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Window on Washington - This Week in the Nation's Capital - June 30, 2017 Vol. 1, Issue 15

June 30, 2017




  • Agriculture Spending Bill Calls for $876M in Discretionary Cuts: House appropriators unveiled a fiscal 2018 agriculture and food safety draft spending bill that would provide $20 billion in discretionary funding, which is $876 million less than current spending and $4.64 billion more than President Donald Trump recommended (Bloomberg).



  • Security Boost in House Legislative Branch Bill Approved: House appropriators have approved a fiscal 2018 Legislative Branch spending bill that would boost security both at the Capitol and in members’ districts. The House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee at a brief meeting on Friday approved by voice vote the $3.58 billion fiscal 2018 Legislative Branch measure. No amendments were offered (Roll Call).


Debt Ceiling

  • New Analysis Shows Government Could Run Out of Cash in Early to Mid-October: The government could run out of cash to pay its bills in early to mid-October, unless Congress raises the federal borrowing limit, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday. CBO projects budget deficit will rise to $693 billion this fiscal year (Wall Street Journal).



  • House Appropriations Approves $658B Defense Bill: The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $658 billion spending plan for the Defense Department. The measure, which passed by voice vote, includes $584 billion for the base budget and $74 billion in war funding known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account (The Hill).
  • Senate Panel Approves $700 Billion Defense Bill: The Senate Armed Services Committee has unanimously approved a defense policy bill that provides $700 billion for the military services in the 2018 fiscal year (Washington Post).



  • Lobbying Fight Erupts Over Coal Country Bill: The lobbying fight over a House bill to revitalize coal country has heated up ahead of a key committee hearing on Tuesday. Interest groups supporting the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act, a bill to pump money into distressed coal communities in Appalachia, want to strengthen the bill before the House Natural Resources Committee sends it to the full House (The Hill).
  • Nuclear Waste: A House panel approved legislation that would pave the way for interim nuclear waste storage, ahead of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's licensing process for permanent storage in Yucca Mountain, Nevada (The Hill).
  • Senate Energy Committee Releases Text of Comprehensive Energy Bill: U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, (R-Alaska), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell, (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, this week introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA). Focused on a wide range of energy and natural resources opportunities and challenges, ENRA features eleven titles reflecting common ground on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy (U.S. Senate).



  • Rep. Conyers Under Investigation: U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Detroit is under investigation for possible ethics violations, according to a Monday disclosure by the House Committee on Ethics that his office downplayed (Detroit News).


Financial Reform

  • Volcker Rule Repeal Included in Draft House Spending Bill: House appropriators have included language repealing the Volcker Rule and overhauling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in legislation that would fund financial services regulators (Bloomberg).
  • Lawmakers Unveil Bill to Keep Insurance Expert on Risk Panel: The Senate Banking Committee’s two top lawmakers unveiled a bi-partisan piece of legislation designed to prevent a prolonged vacancy on the federal body that determines how large insurance companies are regulated (New York Times).



  • GOP Leaders Issue Revised Health Bill as They Press for Vote: Senate leaders released a slightly revised version of their health-care bill as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to win over enough holdouts to pass the measure, with at least six Republicans signaling opposition (Bloomberg).
  • CBO Sees 22 Million More Uninsured Under Senate Health Bill: Senate Republicans’ bill to erase major parts of the Affordable Care Act would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured in the coming decade — about 1 million fewer than similar legislation recently passed by the House, according to the Congressional Budget Office (Boston Globe).
  • Four GOP Senators Will Vote Against Taking Up Healthcare Bill Without Changes: Four GOP senators are warning they will vote against taking up the current version of a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, imperiling leadership's push to pass the legislation before the July Fourth recess (The Hill).
  • Senate Republicans Consider Keeping Some Health Care Taxes on the Wealthy: As negotiations continue on a new version of the Senate Republican health care bill, there is growing movement towards preserving some taxes on wealthy Americans, a decision that could anger some conservatives but appease moderates in the search for a compromise (NBCNews).
  • House Passes Medical Malpractice Bill: The House passed a bill that caps medical malpractice lawsuits by limiting plaintiff damages to $250,000. The House passed the Protecting Access to Care Act, largely along party lines, by 218-210. At least 18 Republicans opposed the bill (Washington Examiner).



  • Democrats Target Trump's Border Wall in Defense Bill Debate: Democrats targeted President Trump’s plans for a Mexican border wall with an amendment to the House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill that would bar Pentagon funding from being used for the wall (The Hill).
  • U.S. Defines Who Can Enter Under Travel Ban: The State Department determined who will be allowed into the U.S. following the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to uphold large parts of President Donald Trump’s travel ban against visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries (NBC News).
  • Supreme Court Finds a Compromise in Reviving Trump's Travel Ban: The Supreme Court on Monday took a pragmatic approach to resolving the dispute over President Trump’s foreign travel ban with a middle-ground ruling that may defuse the controversy — for now (LA Times).
  • House Passes Kate’s Law, as Part of Illegal Immigrant Crackdown: House Republicans took action Thursday to crack down on illegal immigrants and the cities that shelter them. One bill passed by the House would deny federal grants to sanctuary cities and another, Kate’s Law, would increase the penalties for deported aliens who try to return to the United States (Fox News).



  • Legislation Would Alter Federal Role in Autonomous Vehicle Regulation: Lawmakers on key House and Senate committees are working on legislation that would create new federal standards for self-driving cars, replacing the current state-by-state patchwork of rules (Morning Consult).
  • Regulators, Carmakers Plot Road to Connected Car Privacy, Security: Dozens of companies, including Ford Motor Co. and Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo, are rushing to develop and test fully-autonomous vehicles which rely on web connectivity. Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen said that regulators should exercise “humility” when considering government oversight of privacy and data security issues for vehicles connected to the internet, (Bloomberg).
  • House Panel Approves Proposal to Privatize Air Traffic Control: A House panel approved a controversial proposal to separate air traffic control from the federal government after a lengthy debate over the effort, which stalled on the House floor last year amid opposition from both parties. In a 32-25 vote, mostly along party lines, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and transfer the agency’s air navigation system to a nonprofit organization (The Hill).



