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Window On Washington - June 25, 2018, Vol. 2, Issue 25

Jun 25, 2018

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

Senate Floor. The Senate is schedule to finish its work this evening on the minibus appropriations bill, a three-bill spending package that includes Energy and Water Development, Legislative Branch and MilCon-VA appropriations. Last week, as part of its work on the minibus package, the Senate voted to block an amendment that would have prohibited funding being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to enforce the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States. After the Senate finishes its work on the minibus, it is scheduled to begin work on the farm bill. The Senate version of the farm bill does not include major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as the House bill does.

Immigration. The House is hoping to take up a compromise immigration package this week after the vote was postponed twice last week. The bill was pulled last week to deal with issue related to E-verify and agriculture workers. A vote last week on a more conservative immigration bill failed. The compromise bill allow those who qualified for DACA under the 2012 standards to apply for a six-year, indefinitely renewable legal status; allow children to be detained with their parents; create a new, merit-based green card system; and appropriates $25 billion in advance for border security funding for the wall, access and roads, and also includes the addition of a biometric entry-exist system.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Budget

HAC and SAC Schedules Announced for Next Week: The House Appropriations Committee is marking up its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (“LHHS”) appropriations bill on Tuesday after the markup was postponed from last week. The Senate Appropriations Committee is also marking up its LHHS appropriations bill as well as its Defense appropriations bill on Thursday. (Clark Hill Insight)

House Appropriations Committee Approves Fiscal Year 2019 State and Foreign Operations Bill: The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill on a vote of 30-21. The legislation funds the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development, and other international activities. The bill provides $54 billion in both regular discretionary and Overseas Contingency Operations funding. This total is the same as the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. (House Appropriations Committee)

Senate Committee Approves FY2019 Financial Services & General Government Appropriations Bill: The Senate Committee on Appropriations advanced a $23.688 billion funding measure that prioritizes national programs to combat terrorism financing, spur small business growth, maintain a fair and efficient judicial system, and target heroin and prescription drug abuse. The FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act provides $16 million above the FY2018 enacted level to fund the U.S. Treasury Department, the Judiciary, Small Business Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and several other independent agencies. (Senate Appropriations Committee)

Senate Committee Advances FY2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill: The Senate Committee on Appropriations advanced its FY2019 Homeland Security funding bill, making investments in border security, cybersecurity, aviation security, state and local grants, and other programs to keep Americans safe. The 55.15 billion measure is written to provide for the security of the American people.  The bill makes a major down payment on border security and fully funds the fiscal year 2019 request for the border wall system. (Senate Appropriations Committee)

FY2019 State & Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Cleared by Senate Committee: The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the FY2019 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, strengthening federal programs and operations that support national security and American values abroad. The $54.4 billion appropriations bill strengthens diplomacy and development, promotes democracy abroad, provides critical assistance to allies, and continues life-saving global health and humanitarian assistance programs for the world’s most vulnerable populations. (Senate Appropriations Committee)

Banking & Housing

White House Pushes Surprise Fannie, Freddie Reform Plan, but is it Workable?:  The Trump administration proposed Thursday to rip off the Band-Aid from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ending conservatorship of the mortgage giants and leaving them to raise their own capital in the private market. But the plan raises a whole host of questions and left many wondering whether it could advance.  Included as part of an Office of Management and Budget plan for reorganizing the government, the housing finance reform proposal would appear to require both legislative and administrative action, such as creating an explicit government guarantee for mortgage-backed securities for "limited, exigent circumstances." (American Banker)

Space, NASA & NOAA

Space Council’s “Think Tank” Starts Work:  An advisory group dubbed the “think tank” for the National Space Council formally kicked off its work June 19 with a broad but vague mandate to study space policy issues.  The Users’ Advisory Group (“UAG”) of the National Space Council held its first meeting at NASA Headquarters, a five-hour “inaugural and, quite frankly, organizational session” of the committee, in the words of its chairman, retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Ellis.  Ellis said that the UAG will establish six subcommittees, on exploration and discovery, national security space, economic development and the industrial base, technology and innovation, outreach and education, and space policy and international engagement. Chairs for those committees have been established, but UAG members won’t be assigned to those committees before next month. (Space News)

House Bill on Space Traffic Drops This Week, WH Proposed Gov Reorganization Includes NASA, Space Force Proposal Scrutiny on Capitol Hill:  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) plans to introduce the “American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act,” (or the American Space SAFE Management Act) directing the secretary of commerce to stand up a civil space situational awareness program and brief Congress every quarter on the program.  Also, the proposed government overhaul unveiled by the White House on Thursday orders NASA to decide whether at least one of its nine space centers should be converted to — or host — a federally funded research and development center in an effort to make the space agency a more agile partner for an expanding space industry. (Politico)

