Capitol to Capitol | May 15, 2017

House Tax Reform Hearing Set For Thursday


The U.S. government had a lot to do with making the goldfish the ultimate affordable pet. The United States Commission on Fisheries received the first official import of goldfish from Japan in 1878. The commission was only seven years old then and as a publicity stunt offered free goldfish to district residents. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, these fish were bred in ponds by the Washington Monument, and anyone who sent a request through a member of Congress would receive one, along with a glass globe to keep it in. At the height of this campaign, the commission was distributing 20,000 fish annually, and nearly a third of households in the district owned pet fish from the Commission.

While President Donald Trump's decision to fire the FBI Director James Comey last week has dominated the headlines on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans have made it clear that they are going to continue to plow ahead on their road to tax reform. On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold the first of what is expected to be a series of hearings on broad issues related to comprehensive tax reform. Thursday's hearing will focus on the potential impact of tax reform on U.S. economic growth.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill will likely soon have a new point person in the administration for tax reform, now that the president has nominated David Kautter to be assistant secretary of tax policy at the U.S. Treasury. Kautter was the managing director of the Kogod Tax Center at American University, and spent over three decades at Ernst and Young. He currently works as a partner of the Washington National Tax practice of the consulting firm RSM. If confirmed, Kautter would manage the Treasury's tax policy team and would be responsible for handling the mechanics of proposals and adding details to administration ideas. He would also be in charge of filling the multiple open deputy spots on tax policy, tax analysis, international tax, retirement and trade.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

One Week Countdown to CBO Score of House-Passed Health Care Bill

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced last week that its score of the House passed Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) will be completed the week of May 22. That means there will be at least a one more week before the Senate can begin to work on its legislation in earnest. The CBO score is necessary as the Senate version of health care will need to save at least as much money as the House bill or it would violate the budget resolution and the repeal effort would end abruptly. The CBO score of the earlier House repeal plan found it would leave 24 million more Americans uninsured over a decade. For highlights and a complete summary of The American Health Care Act of 2017, check out NCSL's overview.

NCSL Contact: Rachel Morgan

Trump's Budget Expected Next Week


A popular bit of trivia on Capitol Hill is that "Addison" is the first name of the current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senator's full name is Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell Jr. 

The president's full budget for FY 2018 is expected to be released next week. While details of the proposal are scant, administration officials have signaled that the proposal will build off of the partial budget plan, known as the "skinny budget." That budget was released in March and cut domestic spending and increased defense spending by 10 percent.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Infrastructure Package Likely or Unlikely in 2017?


Mother's Day was actually founded for mourning women to remember fallen soldiers and work for peace. It started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women's organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis held Mother's Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease. Following Jarvis' death, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, organized the first Mother's Day observances in 1908 to spend time with your mother and thank her for all that she did. It wasn't until President Woodrow Wilson lobbied Congress in 1914 that Mother's Day was officially set on the second Sunday of every May. In his first Mother's Day proclamation, Wilson stated that the holiday offered a chance to "[publicly express] our love and reverence for the mothers of our country." The holiday soon became a commercial goldmine centering on gifts. This deeply disturbed Jarvis, who dedicated the rest of her life to fight against it.

Last week, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said that lawmakers may not be able to squeeze in an infrastructure package this year with health care and tax reform among other issues dominating their schedules. "We've got to do the budget to do tax reform and finish health care first," he said. "And now the administration is saying they want to do infrastructure outside of tax reform, so it could, yeah, it could be something that gets pushed." He did add that the White House could move up an infrastructure discussion but insinuated that it was out of his hands.

Earlier today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao gave prepared remarks on the administration's infrastructure package. She said the administration plans to "share its vision" of infrastructure principles in the coming weeks, with Congress expected to unveil legislation afterward. The secretary also noted that new federal funding to states and localities would be directed at projects that have already secured some form of financing. However, she couched the issue of financing by noting that "a few special projects" that were not able to access private sector funding "will likely be identified and funded directly" and that the administration is "committed to an infrastructure package that addresses the needs of the entire country, urban and rural."

Thune also said last week that he's hopeful the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill will be marked up in the Senate in June and hit the Senate floor by July. The FAA's legal authority expires at the end of September, which would give the House and Senate only two months to create a final product. Last year, Congress passed a short-term fix after a long-term proposal to reauthorize the FAA stalled in the House because of provisions concerning a plan to separate air traffic control (ATC) from the federal government and hand it over to a nonprofit or nongovernmental organization. This issue of ATC reform will come up this week when the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing The Need to Reform FAA and Air Traffic Control to Build a 21st Century Aviation System for America.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

State and Local Governments Drive America

Despite the long odds of an infrastructure package in 2017, at least according to Thune, states will continue to push Congress to pass legislation that provides additional resources for infrastructure and ensures the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund. On Wednesday, Utah Senator and NCSL Immediate Past President Curt Bramble will join state and local government officials in briefing Congress on the need to invest in infrastructure. The briefing, entitled State and Local Governments Drive America—A Discussion for the Future of Infrastructure Policy, will take place as part of the 5th Annual Infrastructure Week. The week of of education and advocacy aims to bring together American businesses, workers, elected leaders, and everyday citizens around the message, it's #TimeToBuild. Read more about More information on Infrastructure Week.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

The May 8, 2017, Capitol-to-Capitol can be found here.

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

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
  • Rachel Morgan | 202-624-3569 | Health and Human Services
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure