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Window on Washington - This Week in the Nation's Capital - September 1, 2017, Vol. 1, Issue 24

Sep 01, 2017

CONGRESS

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Budget

  • Hurricane Harvey Could be the Most Expensive Natural Disaster in US History: Republican House members from Texas and Louisiana are pressing congressional leaders and top Trump administration officials for immediate federal funding to recover Hurricane Harvey (Politico).
  • Freedom Caucus Will Support Short-Term Continuing Resolution: The caucus chairman stated he would support short-term legislation to fund the government even if it excludes money for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall easing concerns regarding a shutdown in September (Politico).

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Immigration

  • ACLU, DOJ Settle Legal Challenge Against Trump Travel Ban: It remains unclear if money will play any part in the settlement. The parties were originally suing to stop the unlawful sequestration and questioning of travelers. In addition, the plaintiffs wanted the list of names of all detained (New York Post).
  • Republican Congressman Will File Discharge Petition to Force Vote on DACA Legislation:  Congressman Coffman will file a discharge petition when Congress returns from recess to force action on legislation he previously introduced that would extend protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the US as minors commonly referred to as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). President Trump recently stated that he may end the Obama-era DACA program (Politico). 

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Healthcare

  • Senate Health Committee Schedules Two More Obamacare Hearings: The committee is looking to pass a bipartisan bill to stabilize ObamaCare's exchanges by the end of September. The bill could include funding for key ObamaCare insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, and changes to the law's state waivers (The Hill).
  • Senator Alexander Wants to Move Forward with a Bill to Stabilize the Insurance Markets: The Chairman of the Senate health committee said the bill would deal with cost-sharing reductions and easing rules on a waiver process but he has not yet spoken with the Administration (Tennessean).
  • Eight Governors Have Signed onto a Bipartisan Plan to Address Health Care: The framework includes recommendations that the controversial individual mandate stay in place for at least the immediate future and that Congress create tax exemptions for insurance carriers who offer plans in underserved counties (Denver Post).

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Russia

  • Donald Trump Jr. Set to Testify Before Senate Judiciary Panel: The Senate Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement and set a date for Donald Trump Jr.  to testify behind closed doors to the panel, the committee confirmed on Tuesday (Politico).

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Tax Reform

  • Trump's Fill-in-the-Blanks Tax Reform Plan: Four months ago, the Trump Administration released the outlines of a tax-reform plan—a one-page list of ideas and principles that was notable mostly for how many questions it left unanswered. President Trump’s speech on Wednesday revealed that Republicans aren’t much closer to enacting the most significant overhaul of the tax code in 30 years than they were back in April (The Atlantic).
  • Two Bankers Are Selling Trump’s Tax Plan. Is Congress Buying?: President Trump has left it largely to Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, both new to government, to devise and execute a winning legislative strategy. (New York Times).

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Trade

  • If Trump Pulls Trigger on NAFTA Withdrawal, Mexico Will Walk Away: Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Wednesday that Mexico will leave the negotiating table if U.S. President Donald Trump goes ahead with a threat to start the process of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Reuters).

 

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

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Department of Defense

  • US Military Bombers, Fighters Fly Over Korean Peninsula in Show of Force: The U.S. military flew two B-1B supersonic bombers and two F-35 fighter jets over South Korea on Thursday following North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch. The U.S. aircraft were participating in training with South Korean F-15 fighter jets (Fox News).

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Department of Energy

  • Harvey Prompts DOE to Release 500K Barrels of Oil From Strategic Reserves: DOE’s release includes dumping 200,000 barrels of sweet crude and 300,000 barrels of sour crude oil — sweet crude contains less sulfur than sour. The country’s reserve was established in the 1970s during the oil embargo and currently contains 679 million barrels of oil (The Daily Caller).
  • The Whole World is Feeling the Pinch After Harvey Knocks Texas Energy Offline: The logistics that move oil and fuel are snarled—or just not operating at all—after Harvey's catastrophic flooding caused widespread outages of energy operations along the Gulf Coast. As of Wednesday, well over 20 percent of U.S. refining capacity was shut down (CNBC).
  • Department of Energy Report Released on Electricity Market and Reliability: A highly-anticipated DOE report found that natural gas, not renewable energy, is the primary driver behind coal and nuclear power plant retirements (WBAA).

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EPA

  • EPA Waives Fuel Emission Requirements from Texas to DC in Harvey’s Wake: The multi-state fuel waver makes it easier for gasoline and diesel supplies to be distributed by relaxing Clean Air Act regulations that require special blends be made available to meet state-specific emission requirements (Washington Examiner).

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Department of Health and Human Services

  • FDA Approves a New Type of Cancer-fighting Cell Therapy, CAR-T: Novartis won its pioneering FDA approval a month earlier than expected and announced that it plans to charge $475,000 for its therapy, a number that is unassailably quite large but also indisputably smaller than what many assumed (STAT).