Transportation

U.S. Senate Panel Sets Vote on NHTSA Nominee: The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was scheduled to vote in May on the nomination of NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King, who was tapped by Trump after seven months as the de-facto chief of the agency. The vote was postponed after a senator on that committee expressed concern over her earlier testimony. The panel said Thursday it will vote on King's nomination on June 27. (The Detroit News)

Defense

What Survived in the Senate’s Defense Policy Bill?: The Senate passed its version of the annual defense authorization bill June 18, sending their draft to a conference committee with House leaders. The bill cuts funding for underwater drones while next-generation missile defenses systems and Air Force command and control get a boost. (C4ISRNET)

Five Debates Lawmakers Still Need to Settle in the Defense Authorization Bill: The House and Senate versions of the 1,000-plus page bills tackle a host of personnel issues, hardware procurement and Defense Department restructuring. While congressional leaders have been optimistic that the conflicts in the two drafts won’t be as contentious as in years past, the differences still amount to a mammoth undertaking for staff charged with finding a reconciliation path between them. Some issue include Pentagon operations, military end strength, ZTE, personnel promotions, and the sage grouse. (Defense News)

Health

House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis: The House last week passed bipartisan legislation aimed at fighting the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, culminating months of work on the crisis. The measure, which passed 396 to 14, is the broadest of dozens of bills on the topic passed by the House over the past two weeks. Addiction advocates largely praise the measures as good steps forward, but say that much more work and funding is needed to tackle the issue's scale. (The Hill)

Democrats Want Investigation into HHS’ Efforts to Reunite Migrant Families: Rep. Frank Pallone, the ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, last week urged GAO to audit HHS and the Department of Homeland Security as the agencies work to reunite thousands of migrant children. Questions have swirled over whether HHS is prepared to reunite more than 2,300 children with their families, and whether the department’s refugee office has the resources or leadership to handle the challenge. (Politico)

Cybersecurity

Senators Demand Creation of Tech Cybersecurity Council: National security concerns over IT products made by internationally based companies such as Kaspersky and ZTE have been on the rise, so two senators introduced a bipartisan bill June 19 that would establish a council to promote information sharing on IT supply chain risks. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced the Federal Acquisition Supply Chain Security Act to better promote communication between the intelligence community and civilian agencies about IT components that could pose a risk to the government’s cybersecurity. The bill would establish a Federal Acquisition Security Council responsible for developing criteria for IT supply chain risk assessment, while consulting with the private sector on best practices. (Fifth Domain

Agriculture

Senate Moving to Cloture on its Version of the Farm Bill Early this Week: The Senate will hold a cloture vote on its version of the farm bill today at 6 p.m. Though the House bill would require adults aged 18-59 who participate in SNAP to find at least a part-time job within one month of receiving benefits, the Senate version does not contain similar language. Data on the Senate farm bill can be found here. (Clark Hill Insight)

House Farm Bill Passes with Controversial Food Stamp Changes: The House passed its farm bill Thursday by a vote of 213-211 after weeks of uncertainty over whether leadership would be able to secure enough support within the fractious GOP Conference to pass a measure that is critical to farm country. Republican leadership succeeded in rebounding from last month’s stunning defeat of the massive $860 billion legislation by meeting the demands of the House Freedom Caucus, which helped tank the first vote by withholding support as leverage to force a roll call on a conservative immigration measure. (Politico)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

White House

White House Releases Sweeping Proposal to Reorganize Government: The White House on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize how the federal government is structured, including controversial proposals to impose work requirements on assistance programs. The plan touches a wide range of agencies, but one of its main proposals is to move the food stamp program, officially known as SNAP, out of the Department of Agriculture and into the Department of Health and Human Services. That department would then be renamed the Department of Health and Public Welfare. (The Hill)

EPA

EPA Requests Comment on Cost Benefit Analysis Approaches: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) cost benefit analyses have been a topic of significant debate in recent years, with challenges extending all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 13, 2018, EPA published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”), entitled "Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Costs and Benefits in the Rulemaking Process," seeking public comment on new approaches the agency is considering. This ANPRM provides an important and unusual opportunity for regulated entities to play a role in how EPA will potentially revise its approach to evaluating the costs and benefits of major regulatory actions.  Interested parties should review the proposal carefully and consider submitting comments before the July 13, 2018, deadline. (Clark Hill Insight)

