Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 20, 2017

2/20/2017

Capitol to CapitolHouse GOP Releases Health care Framework Before Recess

Following a meeting with his conference and newly minted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced last Thursday that Republicans will introduce legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act next week when Congress returns from this week's recess. But before members left town on Friday, Ryan distributed a 19-page memo that provides a broad roadmap for the Republican plan, which will also guide members' messaging as they meet with constituents in their districts this week.

Key elements of the replacement plan include modernization of Medicaid, utilization of state innovation grants, enhanced health savings accounts, as well as monthly tax credits. States will be closely following the Medicaid proposal, which, as proposed, would allow states to choose between a block grant or remain in the traditional, capped program. However, states that opted for Medicaid expansion in the ACA would eventually lose out on much of the federal funding for the expansion. It remains to be seen if the conference will be able to coalesce around a replacement law. We will soon find out. Stay tuned.

NCSL Contact: Rachel Morgan

The Many Lives of Tax Reform

"It's going to be up, it's going to be down, it's going to be on, it's going to be off. You're going to report 150 stories on tax reform's fate between now and when we get tax reform done."
-Speaker Paul Ryan, Feb. 16, 2017

If the 1986 tax reform is any indication, if a comprehensive overhaul of the federal tax code ultimately finds its way the president's desk, it will likely have "died" many times along the way. So, as members of Congress publicly criticize more contentious provisions of the House Republican framework, such as the border adjustability proposal that is the linchpin of the plan, it is important to remember that tax reform is still a secondary issue in Washington. Until Republicans address Health care, which is expected to be the central focus of Washington until late spring or early summer, tax reform will remain on the backburner.

That said, last week, President Donald Trump reiterated that a tax reform plan will be unveiled in the coming weeks. Administration officials have been working closely with their counterparts on the Hill on a tax reform package, which is a top priority both for Congress and the White House. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, are skeptical that the president has a comprehensive plan or that he will release one anytime soon. If the president does finish a plan in the near term, Republicans have signaled they hope that the president will keep it private for the time being in order to delay the inevitable criticism and debate that will follow its release.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been largely silent in the tax debate. Ways and Means Committee Democrats are even advising their caucus to take no position on tax reform until Republicans flush out the details of a plan themselves. Representative Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told Politico that "We have no idea [what legislation will look like], we haven't seen the package, as to what they intend to do, and I think there's likely to be three competing Republican proposals," he said referring to anticipated plans from the president, House, and Senate. "I don't think that we want to embrace anything specific until there's a chance to have some hearings on it."

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

D.Y.K.? The U.S. Constitution contains multiple spellings errors. However, the most glaring error was committed by Alexander Hamilton. As the members of the Convention prepared to sign the document, Hamilton took up a position beside the last of the four sheets, laid out for signing, and appears to have taken charge of the process as the delegates from each state came forward to sign. In this capacity, he wrote the name of each state at the left of the growing column of signatures. When he came to the largest state delegation, headed by Benjamin Franklin, he wrote "Pensylvania." And thus the parchment reads today. 

Hearing Announced for Supreme Court Nominee

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for March 20. The hearing is expected to last three or four days.

NCSL Sends Letter on State Facilitated Retirement Plans

On Feb.13, NCSL sent a letter to the House urging a "no" vote on a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the Department of Labor's final rule on "Savings Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees." The resolution, which passed the House 231-193, overturns a rule that had removed uncertainty in federal law regarding state-facilitated retirement plans. This uncertainty had discouraged states from establishing IRA programs for workers who do not have access to workplace savings arrangements. NCSL wrote that:

"Eight states have enacted laws that will establish state-facilitated retirement plan and many other states are considering these plans for their state's private sector workers. Passage of H.J. Res. 66 will likely prevent states from establishing these innovative plans and will result in increased costs for federal and state budgets as tens of millions of Americans who depend solely on social security will increase dependency on other entitlement programs."

The resolution will now move over to the Senate, which, per the Congressional Review Act, has until early April to consider the resolution.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

D.Y.K.? Two grandsons of John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States who, born less than year after George Washington was first inaugurated as president (1790), are still alive today: Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr (92); Harrison Ruffin Tyler (88). 

Trump's Cabinet

Confirmations: Representative Mick Mulvaney, who was confirmed to head the Office of Management and Budget last Thursday with a narrow 51-49 vote. The Senate also confirmed Scott Pruitt to be the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, with another close 52-46 vote on Friday afternoon.

New Labor Nominee: After widespread criticism of his business record and personal background, Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination to become Secretary of Labor last Wednesday. The administration was quick to find a replacement and President Trump nominated the Dean of Florida International University College of Law, Alexander Acosta on Thursday at the beginning of a press conference that lasted over an hour. Following a contentious first pick, many believe that Acosta, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida as well as a member of the National Labor Relations Board during the administration of George W. Bush, to be a safe selection and he will likely be confirmed in the upcoming weeks.

Upcoming Votes: Both the House and Senate will be out this week for the Presidents' Day recess, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture early last week on several other cabinet nominees. This sets up a series of nomination votes once the lawmakers return next Monday for Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary, Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) for Interior secretary, Ben Carson for HUD secretary and Rick Perry for Energy secretary.

Is Congress in Session?

The tentative 2017 House and Senate and calendars can be found below.

  • The House Calendar for 2017 can be found here.
  • The Senate Calendar for 2017 can be found here.

The Feb. 13, 2017 Capitol-to-Capitol can be found here.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding Capitol-to-Capitol, please contact Max Behlke.