Window on Washington - November 10, 2017 Vol. 1, Issue 34

Nov 10, 2017

Congress

Budget

Short-term Continuing Resolution Likely Needed to Fund Government Past December Deadline: Republicans are focused on tax reform through Thanksgiving, and when lawmakers return from the upcoming holiday recess, they will have just two weeks until the December 8 deadline, which has sparked talk of passing a continuing resolution. Republican leadership is even considering pushing the debate into February, a last resort Democrats oppose. (The Hill)

Likelihood for Government Shutdown Also Increasing as Major Issues Are Unresolved: The agenda outside tax reform is a list of must-do and could-do items, with the current government spending bill set to expire December 8, raising the possibility of a shutdown in December if some agreements cannot be reached. On the list are immigration and a US-Mexico border wall, an impasse over children’s healthcare, pent-up demand for budget increases for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, and tens of billions of dollars in hurricane aid. (AP News)

Trump Submitted Supplemental Request to Congress for Defense Spending: The request included $4 billion for missile defense to protect the US from the threat from North Korea. The request was well received by House Republicans. (CNBC)

Tax Reform

House Republicans Advance Tax Bill, Aim to Bring It to a Vote Next Week: A key House committee voted to advance a Republican tax-reform bill on Thursday, moving the GOP a step closer to its goal of overhauling the American tax system. (CNBC)

GOP Tax Plans: Seven Big Differences Between the House and Senate: Senate Republicans unveiled their tax plan Thursday, another step forward in President Trump's bid to do the biggest overhaul of the US tax code since President Reagan was in office in the 1980s. (Washington Post)

GOP Election Drubbing Scrambles Tax-Reform Outlook: Top Republicans in Congress had an urgent message to lawmakers after the party’s drubbing in Tuesday’s elections: Pass tax reform, or we’re toast in 2018. “I think it simply means we’ve got to deliver,” Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday. (Politico)

Healthcare

Repeal of the Individual Insurance Mandate Not Included in the Senate Tax-Reform Bill: The tax-reform bill Senate Republicans released Thursday does not repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate, though the provision could be added down the line, GOP senators said. An updated House tax-reform bill unveiled by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady also does not repeal the mandate. The repeal’s inclusion would be a way for Republicans to save money that could help pay for the tax cuts since the Congressional Budget Office said a repeal would save $338 billion over 10 years. (The Hill)

Congress Unsure on Funding Needs to Fight Opioid Crisis: Although the Trump Administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, the declaration did not come with additional funding, and Congress is unlikely to create a major new stream of funding before the new year. Key House leaders are not formally discussing a major bill to accompany the President’s emergency declaration, even as they discuss other priorities for a year-end spending package. (STAT News)

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Extension Still Uncertain Despite House Action: While the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has broad support, Democrats and some medical groups oppose funding offsets for the program’s extension decided on by House Republicans. The offset identified was a reduction to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Public Health and Prevention Fund. The Senate version of the bill does not include this offset, and it has only passed on a voice vote in Committee. While HELP Committee Chairman Alexander has said the Senate needs to work quickly to pass its legislation, passage of the Senate bill is still far from assured. (MedPage Today)

Defense

Congress’ $700B Defense Authorization Deal Adds 20,000 Troops, Rejects Space Corps: Congressional negotiators on Wednesday agreed on a $700 billion defense authorization plan for fiscal 2018, including a 2.4 percent pay raise for troops and a boost in military end strength of more than 20,000 service members. It also adds 90 new joint strike fighters to the military’s fleet and a third new littoral combat ship, but dumps controversial plans for a new “Space Corps” in favor of less ambitious bureaucratic changes in the Defense Department’s space programs. (Defense News)

Space Reforms Coming: 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Drops Legislative Bombshells on US Air Force: For the military space world, the big headline from Capitol Hill Wednesday was that the final version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), at least for now, does not require the Pentagon to create a new “space corps.” (Space News)

Immigration

GOP Nears Deal on List of Demands for DACA: A vocal member of the House Freedom Caucus said Thursday that GOP leaders are close to cementing an immigration package that would couple new enforcement measures with protection for “Dreamers”—and win the support of conservatives in the process. (The Hill)

Ethics

Menendez Jury Begins Deliberations in Bribery Trial: Twelve jurors began their deliberations Monday in the federal corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy ophthalmologist—the outcome of which could determine the New Jersey Democrat’s political future. The Justice Department's 18-count public corruption indictment accuses the senator of accepting more than $600,000 in political contributions, free rides on a private jet, and a swanky hotel suite in Paris from Dr. Salomon Melgen. (CNN)

