with this new method of filing, the GAO now will require the payment of a $350 filing fee.  Prior to the implementation of this new filing system, there had been no filing fee. (Clark Hill Insight)

Space & NASA

Senate Votes to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Administrator:  The most contentious nomination process for a NASA administrator in the agency’s six-decade history came to an end April 19 when the Senate voted to confirm Jim Bridenstine.  The Senate voted 50–49 to confirm Bridenstine, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, as the agency’s 13th administrator. The party-line vote for a NASA administrator is unprecedented, as past administrators have been confirmed by the Senate with little or no dissent. (Space News)

ATLAS Space Operations Hosts First Annual Michigan Space Forum:  The inaugural Michigan Space Forum will be held June 8, 2018 at Northwestern Michigan College, in Traverse City, Michigan – the Forum will host more than 20 prominent speakers and panelists from the space and tech industries, including entrepreneurs, aerospace engineers, and business leaders to discuss a range of space technology needs and the advancement of Michigan’s Space Industry. (Space Ref)

Behind the Scenes as NASA Tests the Most Powerful Rocket Ever:  NASA gave Wired Magazine photographer Vincent Fournier exclusive access to the testing and preparations for the Space Launch System/Orion capsule mission, and he spent 20 days at five facilities to capture how engineers build and test (and test, and test) the unprecedentedly large rocket and its human-carrying capsule. (Wired)

Trade

Stone Industry Rocked by New Trade Case on Quartz from China: A new US antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) case was filed on April 16, 2018 by Cambria Company LLC against imports of Certain Quartz Surface Products from China. The case targets numerous US importers and Chinese suppliers of this product which is commonly used in a variety of applications such as countertops, tiles, bar surfaces, shower and tub surrounds, fireplace surrounds, walls, floors, and bathroom vanities and other furniture surfaces. The Department of Commerce and the ITC will next determine whether to launch AD and/or CVD duty and injury investigations, respectively, on these products. (Clark Hill Insight)