Capitol to Capitol | Jan. 10, 2017


Capitol to CapitolCongress Has Busy Work Week Before Inauguration Recess. Congress convened on Monday for a busy week of votes and hearings, which will be President Obama's last full week in office. Congress will be in recess next week, which begins with the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday on Monday, and ends with the inauguration of Donald John Trump as the 45th president of the United States on Friday. Even if Congress wanted to meet next week, it is prevented from doing so, at least on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Building is closed the entire week for inauguration preparation, even to members of Congress.  

Healthcare Vote-a-Rama on Wednesday: The Beginning of Obamacare Repeal. The Senate is expected to take a long string of votes on Wednesday, known as a "vote-a-rama", on a budget resolution that will mark the beginning of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While the budget resolution is anticipated to ultimately pass, expect Democrats to offer amendments aimed at forcing tough votes for their colleagues across the aisle. This is especially true as prominent Republican senators have expressed concern about repealing the healthcare law without having a replacement plan.
On Monday evening, GOP Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine), Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) filed an amendment that would give congressional committees until March 3, rather than Jan. 27, to come up with a repeal plan. They hope that the new deadline, which would provide Congress and the new administration more time to craft a replacement law, would ensure a smoother transition from Obamacare to its replacement.
Senate Democrats do not have the votes to defeat the measure, but Republicans can only lose two votes on the measure before it would be defeated, assuming no Democratic defections.
NCSL Contact: Rachel Morgan
Half the Members of Congress Are Former State Legislators. The House's 52-member freshmen class includes 23 former state legislators. A majority of the members of the House are former state legislators.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, seven senators were sworn in for the first time. Of the new senators, only Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who moved from the House and won the seat vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski, had previously served in a state legislature.
In total, 266 members of the House and Senate, or just under 50 percent, have served as state legislators. This percentage is consistent with the numbers from the last nine Congresses.

See a list of former state legislators who now serve in Congress.

You also can see a list NCSL has compiled of former state legislators who have served as president, vice president and in previous Congresses.
NCSL Contact: Max Behlke
D.Y.K ?? The term "O.K." is credited to Martin Van Buren, who was raised in Kinderhook, N.Y. After he went into politics, Van Buren became known as "Old Kinderhook." Soon people were using the term O.K. referring to Van Buren and the word "okay" was derived.
Nomination Hearings Take Center Stage. The Senate will hold confirmation hearings for at least eight of President-elect Trump's prospective cabinet nominees this week. It is likely that most, or all, of the president-elect's nominees will be confirmed because, unlike Obama, Trump's nominees only need a simple majority vote in the Senate after a 2013 Senate rules change, known as the "nuclear option," removed the ability to filibuster all of presidential appointees except for the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, William Shaub, the Obama appointee who directs the Government Ethics Office—the agency that enforces federal ethics rules and reviews potential conflicts of interest—sent a letter to Senate Democrats expressing his concern that not all of the nominees had completed the ethics review process. He also noted their hearings would occur before all of the proper paperwork had been filed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has signaled that all of the hearings will continue as planned. In an interview on Sunday, the majority leader noted that "at least five" of Trump's nominees have completed ethics review and that it was only critical for each nominee to have their paperwork completed before their confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
Scheduled Confirmation Hearings
Tuesday, Jan. 10

  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    Nominee for attorney general: Senator Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs
    Nominee for secretary of homeland security: General John F. Kelly

Wednesday, Jan. 11

  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    Nominee for attorney general: Senator Jeff Sessions
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
    Nominee for secretary of transportation: Elaine L. Chao
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
    Nominee for secretary of state: Rex Tillerson
  • Senate Intelligence Committee
    Nominee for director of CIA: Representative Mike Pompeo (Kan.)

Thursday, Jan. 12

  • Senate Committee on Armed Services
    Nominee for secretary of defense: retired General James N. Mattis
  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    Nominee for secretary for housing and urban development: Dr. Benjamin Carson
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    Nominee for secretary of commerce: Wilbur L. Ross
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
    Nominee for secretary of state: Rex Tillerson

Tuesday, Jan. 17

  • Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
    Nominee for secretary of education: Betsy DeVos

Wednesday, Jan. 18

  • Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
    Nominee for secretary of health and human services: Representative Tom Price (Ga.)

The Dec. 21, 2016, Capitol-to-Capitol can be found here.

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

Capitol to Capitol is a publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures, the premier bipartisan organization representing the interest of states, territories and commonwealths. The conference operates from offices in Denver and Washington, D.C.