Capitol Hill Update: July 10, 2017

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Author: jpye

Schedule:

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The House and Senate are in session this week.

There are 13 legislative days remaining before the August recess and 61 legislative days scheduled for the year.

House:

The House will reconvene on Tuesday and consider a dozen bills on the suspension calendar. For those who are Merle Haggard fans, one of the bills on the suspension calendar, H.R. 1988, introduced by Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), will rename the U.S.P.S. facility at 1730 18th Street in Bakersfield, California the “Merle Haggard Post Office Building.” Remaining bills on the suspension calendar for the day should easily pass the House, having been approved by voice vote in relevant committees.

Later in the week, the House will consider three bills on suspension related to fighting human trafficking. The bills are the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, H.R. 2480; Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act, H.R. 2664; and the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2200.

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The Gaining Responsibility on Water (GROW) Act, H.R. 23, is also on the calendar for the week. Introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), the bill, which is subject to a rule, would help California avoid another severe drought by making it easier for the state and communities to capture and store water.

The main legislative event for the week is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2018, H.R. 2810. The bill would fund the Department of Defense and related agencies operations. The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to parse through the nearly 400 amendments that have been filed.

Because the more than 1,000-page bill will be brought to the floor under a structured rule, not every amendment that has been filed will be allowed to go to the floor for consideration. There are roughly a dozen amendments that FreedomWorks could key vote, assuming that the committee allows them to advance.

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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act, H.R. 2851, introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.). FreedomWorks has serious concerns about this bill because it lacks criminal intent standards, or mens rea, and it gives the Department of Justice broad power to add substances to the federal schedule. Congress has failed to realize that harsh penalties for drugs aren’t a deterrent to this form of illicit activity. Moreover, this bill fundamentally fails to address the core problem of drug addiction. Conservative states like Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas have shown, time and time again, that rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration reduces recidivism and enhances public safety.

Finally, the House Subcommittee on Tax Policy will hold a hearing on Thursday on how tax reform will help small businesses. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). The hearing is the latest in Ways and Means’ series on tax reform, legislative action for which will, hopefully, begin soon.

The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

A new iteration of the Senate version of H.R. 1628, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, is expected today. It’s unclear what changes will be made to the bill, though more funding to address the opioid crises and the “Consumer Freedom” amendment pushed by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are likely to be included.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Consumer Freedom amendment. Moderates in the Senate Republican Conference have pushed back against it, complaining that it undermines ObamaCare’s costly mandates. (Yes, friends, there are more than a few Republicans who are vocally defending some of the central tenets of ObamaCare.) The amendment would, however, allow health insurance companies to offer plans off the exchanges that aren’t compliant with ObamaCare’s mandates.

Nevertheless, at least two senators, John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), have declared H.R. 1628 dead. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is exploring a bipartisan alternative plan to stabilize health insurance markets.

Today, the Senate will reconvene this afternoon to consider the nomination of Neomi Rao to serve as administrator of White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rao is expected to be confirmed, likely on a close to party-line vote.

The full committee schedule for the week can be found here.

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