HHS

White House Proposes Restructuring, Renaming HHS as Part of Broad Reorganization Plan: The White House proposed a sweeping government reorganization and reform plan that includes renaming and restructuring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), including moving many major public-assistance programs under HHS oversight. HHS would become the Department of Health and Public Welfare. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) would be renamed the Federal Drug Administration and would focus on drugs, devices, biologics, tobacco, dietary supplements and cosmetics. The food safety responsibilities currently overseen by FDA would be consolidated with the food safety functions of the Department of Agriculture. The proposal would also consolidate health research programs currently within HHS—the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research—under the umbrella of the NIH. (Healthcare Informatics)

Trump’s New Health Insurance Rules Expected to Hurt Obamacare: Obamacare suffered another blow when the Trump administration announced plans to make it easier for small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health coverage outside of the law’s insurance markets. President Trump touted the expansion of so-called association health plans, which offer fewer consumer protections than Obamacare coverage, as a much-needed cheaper alternative. But critics have warned that the latest move will further drive up Obamacare premiums and weaken the law. (Politico)

HHS Forms Task Force to Reunite Migrant Children with Families: The Department of Health and Human Services established a task force to reunify families that had been separated at the border. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has directed the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response assist the ACF Office of Refugee Resettlement with Unaccompanied Children Reunification. The "unaccompanied children reunification task force" was formed by the branch of HHS that responds to public health disasters. (Axios)

Labor & Workforce

Here’s the White House’s Plan to Merge Departments of Education and Labor:  The White House issued a sweeping proposal Thursday to shrink the federal government, including merging the Department of Labor and the Department of Education into one federal agency.  The plan for the combined agency, called the Department of Education and the Workforce, comes as the result of a directive that Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney issued over a year ago, in which he attempted to create ways to combine departments that had overlapping programs.  The proposal would merge all of the existing Labor and Education programs into one single department with four sub-agencies focused on K-12 education; higher education and workforce development; enforcement; and research, evaluation, and administration. (Vice News)

Perkins Act, with CTE focus, gaining momentum in Senate:  A bill to reauthorize the Perkins Act, the 34-year-old legislation that sets guidelines for federally funded career and technical education, has been stalled in Congress but is seeing new life, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. The Senate committee where the legislation has been bottled up has scheduled a Tuesday markup of related bills, and it is still unknown if a bipartisan version will emerge, since some senators disagree on how much federal control should be maintained over the program. (Education Dive)

Defense

Synthetic Biology Raises Risk of New Bioweapons, US Report Warns: The rapid rise of synthetic biology, a futuristic field of science that seeks to master the machinery of life, has raised the risk of a new generation of bioweapons, according a major US report into the state of the art. Advances in the area mean that scientists now have the capability to recreate dangerous viruses from scratch; make harmful bacteria more deadly; and modify common microbes so that they churn out lethal toxins once they enter the body. The three scenarios are picked out as threats of highest concern in a review of the field published by the US National Academy of Sciences at the request of the Department of Defense. The report was commissioned to flag up ways in which the powerful technology might be abused, and to focus minds on how best to prepare. (The Guardian)

Space Force Will Require ‘Legislation and a Lot of Detail Planning,’ Says Mattis: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis informed reporters at the Pentagon that work on the creation of the new service “Space Force” has not yet begun. The Space Force is the potential new military service to the Defense Department that Trump ordered the Pentagon to build two days earlier. The creation of a Space Force, which will only begin if Congress can be persuaded to amend Title 10 of the United States Code, will likely take years as details such as the price and timeline of the new service are worked out. Only a very small part of the military budget is related to space. (Defense News)

DOT

Trump Administration Floats Changes to Environmental Review Standards: The Trump Administration is considering major changes to the regulations that govern how federal agencies analyze the potential environmental impacts of their decisions. The Council on Environmental Quality, the White House agency responsible for coordinating compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, put out a notice soliciting input on the matter from the public. The solicitation stems from an August 2017 executive order President Trump signed that aimed to ease the permitting process for highways, bridges and other infrastructure projects. (The Hill)

White House Proposes Shifting Corps Dredging to DOT: The White House Office of Management and Budget released a sweeping proposal to overhaul the organization of the federal government, including the nation's maritime agencies. Under this proposal, the responsibility for coastal port dredging and operation of the inland waterway system, which is currently carried out by the Corps, would be shifted to DOT. The remaining Corps civil works missions (flood and storm damage reduction, aquatic ecosystem restoration, regulatory, and all other activities) would be moved to the Department of the Interior, which has comparable programs. (The Maritime Executive)

Trade

Trump's Trade War Sets Bigger Booby Trap for Strong U.S. Economy: The escalating trade battle between the U.S. and the rest of the world is raising the risk of a meaningful slowing in an otherwise vibrant American economy. While the tariffs already in place and set to be implemented will barely dent U.S. growth, economists say the panoply of additional measures being considered would take a perceptible bite out of gross domestic product if they go ahead. (Bloomberg)

