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Window on Washington - This Week in the Nation's Capital - September 22, 2017, Vol. 1, Issue 27

Sep 22, 2017

CONGRESS

Budget

  • Senate Again Delays Action on Remaining Appropriations Bill: The Senate has yet to schedule any mark-ups for next week for its remaining four appropriations bills (Clark Hill Insight).
  • Senate Reaches Deal on Budget Resolution: While few details are known, Senators Bob Corker and Pat Toomey, who were previously in disagreement over deficit spending, announced a deal for a budget resolution. The deal would allow for a tax reduction, as scored on a static basis, over a 10-year period and is expected to be taken up by the committee in the next week or two. (The Hill)
  • At Least Two More Disaster Relief Packages Expected: Senator John Cornyn said that the Congress will move at least two more aid packages in October. House Speaker Ryan said that the Congress is still waiting for final figures from the Trump Administration on the damage in Florida and Texas. (Bloomberg BNA)

Tax Reform

  • Senate Panel Mulls Business Tax Reform: The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Tuesday to discuss reforming the business tax code and heard from a diverse group of panelists who discussed a range of tax cut options and gave their opinions on which corporate tax reforms would do the most to boost the economy. (Accounting Today)
  • Republicans Consider Paring Tax Breaks for Rich, Corporations: Senior White House officials and congressional leaders are thinking about ways to make tax reform less generous to the wealthy and are considering a smaller corporate tax cut than the proposed 15%, which would help Republicans in two ways: by broadening the political appeal of tax reform and reducing its cost. (Politico

Debt Ceiling

  • Senate Democrats File Bill to Eliminate the Debt Ceiling: Following the President's statement of support on the idea, Senators Chris Coons, Brian Schatz, and Michael Bennet have introduced legislation that would repeal the borrowing cap. Republican leadership has said they do not agree that the debt ceiling should be eliminated. (The Hill)

Defense

  • Senate Passes Budget-Busting $700 Billion Defense Policy Bill: The Senate on Monday passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that exceeds budget caps by $91 billion. It garnered support from all but four Democrats and all but three Republicans. Its passage adds pressure on Congress and the president to strike a deal that funds the federal government for 2018. Congress must ease the 2011 Budget Control Act caps or face an automatic across-the-board cut. (Defense News

Healthcare

  • Majority Leader McConnell to Allow Vote for Graham-Cassidy Bill Ahead of Reconciliation Deadline: Senator McConnell will allow the Senate to vote on the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill but only if the bill will pass. Senate Republicans, in response to criticism from supporters, decided that it would be more important to try again for repeal and possibly fail instead of not trying at all. A vote count is still unsure but Senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins are expected to vote against. The House would have to pass the bill as is without amendment and Speaker Ryan has indicated he would be willing to do so. The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for Monday on the proposal. (Politico
  • Which States Could Win and Lose from the Graham-Cassidy Repeal Bill: The bill ends federal funding for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion and the subsidies that help people afford coverage, as well as the law's insurance mandate. Instead, states would be given pots of money and would get to decide how to spend it. The full analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation is available here. In response, the National Association of Medicaid Directors warned that this would place a massive burden on states. (The Hill)
  • Analysis: Senate's Health Care Cuts Could Top $4 Trillion: The Senate's health-care overhaul would quickly pull $215 billion in federal funding out of the health care system, and those cuts could later grow as high as $4 trillion, according to a new analysis from the consulting firm Avalere Health. (Axios)
  • Senate Reached a Bipartisan Deal to Renew the Children's Health Insurance Program: The compromise would extend the program for five years and gradually phases out a federal funding increase for state CHIP programs that was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. However, the Senate only has until the end of the month to pass the legislation before the program is set to expire and there is no piece of companion legislation currently introduced in the House. (Morning Consult
  • Senators Alexander and Murray Fail to Reach Bipartisan Compromise on Exchange Fix: Alexander and Murray had been working to protect the government payments made to insurers to help reduce medical expenses for low-income Americans enrolled in Obamacare but could not reach an agreement. (CNBC)

Transportation

  • Republican Leaders Press Wary Members to Support Aviation Spinoff: The White House and House Republican leaders are pressuring reluctant members of the Appropriations Committee to back an overhaul of the nation's air traffic control system.  The controversial proposal, a top infrastructure priority for President Trump, would hand over flight duties to a new nonprofit organization. (The Hill

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Department of Defense

  • Mattis: Budget Uncertainty Leads to Questions of Whether America 'Has the Ability to Survive': Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis believes that years of budget uncertainty have left the U.S. military in such a precarious position that if it is not solved soon, it will represent an existential threat to American security. Mattis' comments may be the most forceful from a sitting secretary. (Defense News)
  • Trump Considering Changes to Obama-era Counterterrorism Policies: The Administration is preparing to change Obama-era limits on drone strikes and commando raids outside of conventional battlefields possibly allowing counterterrorism missions where the US is not currently actively engaged. (The New York Times)

Department of Education

  • Former NFL Player Named to Head the White House HBCU Initiative: The White House named consultant and former NFL Player Johnathan M. Holifield to head its initiative on black colleges and universities, a move praised by some groups representing the schools. (USA Today)  