Executive Branch

EPA

Senate Confirms Top Air Regulator at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The Senate on Thursday confirmed William Wehrum to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Air and Radiation, making him one of the most powerful officials in the agency. Wehrum became only the second of President Trump’s EPA nominees to secure Senate confirmation. (The Hill)

Department of Education

Inside Betsy DeVos’ Efforts to Shrink the Education Department: The Department’s workforce has shrunk under Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said she wants to decrease the federal government’s role in education, including investigations and enforcement of civil rights in schools. In all, the department has shed about 350 workers since December—nearly 8 percent of its staff—including political appointees. With buyouts offered to 255 employees in recent days, DeVos hopes to show even more staff the door. (Washington Post)

Former Chancellor Joins Department of Education: Frank Brogan, the Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State University System from 2013 until retiring this year, has joined the Department of Education in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development—likely ahead of a nomination to a separate position. (Inside Higher Ed)

Republican Tax Bill Furthers DeVos’ Push for School Choice: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' school-choice agenda is getting a bit of a boost from the Republican tax bill, which would allow parents to use education savings accounts to pay tuition at private elementary and secondary schools. (ABC News)

Department of Energy

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to Decide on Perry's Coal Plan Soon, Chairman Says: A delay on deciding on Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to keep coal and nuclear power plants from closing seems unlikely after Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Thursday a decision will be made by December 11, the statutory deadline for such proposals. (Houston Chronicle)

HHS

CMS Will Give States Leeway in Imposing Work Requirements for Medicaid: Seema Verma, the CMS Administrator, made clear in a speech that the Trump Administration intends to let states impose new requirements, including work requirements, on some Medicaid recipients. The Obama Administration opposed work requirements, saying they would not further Medicaid's objective of providing health insurance for poor people. (Axios)

Affordable Care Act’s Federal Exchange Enrollment Higher than Previous Years: More than 600,000 people signed up for health coverage on the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange during the first four days of the open enrollment season, a significantly higher number than in previous years despite the Administration’s actions that could discourage enrollments. (The New York Times)

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Launches Data Commons Program to Assist Researchers:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching a four-year, $9-million pilot program, through which 13 organizations will receive funding to develop a shared Cloud-based platform that will enable scientists to work with the “digital objects” of biomedical research. A digital object is anything that could exist on a computer or the Internet, such as data, software, apps, and analytics tools. (Health Data Management)

DOJ

Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Announce New Measures to Prosecute Fentanyl Traffickers: The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced they would allow federal prosecutors to now charge people who traffic fentanyl analogues or synthetics as if they were true forms of fentanyl. (CBS News)

DOJ Officials Told AT&T that Its Bid to Acquire Time Warner Is Unlikely to be Approved Without Major Changes: Initial reports stated that antitrust officials want AT&T either to sell the satellite business or Turner Broadcasting. However, subsequent reports conflicted on whether Justice officials pressed for the sale of Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN—conditions AT&T is unlikely to agree to easily. (Chicago Tribune)

NASA

Senate Panel Advances Trump’s Controversial NASA Nominee: The decision to advance Rep. Jim Bridenstine's nomination came down to a party-line 14-13 vote in the Senate Commerce Committee. Democrats strongly objected to Bridenstine, labeling him a politically polarizing figure with little scientific or technical expertise. (The Hill)

NASA Sets December 2019 Date for First Space Launch System (SLS) Launch: NASA announced November 8 that it now plans a first launch of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket no earlier than December 2019, even as a review concluded the rocket isn’t likely to fly until mid-2020. (Space News)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Suffers a Rocket-Engine Failure During Testing: SpaceX is investigating why one of its rocket engines exploded during a test earlier this week at Elon Musk’s facility in Texas, the company confirmed Wednesday. (Washington Post)

Russian Investigation

Kremlin Cash Behind Billionaire’s Twitter and Facebook Investments: Leaked files show that a state-controlled bank in Moscow helped fuel Yuri Milner’s ascent in Silicon Valley, where the Russia investigation has put tech companies under scrutiny. (New York Times)

White House

Trump Packs a Punch Against North Korea as He Embarks on Asia Tour: President Trump relaunched the “US pivot to Asia” this weekend by kicking off a tour that takes him and the First Lady across five countries in 12 days. It’s an epic trip, the likes of which an American president hasn’t undertaken in more than a decade. (The Hill)

Trump Backs Saudi Crackdown After Arrests of Princes, Executives: President Trump vouched for Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince after the weekend arrests of princes, businessmen, and officials in an anticorruption drive that rattled the Kingdom and shocked investors. (Bloomberg)

***

If you have any questions about this alert please contact your Clark Hill attorney.