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Window On Washington - This Week in the Nation's Capital



  • Budget Work Stymied: With the House and Senate headed for a mid-April recess, work on completing the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations for 10 of the 11 appropriations bills remains unfinished despite an approaching April 28th deadline when the current Continuing Resolution expires. 

The House passed a completed Defense Appropriations bill earlier this month in the hopes that the Senate would follow before the end of April with an Omnibus Appropriations measure that integrates the remaining nine appropriations bills.

However, with just three weeks left before the Easter/Passover recess, the Senate calendar to take up a spending bill seems unlikely given Majority Leader McConnell's stated desire to take up legislation to repeal Obamacare and the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court health care reform.

Meanwhile, members of both parties continued to take exception to the deep cuts proposed in the President's 2018 budget that would be used as an offset to pay for a proposed $54 billion increase in military spending.

While the President's "skinny budget" was released on March 16, full details for all agencies and all accounts are not likely to be released until mid-May.  In a memo to Agency heads this week, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney prohibited discussion of any spending details not mentioned in the March 16 budget release until they are presented in mid-May.  As a result, several hearings had to be cancelled this week (Fox News).

Despite these challenges, the Appropriations Committees remain working to be prepared to wrap up the FY 2017 appropriations by the end of April and are still working to receive requests related to FY 2018 from members of the House and Senate in April and May to be ready to mark up those bills once the House and Senate leadership decide how to proceed on the FY 2018 budget (Bloomberg).

Dodd Frank

  • Rollback: Senate Democrats will oppose a "wholesale rollback" of the Dodd-Frank Act, but could be receptive to other regulatory changes said Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee. "If you have a concrete problem based on evidence, Democrats want to work with you." Brown has said that Democrats would be on board with community bank relief but sweeping changes that Republicans - especially in the House - want would be problematic (Bloomberg).


  • Keystone XL: TransCanada Corp. announced the Trump administration has approved the Keystone XL pipeline (Bloomberg).
  • Nuclear Option: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill aimed at developing nuclear next generation reactors, garnering an unusual amount of bipartisan support by focusing on reforming how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses reactors and how the Department of Energy helps to foster innovation in the industry (Bloomberg).
  • Ozone: A group of public health organizations this week criticized a House bill delaying the Obama administration's ozone standards, while opponents of the requirements said they are too strict (Morning Consult).
  • Senators Try to Pull Together Votes to Kill BLM Methane Rule: The effort to rescind new federal regulations on the venting and flaring of natural gas from oil and gas operations on federal and Indian lands is still uncertain, with Republican leaders looking to pull together the last few Senate votes needed (Bloomberg).

Health Care

  • Poll: Majority of voters oppose GOP health bill: A majority of voters disapprove of GOP efforts to replace the 2010 health care law on the eve of an uncertain House vote set for Thursday, according to a new poll. The Quinnipiac University poll, released Thursday afternoon, shows fewer than one-in-five voters, 17 percent, approve of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. The majority, 56 percent, disapprove, with slightly more than a quarter, 26 percent, undecided on the proposal.
  • GOP Delays Health Vote as Holdouts Weigh White House Offer: House leaders have delayed a scheduled vote on their embattled health care bill as conservatives mulled a deal proposed by the Trump administration aimed at winning Republican holdouts' support (Bloomberg).
  • CBO Releases Cost Estimate of Updated GOP Health Care Bill: CBO says revised bill would reduce federal deficits by $150b over the 2017-2026 period vs. $337b in the original bill (CBO).
  • Tough Going in the Senate: Even if the House Republican health care bill does end up passing, its success is far from certain in the Senate. There, a handful of members, like Rob Portman of Ohio, have expressed concerns about rolling back the Medicaid expansion in states, among other questions. The GOP can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate, giving it a much smaller margin of error (Politico).
  • House Votes to Remove Regulations on Small Business Health Plans: The US House passed legislation that would remove some regulations on small businesses that provide health insurance to employees through association health plans (Politico).
  • House Votes to Remove Health Insurance Antitrust Exemption: The measure would remove an exemption for health insurance companies under the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempts insurers from federal antitrust laws to the extent it is regulated by a state (Politico).
  • House Changes Obamacare Repeal to Help Seniors, Disabled: House leaders plan to boost tax credits for seniors by about $2,000 per year and add roughly $60 billion in federal Medicaid spending under changes expected to Republicans' Affordable Care Act repeal bill, while also adding $85 billion in new spending (USA Today).
  • Trump's Warning to Republicans up in 2018: "Many of you came in on the pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare. I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done," he told Republican lawmakers in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill ahead of Thursday's vote in the House on the repeal and replace legislation (The Hill).


  • Infrastructure Bill: Peter DeFazio, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a bill today that would funnel an estimated $500 billion into highway and transit projects, allowing DOT to issue 30-year bonds to cover both state-of-good-repair and future infrastructure needs (The Trucker).
  • PRE-SPRING 2018 Target: House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster is now predicting Congress might make Trump's promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure infusion reality "before next spring". Shuster said lawmakers need to urgently "get shovels in the ground" because control of both the House and Senate "are going to be on the line" (Politico).

