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This Week On the Hill, December 18 - December 22, 2017

Monday, December 18, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TCAA Staff
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Congress is barreling toward winter recess with two major votes this week before the chambers adjourn until the new year. On Friday, Republicans unveiled their final, compromise tax overhaul bill (H.R. 1) after differences between the House and Senate versions were reconciled in conference. The bill will be presented for a vote in both chambers this week, and is not subject to floor amendments. Lawmakers also face a looming government shutdown as the current continuing resolution expires Friday (12/22) at midnight.

HOUSE

The House convenes at 2 p.m.Monday to consider eight bills under suspension of the rules.

The House is expected to vote on the tax overhaul bill Tuesday. Although the conference report more closely resembles the Senate version, it is not expected to meet much resistance from House conservatives. The conference bill includes the Senate’s proposal to repeal the ACA’s individual mandate, but also preserves a number of critical health care policies, including the medical expense deduction and the tax-exempt status of private activity bonds.

Once the tax vote is concluded, the chamber is planning to pass spending bills that would fund defense programs above the sequestration cap through September 30 and extend funding for non-defense agencies until January 19. The bill, introduced last Thursday, also includes in its entirety the language from the Energy and Commerce Committee'sCHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS Act(H.R. 3922), which passed the House last month on a largely party-line vote. The bill funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program(CHIP)for five years and community health centers for two.Most House Democrats, led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), rejected H.R. 3922 last month due to the measure's controversial pay-fors, particularly the provision that would defund the ACA's Prevention and Public Health Fund. As with the tax bill, however, House Republicans have more than enough votes to pass the CR and send it to the Senate.

SENATE

The Senate convenes at3 p.m.to consider the nominations of J. Paul Compton Jr. to be general counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Owen West to be an assistant secretary of Defense. At5:30 p.m.the Senate will vote on the nominations.

The upper chamber is expected to take up the compromise tax overhaul bill after the House has passed the measure on Tuesday. Any concerns over the bill’s chances in the Senate appeared to be eliminated last week with the news that retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a “no” on the Senate tax-cut bill, would back the compromise bill. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was briefly a “no” vote, also said he’d back the bill after a child tax credit aimed at low- and middle-income families was enhanced.

The tax bill still faces some uncertainties, however, including the possibility that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) could miss the vote due to medical treatment; Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is also dealing with health issues. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) he'd support passage of legislation by the end of the year to stabilize ACA insurance markets in exchange for her vote on tax reform. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), meanwhile, approved a short-term spending strategy that funds the Pentagon but does nothing to stabilize Obamacare. Republicans can still pass the bill in the Senate without Collins, but would need McCain or Cochran present to get to 50 votes.

The fate of the funding bill is even less certain, with Democrats openly opposing key provisions of the bill (e.g., CHIP offsets), as well as the aforementioned promises to Collins. The Senate is expected to amend the CR and send it back to the House mid-week. That version of the bill could include Collins’ requests, which include the Alexander-Murray market stabilization bill and Collins’ own reinsurance bill. Both measures would face strong opposition in the lower chamber.

Last week, Speaker Ryan suggested House members could leave town to “jam the Senate” into accepting their CR bill. But McConnell needs eight Democrats to pass anything, making a Senate jam session unlikely to succeed.

HEARINGS


Tuesday, December 19

House Veterans' Affairs Committee markup of H.R.4242, the "VA Care in the Community Act." 10:00 a.m., 334 Cannon Bldg.


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