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Window On Washington - April 22, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 17

Apr 22, 2019

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

Congress in Recess. Congress continues to be in recess this week and will return on April 29. House Speaker Pelosi scheduled a conference call for today with the Democratic caucus to discuss the Mueller report and strategize on next steps. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler has already subpoenaed the Department of Justice for the full, unredacted version of the report. Many believe that Attorney General Barr will not release the full report and the fight will go to the Supreme Court.

Trump’s Taxes. Tomorrow is the deadline set by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Neal for the IRS to release President Trump’s tax returns. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said he is waiting for a legal opinion from the Department of Justice before responding. Neal could possibly resort to legal options if Mnuchin does not release the returns.

Appropriations. Democrats have said that the full House Appropriations Committee plans to mark up its Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill on May 8. It will be the first of the 12 spending bills to be marked up. The bill will be marked up in subcommittee next week once Congress returns.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Health

Anti-Tobacco Advocates Question McConnell Plan To Raise Minimum Purchasing Age: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced he will introduce national legislation to raise the minimum age for people buying tobacco products from 18 to 21. Some anti-tobacco advocates worry that the plan could actually harm children by heading off other regulation efforts. The proposal from McConnell, who hails from a top tobacco-producing state, came Thursday at a conference with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, a Louisville-based organization. (NPR)

Tax Reform

Dems, Trump Harden 2020 Battle Lines on Tax Day: Republicans and Democrats used Tax Day to drive home their arguments about President Trump’s 2017 law, as millions more Americans are poised to soon find out whether they personally benefited from the tax overhaul. (The Hill)

Justice

House Dems in Talks with DOJ for Mueller Testimony: House Judiciary Committee Democrats said Friday that they’ve engaged with the Justice Department about preliminary arrangements for special counsel Robert Mueller to testify next month. (Politico)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

The NIH Hopes a New Study in 4 States Can Cut Opioid Deaths by 40%. Here's How: The NIH awarded grants to four research sites — the University of Kentucky, Boston Medical Center, Columbia University and Ohio State University — through the three-year, $350 million project, called the HEALing Communities Study. Each site will test the effectiveness of various strategies for combating and preventing opioid addiction in at least 15 communities in those states that are struggling with widespread substance misuse, with the goal of reducing opioid deaths in these areas by 40% over three years, the NIH says. (TIME)

HHS Extends Comment Period for Interoperability Rules: The CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released their long-awaited interoperability proposals in February, outlining how regulators will require providers and insurers to share medical data with patients, such as through application programming interfaces that connect electronic health records systems with third-party apps. The public comment periods for both rules are now set to close June 3, a 30-day extension from the original May 3 deadline. (Modern Healthcare)

Space/NASA & NOAA

Independent Report Concludes 2033 Human Mars Mission is Not Feasible: An independent report concluded that NASA has no chance of sending humans to Mars by 2033, with the earliest such a mission could be flown being the late 2030s. The report, while completed prior to the March 26 speech where Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024, does offer insights into how much a lunar return might cost and how it fits into long-term plans to send humans to Mars. (Space News)

NASA’s Accelerated Moon Plans Create Uncertainty for International Partners: As NASA develops its plans to accelerate a human return to the surface of the moon, international partners are left wondering what roles, if any, they will have in that effort. NASA has yet to outline its approach to meeting the goal announced in a March 26 speech by Vice President Mike Pence of landing humans on the south pole of the moon within five years. (Space News)

How NASA Earth Data Aids America, State by State: For six decades, NASA has used the vantage point of space to better understand our home planet and improve lives. A new interactive website called Space for U.S. highlights some of the many ways that NASA's Earth observations help people strengthen communities across the United States and make informed decisions about public health, disaster response and recovery, and environmental protection. (Phys.org)

Justice/DOJ

The Mueller Report, Explained in 500 Words: Special counsel Robert Mueller released his report Thursday — and it’s nowhere near the “total exoneration” President Donald Trump claims. The 448-page report is split into two “volumes”: one chronicling the many ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, and another outlining 10 “episodes” where Mueller said there was potential evidence of obstruction. (Vox)

