Capitol to Capitol | Feb. 27, 2017

2/27/2017

Capitol to Capitol A Big Week for Health Care

Before leaving town for last week's recess, Speaker Paul Ryan released a 19-page outline of the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (NCSL's Summary). He also announced that Republicans would introduce legislation to repeal, and possibly replace, the Affordable Care Act after lawmakers returned to Washington. On Friday, POLITICO obtained a leaked copy of the 105-page proposal. The plan is a budget reconciliation measure for the current fiscal year, FY2017, and therefore cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

According to POLITICO's analysis, the plan would repeal the ACA's individual mandate, income based health subsidies, and its tax provisions. The proposal would significantly curtail Medicaid spending and also provides funding for states to create high-risk pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Some of the proposal's provisions would be effective immediately, while other provisions would be delayed until 2020. In lieu of repealing the ACA's tax increases, the draft plan is paid for by limiting the tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance plans. It remains to be seen if the leaked proposal will indeed be the plan Republicans introduce, or whether it will serve as a starting point that will be modified based on how it is received. NCSL is currently reviewing the proposal and will provide a summary in the coming days.

NCSL Contact: Rachel Morgan

Trump to Address Joint Session of Congress

Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress where he is expected to outline his policy agenda for 2017. A new presidents do not generally give State of the Union addresses, Trump's address will serve that function. In February 2009, President Obama gave a similar address, where he discussed his plans to jumpstart the ailing economy.

Administration officials have hinted that the president's speech will highlight the successes of his first 40 days in office, which have been chiefly through unilateral action, as well as his priorities that will require assistance from Congress, including 1) tax reform, 2) border security, 3) healthcare reform and 4) infrastructure.

Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will deliver the Democratic response.

D.Y.K.? George Washington had a phobia of being buried alive. After he died, he asked to "not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead." 

Trump's Budget Expected in March

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced last week that the administration plans to release its FY2018 budget proposal the second week of March. While the proposal will not become law, it serves as an outline of the president's priorities over the coming year. The budget blueprint, often referred to as the "skinny budget," will be a less detailed version of the administration's full budget proposal, which is expected in late spring, but will lay out where the president plans to increase, reduce, or eliminate program spending. Perhaps most importantly, the plan will be a framework for Republicans on Capitol Hill as they draft their budget resolution this spring. Passage of a budget resolution is necessary if Republicans wish to pass a budget reconciliation measure later this year. And because budget reconciliation legislation cannot be filibustered, Republicans have stated that they plan to use the process to enact tax reform later this year.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Department of Education Issues New Title IX Guidelines

Betsy DeVos issued new Title IX guidelines last week as one of her first acts as Secretary of Education. The move withdraws guidelines released by the Obama administration last year that required school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity. DeVos' announcement states the old guidelines had given rise to legal questions and the issue was best resolved at the state level. The State and Local Legal Center's blog on the Supreme Court case on transgendered bathroom rights can be found here, and NCSL's legislative tracking on the issue is available here.

NCSL Contacts: Lee Posey, Lucia Bragg

D.Y.K.? The term 'real McCoy' originally referred to an invention by African American inventor Elijah McCoy, who, while working for the Michigan Central Railroad, created a device that oiled moving machines. Similar devices made by other companies never worked as well, so people began asking for 'the real McCoy.'

Administration Signals Crackdown on State Marijuana Laws

During last Thursday's press briefing, Sean Spicer said that he expects "greater enforcement" of federal law against marijuana. However, it appeared that he was referring to the recreational use of the drug, rather than when it is consumed for medicinal purposes. Spicer said that President Trump "understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them." On the other hand, he said of recreational marijuana, "that's a very, very different subject." Spicer explained that the administration is opposed to recreational marijuana use and linked it as a contributing factor of the opioid crisis. While Spicer's comments are not especially surprising, given that Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has long opposed marijuana legalization, it remains to be seen if and how the administration will act.

Last week, prior to Thursday's press briefing, four members of Congress from states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana established the bipartisan House Cannabis Caucus as an educational forum for members to discuss marijuana policy. It also offers an opportunity to evaluate federalism principles in a policy area where states have been active. In response to Sean Spicer's statement, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a founding member of the caucus, released a statement that said, "the national prohibition of cannabis has been a failure, and millions of voters across the country have demanded a more sensible approach. I'm looking forward to working with the leadership of our newly formed cannabis caucus to...end the failed prohibition on marijuana."

NCSL Research on State Marijuana Laws

NCSL Blog on House Cannabis Caucus 

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Danielle Dean

D.Y.K.? John F Kennedy is the only president to have passed away before both his parents.

Trump Warming to House GOP Tax Reform Plan

In an interview with Reuters last Thursday, President Donald Trump said that the House Republican's "border adjustable tax" provision, that is the centerpiece of their tax reform plan, could "lead to a lot more jobs." However, he stopped short of endorsing it. The president's comments were encouraging for Republican tax writers given that president had previously expressed skepticism for the plan as well as the amount of bipartisan criticism the border adjustability provision has incurred in recent weeks. That being said, tax reform still has not begun in earnest and won't be until after health care reform, which is expected to last until late spring or early summer.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

View the Feb. 20, 2017, issue of Capitol-to-Capitol can be found here.

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