Department of Energy

  • ARPA-E Awards $22 Million to Help Establish United States as a Leader in Marine Biomass Production: The Department of Energy announced funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for 18 innovative projects as part of the Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) program. MARINER projects will develop the tools to enable the U.S. to become a leading producer of macroalgae, or seaweed, helping to improve U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness. (Department of Energy)
  • Air Conditioning and Chemical Companies are Urging the Administration to Keep an Obama Policy on Greenhouse Gases Emitted from Refrigerants: The industry is lobbying the Administration to defend a regulation and support a global treaty to phase down greenhouse gases emitted from refrigerants in appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators because of the millions already spent on compliance. (Axios
  • DOE Seeks Stakeholder Input, Data for Net Metering Cost-Benefit Study: The Department of Energy announced this week that it will conduct a study of the costs and benefits of net metering to utilities, ratepayers, and the electrical grid as part of the agency's Grid Modernization Initiative. DOE said it expects to use the input to help inform a report to Congress. (Utility Dive)

HHS

  • Trump Administration Working on Pilot Programs Related to Medicare: The Trump administration is signaling it will pursue significant changes to Medicare that could put beneficiaries on the hook for higher costs. One idea would give doctors more latitude to enter into so-called private contracts to charge Medicare beneficiaries more for certain services, if the patients were willing to pay. (STAT News)
  • Trump to Dispatch Secretary Price to Africa: In President Trump's UN speech to African leaders, he said he would send Secretary Price to Africa to maintain U.S. partnerships on key health initiatives. (Politico)
  • Pharmaceutical Industry will Partner with the National Institutes of Health to Find Solutions to Stem the Opioid Epidemic: Fourteen pharmaceutical companies have agreed to share data and, working with the NIH, develop non-addictive pain medicine and new medication-assisted treatment for those who are addicted. (The Inquirer)

Department of Interior

  • Shrink at Least 4 National Monuments and Modify a Half-Dozen Others, Zinke Tells Trump: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created by his immediate predecessors, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites. (Washington Post)

Department of Justice

  • Justice Department States that Trump Pardon Merits Nullifying Rulings in Arpaio Case: Former sheriff Joe Arpaio is entitled to have the guilty verdict and all rulings in his criminal contempt of court case formally nullified by the court as a result of the pardon President Trump issued last month, the Justice Department said in a court filing. (Politico)

Department of Labor

  • The Trump Administration's Anti-Labor Agenda is Breathing New Life into Federal Employee Unions: Federal employee unions have claimed a number of early victories in preserving resources and benefits for their members during the new administration, working behind the scenes to scale back the steep cuts to the federal workforce and to federal employee retirement programs Trump proposed in his fiscal 2018 budget. (Government Executive)

CFPB

  • Final Isn't Necessarily Final if CFPB Payday Rule Released: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray could release a final small-dollar lending rule before departing for a possible run for governor in Ohio, although that won't guarantee it ever goes into effect. Whomever President Trump chooses to replace Cordray could delay its implementation, or lawmakers could block the rule using the Congressional Review Act. (Bloomberg BNA)

NASA

  • Northrop Grumman to Acquire Orbital ATK: Northrop Grumman will acquire Orbital ATK in a $9.2 billion deal that will give the combined company complementary capabilities in space and defense systems. Under the terms of the deal, Northrop Grumman will pay $7.8 billion in cash and assume $1.4 billion in debt to acquire Orbital ATK. (Space News)
  • Space Industry Awaits Air Force Decisions on Future Launch Services: A long-awaited solicitation for industry bids on future space launch services will be out "soon," said Air Force procurement chief Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch. Officials have said the plan is to award up to three contracts to develop prototypes of next-generation launch vehicles. (Space News)
  • Lockheed Martin Closes in On Shrinking the Telescope: Lockheed Martin has revealed the first images from an experimental, ultra-thin optical instrument, showing it could be possible to shrink space telescopes to a sliver of the size of today's systems while maintaining equivalent resolution. Weighing 90 percent less than a typical telescope, the Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-Optical Reconnaissance (SPIDER) opens a path for extremely lightweight optical instruments, allowing for more hosted payloads or smaller spacecraft. (Space Ref Business)

Cybersecurity

  • SEC Reveals 2016 Hack that Breached its Filing System: In a statement posted on the SEC's website, Chairman Jay Clayton said a review of the agency's cybersecurity risk profile determined that the previously detected "incident" was caused by "a software vulnerability" in its EDGAR filing system. The statement said the software was patched quickly after the hack was uncovered in 2016, although the possibility that some may have used it to make illegal profits was only discovered last month. (ABC News)

Trade

  • Trump Announces New Crackdown on North Korea's Trade: President Trump announced Thursday that he had signed a new executive order expanding the U.S. government's authority to target individuals, companies and financial institutions with ties to North Korea, escalating the U.S. campaign of economic pressure against the repressive regime. The order does not impose new sanctions but rather expands the Treasury Department's authority to target people who trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea. (Politico)

Immigration

  • U.S. Judge Aims to Quickly Decide Lawsuits Over DACA: At a hearing in San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Judge William Alsup grouped four cases together, including a lawsuit filed by California's attorney general and six individual Dreamers. The legal claims in all of the cases are similar: That the Trump Administration did not follow proper administrative procedure in rescinding DACA, and that making enforcement promises to a group of people, only to revoke them, violates due process. (Reuters)

Russian Investigation

  • US Government Wiretapped Former Trump Campaign Chairman: US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election. (CNN)

White House

  • South Korea Says Trump's Warning to North Korea 'Firm and Specific': President Trump's speech to the United Nations, where he warned he would "totally destroy" North Korea if threatened, reinforced the need for Pyongyang to realize it must give up its nuclear weapons, South Korea said on Wednesday. (Reuters)
  • Trump Makes a Comeback in the Polls: President Trump's historically low job approval rating has been on the rise in recent weeks, giving the president a boost as the White House works to repeal ObamaCare and pass tax reform. (The Hill)

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