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Department of Justice

  • Federal Judge Blocked Texas’ Sanctuary City Law: A Texas law scheduled to go into effect on August 31 that would have required police officers to ask people during routine stops about their immigration status was blocked after a judge declared it unconstitutional.  Several of Texas’ major cities filed the lawsuit against the State and the Department of Justice joined Texas in defending the law in court (ABC News).
  • Philadelphia is Suing Attorney General Sessions: The City filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General for adding requirements to Department of Justice grants related to immigration enforcement that the City believes violate the Constitution (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

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Department of Labor

  • Obama DOL’s Overtime Rule Struck Down: A Texas federal judge on Thursday invalidated the controversial rule expanding overtime protections to millions of white collar workers, saying the U.S. Department of Labor improperly used a salary-level test to determine which workers are exempt from overtime compensation (Law 360). 
  • Fiduciary Rule May be Neutered by New DOL Proposal, Critics Say: With its contentious fiduciary rule only partially in effect, the Department of Labor is pressing ahead with a new proposal to add exemptions to the regulation that business groups say could relieve compliance burdens but that critics contend will effectively neuter the rule (Financial Planning).

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CFPB

  • Republicans Accelerating Repeal of Rule to Restore Consumers’ Right to Sue Banks: This July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau banned arbitration clauses from prohibiting class action suits, freeing consumers to sue banks, lenders and other financial institutions. Since then, Republican leaders have been working furiously to repeal the rule, with some sources speculating they may do so as early as the first week of September (Forbes).
  • As Bitcoin and Rivals Surge, So Too Have Complaints to the CFPB: Through August, there have been 277 complaints about virtual currencies lodged to the CFPB — compared with just seven in 2016. The CFPB has said that consumers should be aware of potential issues with virtual currencies such as unclear costs, volatile exchange rates, the threat of hacking and scams, and that companies may not offer help or refunds for lost or stolen funds. It has not, however, taken any enforcement action (Market Watch).

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NASA

  • Johnson Space Center in Houston Closed Due to Flooding, But JWST Safe: The center will remain closed to all  but essential personnel until Sept. 5 as the center, and the greater Houston area, recovers from Tropical Storm Harvey. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, currently in a thermal vacuum chamber at the center undergoing tests, has not been affected by the storm (Space News).
  • Trump Administration Tees Up National Space Council to Offer Cohesive Strategy: The National Space Council led by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Executive Director Scott Pace will focus on defense and economic policy rather than science and exploration.  The administration will use the National Space Council to offer a cohesive U.S. government strategy and prevent NASA, the Defense Department, the National Reconnaissance Office and Congress from moving in different directions (Space News).
  • NASA Prepares to Slam Cassini Spacecraft into Saturn: NASA is about to fly its Cassini spacecraft into Saturn, destroying it in an attempt to protect its moons from an “alien invasion” of microbes.  The fiery death will bring an end to the 13-year mission in mid-September (Independent).

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OMB

  • Office of Management and Budget Halts Worker Pay Data Reporting Requirement: The Trump Administration halted an Obama Administration rule that would have required businesses with 100 employees to report worker pay data by gender, race and ethnic groups scheduled to go into effect early next year (Los Angeles Times).

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SEC

  • New SEC Chair Gets New Demands for Political Contribution Disclosures: A continuing soap opera for the past several years has been whether the Securities and Exchange Commission will craft a rule on corporate political donations (Compliance Week).

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Transportation

  • Trump Infrastructure Package Could be Stretched Too Thin: The White House has promised a broad-ranging plan that covers areas beyond traditional infrastructure items like roads and bridges, pulling in broadband, energy and veterans hospital goals. Even some universities are pushing to have research labs included in the rebuilding effort.  But with an increasing number of interests fighting for a slice of the pie, some local transportation agencies are questioning whether Trump’s rebuilding proposal will be enough to truly improve the poor condition of much of the nation’s infrastructure (The Hill).

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Cybersecurity

  • The Cybersecurity Regulatory Crackdown: Many of the biggest cyberattacks we’ve seen to date were largely preventable. As a result, new regulations are emerging that are forcing organizations to get their proverbial houses in order. These regulations feature a new characteristic: They're hitting companies where it hurts, with steep penalties for those that don’t comply (Forbes).

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White House

  • Trump Pitches Tax Reform to ‘Bring Back Main Street’: President Trump on Wednesday delivered his opening pitch on tax reform, framing the effort in populist terms saying Republican plans to overhaul the tax code would be a boon for lower and middle-class Americans (CNN).
  • Trump Surveys ‘Epic’ Damage as Texas Braces for Long Recovery: With Texas still being lashed by rain and rescues still underway, President Donald Trump vowed that the government’s response to Hurricane Harvey would serve as a model for disaster recovery (Bloomberg).
  • Trump Pardons Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Democrats and civil rights groups blasted Trump's decision to pardon Arpaio, arguing that while Trump was within his rights to pardon the former sheriff the move was unjustified (Hill).

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