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Window on Washington - This Week in the Nation's Capital - September 8, 2017, Vol. 1, Issue 25

Sep 08, 2017

CONGRESS

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Budget

  • House and Senate Overwhelmingly Passed Legislation that Included a Short-Term Continuing Resolution, Lift of the Debt Ceiling, and Emergency Aid:  The bill includes over $15 billion in disaster assistance for Hurricane Harvey recovery; a three-month extension of the federal borrowing limit; and funding for the government at current levels until December 8th. President Trump is expected to quickly sign the bill into law (The Washington Post).
  • Senate Continues Appropriations Work for FY18: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bills. The Senate included a $2 billion raise, to $36.1 billion, for the National Institutes of Health in its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education bill (Science Magazine).

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Debt Ceiling

  • Trump Bucks GOP Leadership, Backs Democratic Deal on Debt Ceiling, Funding Government: The President bucked his own party Wednesday and sided with Democrats to support a deal that would ensure passage of disaster relief funding as well as raising the debt ceiling and continuing to fund the government into December (CNN).
  • Trump’s Deal with Democrats on Debt Ceiling Opposed by Conservatives: Republican resistance to a deal to raise the national borrowing limit — struck by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders — is straining GOP unity just as Congress enters the most politically treacherous stretch of the legislative calendar (Politico).

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Immigration

  • Fiscal Deal Sets up Tough DACA Choice for Democrats: The short-term fiscal deal that President Trump agreed to tees up a tough choice for the Democrats who triumphantly negotiated it: whether to risk a government shutdown later this year to win relief for Dreamers. (Politico).
  • Appeals Court Rules Against Administration on Travel Ban: A three-judge panel decided that grandparents, cousins and similarly close extended family relationships of people in the U.S. shouldn't be prevented from coming to the country (CBS News).
  • Democrats Begin Legal Assault on Trump’s Move to End ‘Dreamer’ Program: President Trump’s immigration policies face a renewed legal onslaught as a coalition of Democratic attorneys general, nonprofit groups and private companies announce they will oppose the rollback of Obama-era protections for people who entered the country illegally as children (The New York Times).

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Healthcare

  • Bipartisan Governors Testify at Senate HELP Hearing on Health Insurance: Governors agreed that insurer's cost-sharing subsidies need to be paid in order to help stabilize the insurer's markets (Axios).
  • Chairman Alexander Hopes to Release a Bipartisan Health Care Bill within 10 Days: Governors at Senate HELP hearing stressed that Congress and the President must work together to strengthen Obamacare and stabilize the individual marketplace (CNN).
  • Trump Pushing for One More Repeal Vote: GOP Republicans believe this unlikely to be successful as the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the budget reconciliation vehicle expires at the end of September and a new attempt to repeal Obamacare has not been drafted or scored (Politico).
  • Children's Health Advocates Urged Congress to Pass a Five-Year Reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program: Federal funding for CHIP is set to expire at the end of the month (The Hill).

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Energy

  • PURPA Pummeled: Pro-Solar Law Savaged Before House Committee: Before the House Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee, utilities and regulators argued for significant changes to the 1978 law that has helped propel solar forward in states across the country and the SEIA’s sole representative valiantly tried to make solar’s case (PV Magazine).

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Trade

  • NAFTA Talks Lurch Ahead Without Signs of Major Progress: The lack of concrete progress raises questions about whether the three countries will be able to rewrite NAFTA this year, if at all. Thus far, Canada and Mexico have made it clear that they will not be cowed by President Trump’s threats to unilaterally scrap the trade agreement, a move that would most likely damage the U.S. economy (The New York Times).

 

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

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Department of Defense

  • Pentagon Backs McCain, Reed Effort to Close Extra Military Bases: A Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)—meant to divest the DOD of unused or underutilized military infrastructure—could help the Pentagon save money and reorganize for new military technologies (The Hill).
  • US Navy Worked Around its Own Standards to Keep Ships Underway: The U.S. Navy’s top officer in the Pacific is reviewing a program that allowed ships from the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet to operate with expired certifications amid a wide-ranging probe into two deadly collisions that killed 17 sailors and caused untold hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to two destroyers (Defense News). 

