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Window On Washington - Feb. 26, 2018, Vol. 2, Issue 8

Feb 26, 2018

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

FY18 Omnibus. With the past week being a recess period, House and Senate Appropriators made little progress on drafting the Omnibus bill, but Clark Hill is hearing Appropriators have finalized or are close to finalizing 302(b) subcommittee allocations. We are also hearing that Subcommittee chairs need to report unsolved items in their bills to the Full Committee by March 1, meaning almost all but the major differences will be resolved this week. Appropriators need to stay on this timeline in order to pass the Omnibus by March 23.

Gun Control. The debate over gun control has remained on the front burner over the past week and Congress returns this week with no clear legislative approach on the issue.  President Trump has stated his support for some proposals, including more comprehensive back ground checks; raising the minimum age of purchase for certain automatic weapons; and arming teachers. Republican support in Congress varies on these proposals and Democrats are strongly opposed to the idea of arming teachers. Senators Toomey (R) and Manchin (D) plan a revival in the coming weeks of their legislation from 2013 that would expand background checks to include unlicensed gun-show dealers and online sales.

 

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Budget

Ryan, Pelosi Name Members to Budget Reform Panel: As part of the bipartisan budget deal passed this month, Congress established joint House-Senate committees tasked with holding hearings and voting on recommendations for reforming the budget and appropriations process. The panel has 16 members, with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer each naming four appointees. (The Fiscal Times)

Defense Appropriator Wants to Waive Use-It-Or-Lose-It Rule for the Defense Department: Rep. Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, wants to waive Congress’ use-it-or-lose-it rules to let the Pentagon use its fiscal 2018 funding boost in next year’s budget, too, arguing there isn’t enough time to efficiently spend the money. (Defense News)

Tax Reform

AICPA Wants ‘Immediate Guidance’ on Pass-Through Business Income Under New Tax Law:   The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Congress passed last December provides a 20 percent deduction on “qualified business income” for pass-through entities, but excludes certain types of businesses, including accounting firms and law firms. The AICPA sent a letter Wednesday to the IRS and the Treasury asking them to provide more clarity on the definition of the term “qualified business income” by defining what activities constitute a qualified trade or business under the new section 199A of the tax code that was added by the tax law. The AICPA is asking for guidance ASAP, pointing out that taxpayers need clarity to comply with their 2018 tax obligations and to make informed decisions about cash-flow, entity structure and other tax planning issues. (Accounting Today)

'This is Not Normal': Glitches Mar New Tax Law:  The glitches in the new tax law are starting to pile up.  There are dozens of snafus hitting everything from restaurants to real estate investments to multinational corporations to farmers.  It’s hardly surprising there would be bugs in the sprawling new law H.R. 1 (115), but some experts say the sheer number is unusual, and blame the breakneck pace at which the legislation was pushed through Congress.  The question now is whether lawmakers can agree to do anything about it. (Politico)

Health

House to Begin Work on Package of Opioid Legislation: On Wednesday in the first of three scheduled hearings, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee will examine a packet of bills that focus more on opioid enforcement than treatment. One bill would mandate that providers fulfill 12 hours of continuing education every three years on best practices for prescribing opioids and early detection of abuse, as well as the treatment of addicted patients. Another bill would let pharmacists refuse to fill opioid prescriptions they suspect to be fraudulent, forged or sought by addicts or traffickers. One bill would upgrade fentanyl to the most-dangerous category, or schedule, under the Controlled Substances Act and tweak the controlled substance scheduling guidelines to include other synthetic drugs entering the market. (Modern Healthcare)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

HHS

Abortion Providers Will Be Allowed to Apply for HHS Family Planning Grants: Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers will not be barred from applying for funding under a federal family planning grant program. The HHS Office of Population Affairs released a long-awaited funding announcement Friday for $260 million in funding for Title X grants. Family planning advocates feared the administration would use the announcement as a way to cut Planned Parenthood and other providers out of the program. (The Hill)

National Human Genome Research Institute Undergoing Strategic Planning: The National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced recently that it is undergoing a new round of strategic planning—a process it expects to finalize in October 2020—to determine how to expand the field of genomics to foster new medical breakthroughs. The NHGRI is currently accepting comments online about the strategic plan and also will organize town halls across the country and hold events at scientific meetings to solicit input. (Bloomberg)

DOJ

DOJ Opioid Coordinator Announced: Mary Daly is to become Director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. The position was created as part of President Trump’s plan to make targeting the opioid epidemic a top priority. Daly previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia. (HSToday)

Chicago Tell DOJ Its Complying with the Request for Documents Related to Sanctuary Cities: The city of Chicago has told federal officials it is complying with a request for documents related to the ongoing dispute over its “sanctuary city” status by sending the Chicago Police Department’s general orders and its immigrant welcoming ordinance, among other orders, brushing off what it calls “insinuations” of violating federal law. In its letter, the city said it believed it was already in compliance with federal law and called into question the Justice Department’s “integrity” as it pursues so-called sanctuary cities. (Chicago Tribune)