DOE

Department of Energy Announces $21 Million to Advance Solar Desalination Technologies: The U.S. Department of Energy announced $21 million for new projects to advance solar-thermal desalination technologies. These 14 projects are focused on reducing the cost of solar-thermal desalination and helping the technology to reach new markets, including to areas that are not connected to the electric grid. Desalination treats seawater, brackish water, and contaminated water for use in municipal and industrial water supplies, or to serve other reclamation needs. Today’s desalination operations need to be grid-connected, limiting their applications to areas with electricity access. Solar-thermal power, which concentrates sunlight and converts it into heat, has the potential to expand access to desalination by enabling smaller, more portable systems that don’t have to be grid-connected. (DoE Press Releases)

Space, NASA & NOAA

Falcon Heavy Wins Air Force Certification: Even before launching for a second time, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket has won U.S. Air Force's certification, as well as a $130M contract from the DOD to launch a space command satellite into orbit. At a fraction of the cost, Falcon Heavy is both more powerful and capable of lifting more weight than the biggest rockets offered by United Launch Alliance - a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. (Seeking Alpha)

Cybersecurity

Most Major U.S. Agencies Are Now Feeding the Federal Cyber Threat Dashboard: A Homeland Security Department dashboard designed to collect and analyze cybersecurity information from across the government is now receiving data from 20 out of 23 major civilian agencies. The final three agencies will be plugged into the dashboard by the end of July, said Kevin Cox, who leads Homeland Security’s continuous diagnostics and mitigation program. The dashboard effort is just one part of Homeland Security’s continuous diagnostics and mitigation program, or CDM, which offers a suite of pre-vetted cybersecurity tools to government agencies. Homeland Security is rejiggering how it provides CDM tools and services, breaking the program up into five task orders to single large companies, which will be responsible for supplying cyber tools and services to particular agencies. The final three task orders will deliver CDM cyber tools and services to the Commerce, Justice and State departments among other agencies. (Defense One)

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection

New York Federal Court Rules that the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Is Unconstitutional, Continuing a High-Stakes Debate: In an ongoing, high-profile legal debate, court opinions on the constitutionality of the structure of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (“Bureau”) – previously known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) – continue to apply different legal analyses, positioning the issue for a possible U.S. Supreme Court resolution. On June 21st, in CFPB and The People of the State of New York v. RD Legal Funding, et al., Judge Loretta Preska of the District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled the Bureau’s creation as an independent agency with a Director removable only for cause, and not at will like other Presidential appointees, violates constitutional considerations of “history, liberty, and presidential authority.” (Clark Hill Insight)

DOJ

Justice Department Asks SCOTUS to Lift Nationwide Block on Anti-Sanctuary-City Policy: The Trump Administration asked the Supreme Court to lift the bulk of an order preventing the Justice Department from implementing a policy to limit federal grants to cities, counties and states that don't cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The Justice Department filed an emergency application with the high court, asking it to stay a nationwide injunction that a federal judge in Chicago issued in September blocking the new policy. The full bench of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consider the nationwide aspect of the injunction, but has turned down the administration's request to rein in the order. (Politico)

Education

White House Plans Merging of Education and Labor Departments: OMB Report: The White House on Thursday released its plan to merge the Departments of Education and Labor into a single Cabinet agency, moving ahead on President Trump’s “drain the swamp agenda” as his administration looks to do away with a long list of overlapping regulations and department functions. The combined Labor and Educations departments would be named The Department of Education and the Workforce and would oversee programs for students and workers, ranging from education and developing skills to workplace protections and retirement security. (Fox News)

DHS

$150M in Federal Funds for Election Security is Already out the Door: States are using up a pool of federal money to bolster their election systems, and the Department of Homeland Security is honing its threat sharing data to better fit the needs of states, the officials said at a June 20 Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on election cybersecurity. “As of this week, 38 states have requested $250 million” of the $380 million appropriation, panel Chairman Senator Roy Blunt said, adding $150 million has already been distributed. State election commissions were initially skeptical of DHS stepping in to help them secure their voting systems. Since then, DHS has built up cyber assessment and evaluation services for states, established an Election Infrastructure Coordinating Council and helped set up an Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center to share threat information. (FCW)

SUPREME COURT

Tax

Supreme Court Allows States to Require Sales Tax Collection by Out-of-State Sellers: For over fifty years, states have been prohibited from requiring an out-of-state seller that lacked a physical presence in the taxing state to collect and remit sales tax on sales into the state. Last week, in a historic decision, the United States Supreme Court did away with that prohibition. (Clark Hill Insight)