Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 22, 2018


  Promised Immigration Vote Reopens Federal Government


Robert "Bob" Heft was the designer of the current American 50-star flag. Heft designed the 50-star American Flag in 1958 as a class project in his junior-year high-school history class in Lancaster, Ohio. His teacher gave him a “B-” for the project, but agreed that if the flag design was accepted by Congress, he would reconsider the grade. After enlisting the aid of his congressman to support his flag design, Heft's design was ultimately chosen and adopted by presidential proclamation in 1959. According to Heft, his teacher honored their agreement and changed his grade to an “A” for the project.

Tonight, the House is expected to pass a three-week funding bill to reopen the federal government just hours after the measure cleared the Senate. The government had been closed since 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning because a funding measure had stalled in the Senate by a bipartisan group of senators who were unwilling to vote for a funding bill unless there was a solution to the “Dreamers” immigration issue. Implemented by the Obama administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “Dreamers,” are individuals who were illegally brought to the country as children who were eligible to qualify for a two-year deferment from deportation. The Trump administration had stated that expiring DACA permits would no longer be renewable beginning on March 5, thus necessitating action by Congress to shield these individuals from deportation.

To end the stalemate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) agreed to allow debate and votes on an immigration bill before Feb. 8, the day the just passed funding bill expires. In addition to DACA, funding for a wall along the southern border is expected to be part of a comprehensive immigration deal. When the immigration debate, and subsequent vote on an immigration bill, would occur, remains a question. And even if a bill passes the Senate, whether or not it would clear the House is also unclear.

What’s in the Continuing Resolution?

  • Funds the government through Feb. 8.
  • Reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, ending a nearly four-month lapse in the program's long-term federal funding.
  • Delays the Affordable Care Act’s medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years and its health insurance tax for one year.

Uncertainty for how long the government would be closed had caused confusion across the country over the weekend. Many federal employees were unsure if they were supposed to show up to work on Monday. The public was uncertain about what services the government would suspend and what functions were deemed “essential” and what would continue to operate.

State officials were eager to contrast their governance with the dysfunction in Washington. For instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Sunday that his state had struck a deal with the Interior Department to keep Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty open, albeit on the state’s dime. Similarly, the state of Arizona announced that the Grand Canyon would remain open, regardless of what was happening in Washington. Hopefully, states won’t be in the same position in February. Only time will tell.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

A Path Forward for CHIP

A six-year funding reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was included in the CR. Funding for CHIP officially expired on Sept. 30, 2017, because of an ongoing debate in Congress about finding offsets for a multi-year reauthorization of the program. In the meantime, states started to run out of CHIP funding and were receiving emergency support until a final agreement could be reached. 


Samuel Rayburn of Texas is the longest-serving speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rayburn served as speaker for a total of 17 years, two months, and two days.

After lawmakers learned from a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that CHIP would yield savings, because of the repeal of the ACA individual insurance mandate in last year’s tax bill, House Republicans pushed for its inclusion in this most recent round of government funding.

Overview of CHIP Reauthorization 

  • Provides $21.5 billion for 2018 and increases CHIP funding to $25.9 billion by 2023.
  • Rescinds funds that have already gone out or are obligated to states that have received short-term funding.
  • Maintains CHIP’s current enhanced federal match rate until FY 2019. For FY 2020, increases the rate by 11.5 percent; in FY 2021, returns to the original CHIP federal match rate that was established prior to the expansion in the ACA.
  • Extends the state maintenance-of-effort (MOE) requirement through 2023 for children whose family income is 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) instead of for all children.
  • Requires states to maintain their eligibility levels for CHIP to receive Medicaid funding.

The CR also builds in the delay of three health taxes established under the ACA including: the Medical Device Tax now delayed for 2018 and 2019, the Cadillac Tax delayed until 2022, and the suspension of the annual health insurer fee for 2019.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson; Abbie Gruwell

Are Americans Subsidizing Foreign Retailers? 

The astronomical rise in e-commerce has brought a lot of attention to shipping rates, specifically, rates for shipping items into the U.S. from countries like China. Just last week, President Donald Trump tweeted about the massive financial losses facing the U.S. Postal Service. So what’s really at issue here? What are the mechanisms involved? Are Americans truly subsidizing shipping costs for foreign online retailers?

Find the answer to these questions and more by reading a recent NCSL Blog post.

NCSL Contact: Ethan Wilson

Funding, Legal Drama Continues at CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) continued to make news last week. Zero-dollar funding requests, continued legal in-fighting and the controversial “payday lending” rule kept the high profile regulatory agency under the spotlight.


On this Day in…

-1973, the Supreme Court of the United States delivers its decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalizing elective abortion in all 50 states.
-1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII.
-1997, the U.S. Senate confirmed Madeleine Albright as the first female secretary of state.
-2018, the federal government reopened after a three-day lapse in funding.

Last Wednesday, acting Director Mick Mulvaney sent the CFPB’s first funding request to the Federal Reserve since becoming tapped as acting director. The funding request made news because it requested nothing. The previous CFPB funding request, made by then-Director Richard Cordray, was for more than $217 million. Mulvaney claimed that the regulatory agency had more than enough in reserve funds to cover its estimated $145 million operating budget.

To make matters more complex, the legal fight between Mulvaney and Deputy Director Leandra English, Cordray’s choice of a successor, continued last week as English appealed a court ruling that effectively denied a temporary injunction against Mulvaney. The D.C. Circuit of the U.S. District Court of Appeals is set to hear the appeal.

Even as the infighting continues, Mulvaney moves ahead with the administration’s regulatory agenda. The CFPB announced in a press release last week that it plans to reconsider its controversial “payday lending” rule. The rule, long chided by Republicans and industry stakeholders, technically took effect last Tuesday. However, the agency declared that it “will entertain waiver requests” thereby delaying the rule’s immediate effects.

NCSL Contact: Ethan Wilson

K-12 Education: 17 State ESSA Plans Approved

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the approval of 17 additional state plans under The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The state plans approved included: Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. PESSA requires the department to issue a written determination within 120 days of a state’s plan submittal, unless the state requests additional time for its revisions.  

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

New Special Education Assistant Secretary

There’s a familiar face for states with questions regarding special education at the ED.  Last week, Johnny Collett was welcomed as the new assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation. Collett, a former high school special education teacher, previously served as the program director of Special Education Outcomes at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Kentucky state special education director. Collett will lead education policy for all people with disabilities at the department. Welcome Johnny! 

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

InfoGraphic on House GOP Higher Education Bill

In December, the House GOP Committee leadership released the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform (The Prosper Act), a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The bill, HR 4508, was approved by the committee on a party-line vote of 23-17. Political Pro released a new inforgraphic to help explain the accountability provisions in the House bill. The Senate has yet to introduce a companion bill. However, prior to the government shutdown, the committee gave notice of a full hearing on higher education access and innovation.

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

Also of Note …

  • Pence says U.S. Embassy to make Jerusalem move next year on faster timetable – Washington Post
  • What the shutdown says about U.S. politics in 2018 – The Wall Street Journal.
  • Is the GOP tax law already working? – POLITICO
  • Week ahead: Lawmakers struggle to find path on defense spending – The Hill


Read the Jan. 15, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education