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This Week on the Hill, December 17 - 21, 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: TCAA Staff
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The House is in pro forma session today; the full House isn’t scheduled to convene until Wednesday. President Trump and Congress have just five days left to agree on must-pass spending legislation, or they risk leaving Washington for the holidays with a partial government shutdown. Nine of 15 government departments – representing about a quarter of discretionary spending – have yet to be funded for 2019.

Lawmakers in both chambers are back to work this week, but an agreement will need to be reached to avoid a shutdown, as President Trump is demanding a spending bill with $5 billion for a border wall and Democrats are not budging from their offer of $1.3 billion. With time running out until funding expires on Friday night, the dispute could lead to a prolonged closure, a temporary spending deal, a long-term agreement – or something in between.



The Senate convenes at 3:00 p.m. today and resumes consideration of the House version of the criminal justice reform bill. As with the House, the focus in the Senate this week will be on funding the remaining government agencies to avoid a partial shutdown.


A federal judge in Texas struck down Obamacare as unconstitutional late Friday – a day before the deadline to sign up for coverage next year, raising new questions about the fate of former President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The law will remain in effect pending appeal; the ruling is written so that it won’t take effect immediately, giving higher courts time to consider the case.
At issue is a challenge by 20 GOP-led states – and two individuals living in Texas – who claim that without a penalty the individual mandate must be invalidated, and because the law included no severability clause the rest of the law must be thrown out. In June, the Department of Justice agreed with the plaintiffs that the mandate is illegal, but said that only the preexisting condition provisions should be thrown out since they are inextricable from the mandate. DOJ also opposed an injunction.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately announced he would appeal Judge Reed O'Conner's sweeping ruling. Legal experts across the ideological spectrum say the ruling is unlikely to make it through the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The Fifth Circuit is unlikely to take this frivolous case seriously, and the case will die without Supreme Court having to intervene,” University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley wrote on Twitter.


CMS quickly pointed out that the exchanges are still open for business and will continue with open enrollment, which ended Saturday (Dec. 15) for states using “There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan,” a CMS spokesperson said.
In Congress, Democrat and Republican leaders immediately called for action to protect the nation’s insurance markets from disruption after the ruling. House Minority Leader and presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a news release that her party will move quickly in the new Congress “to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.” House aides have said that they will hold a vote to intervene in the lawsuit early in the new year. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the next chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said on Twitter his panel will hold hearings on the health law next year, with an eye on ensuring Americans don’t
lose their insurance coverage if the ACA is overturned.



Wednesday, December 19

House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (Joint Hearing) hearing on “Tracking Transformation: VA MISSION Act Implementation.” 2:00 p.m., HVC-210.




Tuesday, December 18

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) holds an event, "The Tapestry of Health: Genetic Diversity, History, and Cultural Identity." 5:30 p.m., 1200 New York Ave., Washington D.C.


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