  • USAID: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to consider Mark Green to become administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (Devex).


Russia Probe

  • 34 House Democrats Ask The Justice Department to Investigate Jeff Sessions: All 34 Democratic members of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees have asked Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate Attorney General Jeff Sessions for allegedly violating his recusal from ongoing investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's possible role in it (The Hill).


Supreme Court 

  • Toxic Waste Spill: The Supreme Court decided against hearing a case that pits New Mexico against Colorado over damages to the Animas River from the Gold King Mine toxic waste spill in 2015 (The Hill).


Tax Reform

  • Corporate Tax Rate at 28% Seen as More Likely Than Historic Cut: Constrained by congressional rules, political concerns and simple arithmetic, Republican leaders in Washington have yet to announce any consensus on how to finance the deep corporate tax cut they want, beyond introducing vague plans to close off business-related loopholes (Bloomberg).
  • Rep. Kevin Brady Sees Tax Reform Completed This Year: Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and a Republican from Texas, discusses lower U.S. economic growth and the prospect of U.S. tax reform being completed this year (Bloomberg).
  • Tax Reform is Coming in September: Tax reform is coming in September, regardless of what happens with health care, says Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council (CNBC).



  • U.S. Slaps More Duties on Canadian Lumber Shipments: The Canada-U.S. softwood lumber trade dispute intensified Monday after the U.S. Department of Commerce boosted the levy it imposes on Canadian lumber shipments to 26.75 per cent from 19.88 per cent (Financial Post).
  • Labor Union Leaders Weigh In on NAFTA Renegotiation: AFL-CIO officials and other labor advocates floated some marching orders for U.S. trade representatives as they start renegotiating the NAFTA trade pact later this year (Bloomberg).
  • Auto Industry Groups Urge Caution in Changing NAFTA Origin Rules: Auto industry trade groups said that tightening the rules of origin in the North American Free Trade Agreement could be disruptive and hurt the competitiveness of U.S., Mexican and Canadian auto plants (Voice of America).
  • Why Farmers are Anxious About NAFTA: Of America’s top ten farm states by cash receipts from production, six are in the Midwest, and Iowa ranks second, after only California. Farmers have benefited from NAFTA more than other industries, which is why they are now fighting hard against messing about with the treaty (The Economist).




Department of Education

  • Judge Partially Blocks Enforcement of Gainful-Employment Rule: A federal district court judge issued an order partially blocking enforcement of the gainful-employment rule for cosmetology schools that sued in February to halt the regulation (Inside Higher-Ed).


Department of Energy

  • Climate Change: Energy Secretary Rick Perry denied that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are the main cause of climate change or that climate change is primarily caused by CO2, contrary to scientific opinions and the conclusions of government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (CNBC).
  • Nuclear Waste Storage: Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the government needs to prioritize nuclear waste storage and move forward on the Yucca Mountain waste depository project when he testified on the energy budget before a House budget subcommittee (The Washington Times).
  • Wind, Solar Energy Have Not Harmed U.S. Power Grid: With the Trump administration expected to publish an analysis that could undermine the U.S. wind and solar industries, two renewable energy lobbying groups on Tuesday released their own study saying new energy sources pose no threat to the country's power grid (Reuters).
  • Rare Minerals: The Department of Energy announced plans for a national program to mine for rare elements that have largely been imported from China (Fox News Insider).



  • Clean Air Act: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt enforced the Clean Air Act by pursuing a lawsuit against a Denver oil company for violating federal and Colorado emissions rules (Washington Examiner).


Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Trump Party Planner Promoted at HUD after Carson's Troubled Tour: Lynne Patton took the helm of New York’s federal housing office, a promotion she won after making enemies at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and fumbling a job as senior adviser to Secretary Ben Carson (Politico).


Fannie and Freddie

  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Can Be Reformed This Year: A key senator said Thursday that lawmakers might be able to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac this year, citing a forming consensus among outside groups. "I truly believe we're going to be able to pass a piece of legislation this year," said Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, speaking at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the topic (Washington Examiner).



  • SpaceX’s Final Falcon 9 Design Coming This Year, Two Falcon Heavy Launches Next Year: SpaceX intends to launch a final upgrade to the Falcon 9 rocket, known as the Block 5, later this year, and has three Falcon Heavy launches planned for the next 18 months (Space News).
  • Blue Origin Retains Engine Lead as House Considers Limitations on Launch System Funding: An independent assessment of rocket engine development delivered to a House committee last week has concluded that Blue Origin remains well ahead of Aerojet Rocketdyne despite a recent testing setback (Space News).
  • Airbus Starts Assembly of First Satellites for OneWeb’s Broadband Constellation: Work on the first 10 satellites formally started Tuesday at an Airbus factory in France, with a goal of having the satellites completed and launched by next April. Most of the satellites in the initial set of 900 will be built at a factory currently under construction in Florida (Space News).
  • House Spending Bill Would Boost NASA Funding: House appropriators introduced a spending bill that would increase NASA’s budget by nearly $800 million above the administration’s request, with particular support for the agency’s exploration and education programs. The bill, would provide $19.872 billion for NASA, $780 million more than in the administration’s request released May 23. It would also be $218 million above what the agency received in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill enacted earlier in May (Space News).


White House

  • Trump to Meet Putin at G-20 Summit: President Trump plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, their first face-to-face encounter since Trump’s inauguration in January (The Hill).



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