Labor & Workforce

Jobless Claims are Near a 50-year Low and it's No Fluke: U.S. employment numbers continue to get better. Data released showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest in almost 50 years last week. (Axios)

EPA

EPA Official Says Agency May Ban Asbestos: Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said the agency will complete its risk assessment of asbestos within the three years set out by Congress by the end of 2019. While asbestos is not widely used in the U.S., some products that contain asbestos are imported into the U.S. for the manufacture other products, including chlorine, some automotive parts, and in the oil drilling process. (The Hill)

Energy

Rick Perry Planning His Exit as Trump’s Energy Secretary, Sources Say: Energy Secretary Rick Perry is planning to leave the Trump administration and is finalizing the terms and timing of his departure, according to two people familiar with his plans. (Bloomberg)

Transportation/DOT

Elon Musk's D.C.-to-Baltimore ‘Loop’ Leaps an Early Milestone: Elon Musk's Boring Company is one step closer to being able to construct an underground "loop" between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, that would be served by driverless cars through a tunnel, the Transportation Department announced Wednesday. (Politico)

Defense

Trump Vetoes Resolution to End U.S. Participation in Yemen’s Civil War: President Trump on Tuesday vetoed a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. The move, which had been expected, marks the second veto of Trump’s presidency. (Washington Post)

Immigration

The Real Illegal Immigration Crisis Isn’t on the Southern Border: The group in question? Visa overstays. (The Atlantic)

HUD Moves to Crack Down on Undocumented Immigrants in Public Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development is moving to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving housing aid, saying it is acting on behalf of the millions of American citizens and legal residents who are waiting for public housing. (Politico)

CFPB

Back to the Future: CFPB Prioritizes Prevention Over Enforcement with Debt Collection Rules on the Horizon: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) Director, Kathleen L. Kraninger, spoke last week at the Bipartisan Policy Center regarding her outlined vision for the Bureau. Kraninger discussed her findings from her three month listening tour, and how she plans to use the Bureau’s tools to meet the expectations expressed on her tour. Kraninger also provided a preview of the anticipated proposed rule to implement the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that is expected this spring. (Clark Hill Insight)

Trade

New Trade Case on Imports of Ceramic Tile Products from China: New U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty investigations were filed on April 10, 2019 by the Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile against imports of ceramic tile and vanities from China. (Clark Hill Insight)

Cyber

Census Bureau Counts on New Cybersecurity Concerns: With the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 count less than a year away, agency leaders are working to keep their data safe from hacks and to ensure the integrity of the information they receive that will in turn be used to shape congressional districts. As of December 2018, the bureau had identified nearly 1,100 census system security weaknesses, according to a Government Accountability Office report. (Fifth Domain)

Homeland Security

New Homeland Security Chief Urges Congress to Address Border Crisis: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan urged Congress last Wednesday to address what he called “both a humanitarian and security crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Politico)

Education

DeVos Mends Fences With State Chiefs, Faces Critics in Congress: After weathering a political storm over the Trump administration's proposed budget at the end of March, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continued her run of public appearances into April, and got widely varied reactions from state education leaders and from lawmakers on Capitol Hill on issues ranging from arming teachers to testing. (Ed Week)

IRS

IRS Approves Three New Enforcement Campaigns Based on Data Analysis and Employee Feedback: The IRS has announced three focused enforcement areas, all related to international tax compliance. The three campaigns were identified through data analysis and suggestions from IRS employees, highlighting the IRS’s use of cutting edge technologies and feedback to identify areas of noncompliance. (Clark Hill Insight)

FEC

Court Paves Way for FEC to Reveal Anonymous $1.7 Million Super PAC Donor: An anonymous individual who secretly funneled $1.7 million to a super PAC in 2012 will soon be revealed after a lengthy legal fight — if a new appeals court decision in Washington is not put off for further review by the court. (Politico)