Sessions Forms Cyber Task Force After Election Warnings: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would create a task force to examine how his Justice Department can better combat global cyber threats, including efforts to interfere with elections or damage critical infrastructure. The Justice Department will have until the end of June to report its findings. (Reuters)

DOD

Troops Can Stay in Iraq, Syria Indefinitely: President Trump has the legal authority to keep U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria indefinitely, Pentagon and State Department officials said in a pair of letters released last week. The letters detail the Trump Administration’s plan for an open-ended mission for U.S. forces, beyond the fight against the Islamic State group. The letters were to Senator Kaine, an advocate for a replacement for the post-9/11 war authorizations for the use of military force. (Defense News)

Banking/Housing

Experts: Changes to GSE Affordable Housing Goals Likely to Reduce Lending to Underserved Groups:  A potential reduction in federal backing for home loans issued to underserved borrowers as a result of ongoing GSE reform efforts is likely to decrease lending in these communities, according to an expert panel. The possible impacts on taxpayer protections and appropriate borrower access are less clear. (Zillow)

Labor

Supreme Court Limits Protections for Corporate Whistleblowers: The Supreme Court sharply limited the legal protections for corporate whistleblowers last Wednesday, ruling they are not shielded from being fired under a federal law unless they have reported a potential fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The justices conceded their ruling might gut the whistleblower protections that were adopted after the Wall Street collapse in 2008.  While the decision is a victory for employers, legal experts said it may backfire on them. (Los Angeles Times)

CFPB

Change in CFPB Structure Will Not Impact Fair Lending Enforcement; Compliance Does Not Take a Holiday: Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s decision to transition the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity (OFLEO) out of the Office of Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending (SEFL) does not eliminate or diminish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) enforcement authority over discriminatory lending practices. The CFPB’s enforcement authority over discriminatory lending practices is not a product of where the OFLEO falls within the CFPB’s structure; it is a product of federal consumer protection law. Consistent with Director’s Mulvaney’s recent comments and applicable federal law, the CFPB’s supervision and enforcement functions with respect to discriminatory lending practices will not be “stripped” or “reduced” as result of the transition. (Clark Hill Insight)

DOE

Trump Plans to Nominate Nuclear Expert for Energy Department’s International Affairs Office: Trump plans to nominate Ted Garrish to lead the Energy Department’s international affairs office. Garrish has been an advisor to Secretary Perry since last year and held senior Energy Department positions during the Reagan Administration. He recently was an advisor to the Maryland Energy Administration. (Clark Hill Insight)

First Woman Sworn in as NNSA Administrator: Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty was sworn by Secretary Perry as the Department of Energy’s Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Administrator Gordon-Hagerty was president of Tier Tech International, Inc., a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business providing professional expertise to combating weapons of mass destruction terrorism worldwide. (Energy.gov)

Transportation

Trump Infrastructure Plan Comes up $1 Trillion Short of its Funding Goal, Analysis Finds:  The Trump administration's plan to pay for rebuilding America's aging infrastructure comes up short by more than $1 trillion, according to a new analysis from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.  The administration proposes having the federal government put up about $200 billion over the next 10 years in grants and other incentives to attract at total of some $1.5 trillion, but the study found that each new dollar of federal spending could actually reduce spending by state and local governments. (CNBC)

NHTSA’s & Congress’ Approach to Autonomous Vehicles Taking Form:   Change is coming slowly to NHSTA and its regulatory efforts due to the pace of nominations, but the biggest developments in automotive safety this year may not be regulatory actions, but instead will involve Congress taking up the issue of how to safely integrate autonomous vehicles.  Two autonomous-vehicle bills, each with bipartisan support, are making their way through Congress. If these bills become law, the U.S. will witness significant regulatory changes that will push these technologies closer to ubiquity. (Wards Auto)

NASA

National Space Council Backs Incremental Space Regulatory Reform:  Vice President Mike Pence and members of the National Space Council approved a series of recommendations Feb. 21 that make modest, and expected, reforms to regulations of commercial space activities.  The Council, meeting at the Kennedy Space Center in its second public session since being reestablished last June, approved a set of four recommendations intended to streamline licensing and other regulatory activities that both government officials and industry witnesses warned could slow down emerging space ventures. (Space News)

NASA’s New Carbon-Monitoring Instruments Promise First-Class Science at Steerage-Class Prices:  If all goes as planned, NASA’s campaign to pinpoint sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide will get a major boost early next year with the launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, a leftover satellite instrument modified to attach to the International Space Station.  OCO-3 is an important precursor to the more ambitious Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCarb, mission slated to reach orbit on a commercial communications satellite in 2022. (Space News)

White House

Trump Talks Dems' Memo, Guns and Border Wall: President Trump urged the nation “to all come together” Saturday night as he discussed the Democrats' FISA rebuttal memo, potential new gun legislation and plans for a border wall in an exclusive interview with Fox News. (Fox News)