Senate Confirmation Hearings

  • UDSA Nominee Perdue Pledges Quick Work on Trade, Immigration: Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Agriculture Department, will begin working on immigration and trade issues "post haste" if confirmed, the nominee said during his Senate Agriculture Committee hearing (Politico).
  • Israel: The Senate confirmed David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel (NBC).

Supreme Court Nominee

  • Democrats' Bid to Derail Gorsuch: Republicans control the Senate 52-48, but they need eight Democratic votes to advance the nomination if the minority party seeks to block it. No Democrat has publicly backed Gorsuch yet, and some undecided party members are under particular pressure.
  • Schumer Urges Democrats to Filibuster Gorsuch: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday urged members of his caucus to filibuster President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, setting up a showdown which threatens to change the rules of the chamber (Bloomberg).


  • Senate GOP Eyes Vote to Scrap Broadband Privacy Rules: Senate Republicans may schedule a floor vote this week on a Congressional Review Act resolution to eliminate the Federal Communications Commission's privacy rules for broadband providers (Bloomberg).

Executive Branch

Department of Commerce

  • USTR Pick Outlines Priorities for NAFTA Renegotiation: Any renegotiation of NAFTA should include a new chapter on digital trade and focus on boosting labor and environmental provisions, U.S. Trade Representative - nominee Robert Lighthizer says (ICTSD).
  • Trump Sets Stage for NAFTA Talks: The Trump administration is poised to trigger a renegotiation of NAFTA as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with key lawmakers to satisfy a final step required beforehand (Business Insider).
  • White House Tries to Calm Agriculture Concerns about Trade Policy: The Trump administration is working to allay the concerns of some in the agriculture industry that new trade deals negotiated by the White House could leave U.S. agriculture exports behind (Bloomberg).

Department of Defense

  • Mattis Moves Frustrating Hill GOP: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' moves to name Obama veterans to Pentagon posts are irritating Republican allies in key committees. Hill Republicans say the former Marine general - who was once welcomed as a moderating force in the Trump administration - is burning through the political capital he needs as he begins reshaping the Pentagon. However Mattis has disappointed GOP members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who were hoping to see their ideological allies elevated to senior levels in the Defense Department, and for Mattis' refusal to advocate for a bigger increase in the defense budget (Politico).

Department of Education

  • SCOTUS Issues Special Education Ruling: A unanimous decision by the Supreme Court Wednesday could have significant implications for students with disabilities across the country, prompting school districts to take a second look at how they're serving those children under federal law. The high court sided with a student diagnosed with autism and his family by endorsing a higher standard when it comes to the benefits students must receive under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The decision was a huge victory for special education and civil rights advocates, while school boards expressed concern about further litigation, the potential costs of meeting a higher standard, and inadequate federal special education funding (The Atlantic).

Department of Energy

  • Energy Boom?: Despite the Trump administration's promises of an energy boom, 13 of the 15 biggest U.S. oil and gas producers said in reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission that compliance with current regulations is not affecting their financial strength (Reuters).
  • Energy Efficiency: The Energy Department will extend a freeze on energy efficiency rules promulgated by the Obama administration, taking until the fall to review them (Washington Examiner).

Environmental Protection Agency

  • Cuts: The White House's suggestions for cutting environmental programs could face bipartisan pushback, as both Democratic and Republican congressional districts received billions of dollars in combined contracts for environmental projects (Morning Consult).
  • Carbon Tax: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration is "not considering a carbon tax," pushing back on a longshot attempt by officials with former Republican administrations to get President Donald Trump on board with a conservative-oriented policy to address climate change (The Hill).
  • Industries Push for Settlement Talks on Obama-Era Air Policy: New leadership at the EPA could offer an opportunity to settle litigation over an Obama-era regulation governing regional application of the Clean Air Act, according to a coalition of industry associations (Greenwire).

Department of Justice

  • Travel Ban: DOJ today asked the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to speed up when it comes to the White House's travel ban executive order. The DOJ is asking the court to hasten its handling of the federal government's effort to overturn an injunction a Maryland-based judge entered earlier this month, barring Trump from implementing a ban on issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. Justice Department attorneys also indicated they plan to ask the appeals court to stay U.S. District Court Judge Theodore Chuang's injunction while the appeal goes forward (BuzzFeed).

Department of State

  • Email Scandal: A New York state court ordered Exxon Mobil Corp. to hand over now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's emails from his time as CEO under the alias "Wayne Tracker" (Washington Examiner).

Department of Transportation

  • U.S. Releases New Flight Rules: Travelers flying to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa will have to store most larger electronic devices in checked baggage under the emergency directive issued by the Department of Homeland Security ( 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • President Trump signed into law the NASA Transition Authorization Act on March 21: The bill had broad bi-partisan support and provides guidance to the Agency on how to set priorities in the transition between the Obama and Trump Administrations (SpaceFlightNow).
  • President Trump to re-establish the National Space Council: Vice President Pence announced that the President would re-establish the National Space Council to coordinate space policy between various Cabinet Agencies, NASA and the White House and that he had been asked to chair the Council, a role traditionally given to Vice Presidents that dates back to the Kennedy Administration (SpaceNews).


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