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Department of Education

  • DeVos to Revamp Obama-Era Schools Sexual Assault Policy: The Trump administration will rewrite an Obama-era schools directive on sexual assault in an effort to balance the rights of victims and the accused (Politico).
  • Senate Panel Rejects Trump Teacher-Funding Cut, School Choice Proposals: Lawmakers overseeing education spending dealt a blow to the Trump administration’s K-12 budget asks in a spending bill approved by a bipartisan vote Wednesday (Education Week).

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Department of Energy

  • U.S. Department of Energy Proposes Rule to Expedite Approval for Small-Scale Natural Gas Exports: This deregulatory measure will expedite the review and approval of applications to export small amounts of natural gas in the emerging small-scale liquefied natural gas export market (Department of Energy).
  • Review of the Obama Administration’s Rule for Power Plants to be Finalized Soon: The EPA is widely expected to formally order the rule off the books at the end of its review (The Hill).

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EPA

  • Environmentalists, Automakers Fight Over Trump's Proposed Fuel Efficiency Standards Rollback: Environmentalists and consumer groups asked the Environmental Protection Agency to keep in place fuel efficiency standards for new cars and trucks created by the Obama administration. Automakers, meanwhile, continued to press for relief from the rules, arguing low gasoline prices have weakened consumer demand for hybrid-electric cars and smaller fuel-efficient models (Washington Examiner).

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HHS

  • Surgeon General Sworn In: Dr. Jerome Adams said during confirmation proceedings that he planned to focus on the nation's opioid crisis and untreated mental health concerns (ABC News).

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DOL

  • Department of Labor Abandons Appeal of Overtime Rule: The DOL asked a federal appeals court to dismiss its appeal of the court order blocking its controversial 2016 “overtime rule” from taking effect, signaling the DOL’s official abandonment of the Obama-era rule in favor of the agency’s plan to pursue less-drastic overtime reform (Lexology).

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CFPB

  • DeVos Ends Agreement to Work on Student Loan Fraud: The Education Department announced it will stop working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to police student loan fraud arguing the agency violated its terms by overstepping its boundaries (The Hill).

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NASA

  • Trump Nominates Oklahoma Congressman as Next NASA Administrator: Jim Bridenstine is someone who champions commercial access to space, thinks a return to the moon is vital to U.S. strategic interests, and has dismissed the science behind climate change. If the Senate confirms the 42-year-old former Navy flier, he would be the first elected politician to hold a job that’s been the purview of scientists, engineers and astronauts (USA Today).
  • Two Significant Solar Flares Imaged by NASA’s SDO: Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however—when intense enough—they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel (NASA).

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National Academies of Science

  • NAS Panel to Evaluate Alternative Treatment for Conventional Munitions:  Congress has directed the NAS to determine if there are technological alternatives to the longstanding practice to destroy some munitions (particularly rockets) by burning them outdoors or exploding them outdoors (National Academies).

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National Flood Insurance Program

  • Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Their Little Brothers and Sisters Highlight the Importance of Fixing the NFIP: Even prior to the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey, the NFIP was estimated not to be able to generate sufficient revenues to repay the billions of dollars borrowed from the Department of the Treasury to cover claims from prior storms. This week’s budget deal delays reaching a legislative compromise until December 2017 (Continuing Appropriations Act).

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Russian Investigation

  • Russia Probe Kicks Into High Gear: The Congressional Russia investigations are entering a new and more serious phase as lawmakers return from the August recess amid fresh revelations about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia (Politico).

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White House

  • Trump Moves to End DACA and Calls on Congress to Act: President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling it an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to pass a replacement before he begins phasing out its protections in six months (The New York Times).
  • Trump is Reportedly Unlikely to Pick Gary Cohn as Next Fed Chair: Trump soured on appointing Cohn to lead the central bank after the White House advisor criticized the president's reaction to violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia last month (CNBC).

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