State Attorneys General April 17 Update

Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.

In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging in the previous week.

Regulation

The Maryland legislature has approved a bill that would “empower the state’s attorney general to take action to stop pharmaceutical price gouging,” according to an Associated Press (AP) report. Specifically, the bill would “enable the attorney general to bring civil actions against manufacturers of off-patent or generic drugs that make an ‘unconscionable’ price increase – described as an excessive increase unjustified by the cost of producing or distributing the drug,” according to the AP report. The report notes that “[c]oncerns about sky-high drug prices have been building for years nationally” and “boiled over last year after it was revealed that Turing Pharmaceuticals and Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals were hiking prices on previously low-priced medicines for patients with heart problems and other life-threatening conditions.” The bill is now with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for his signature, and while a spokesman for the governor “said Hogan will review the bill before deciding whether to sign it,” the bill passed the legislature “with bipartisan support in both houses, more than enough to override a veto by the governor,” according to the AP report.

New York AG Eric Schneiderman has announced a new program that “will provide up to $20 million in support to help local governments improve their data systems so they can develop innovative and operational strategies for housing improvement, code enforcement, and blight elimination,” according to a press release. The press release states that the program is intended to “address and transform problem properties – including homes and buildings that are blighted, poorly maintained, vacant, abandoned, and in financial distress – that fell into disrepair following the foreclosure crisis.” The program is the “Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement” or “Cities RISE.” A request for applications has been issued for New York state municipalities to apply to receive grants under the program, and applications are due May 5, according to the press release. The press release notes that the program is funded by AG Schneiderman’s “2016 settlements with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs for practices that contributed to the housing crisis.”

Advocacy

A coalition of 15 states, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton, has filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the Trump administration’s March 6 Executive Order on immigration. That order “provides for a temporary suspension of entry into the U.S. for refugees from six countries of national security concern while the vetting process is reviewed,” according to a Texas AG press release. The Trump administration is appealing a Hawaii federal district court order that halted implementation of aspects of that Executive Order, and the Ninth Circuit will hear oral argument in the case in May. In their amicus brief, the states argue in part that the Executive Order “falls within the Executive Branch’s strongest area of authority . . . because it draws support not only from the President’s own foreign-affairs and national-security powers, but also from Congress’s delegated authorization . . . over the admission of aliens into the country.” The states ask the court to “reverse the district court’s order enjoining the Executive Order.” AG Paxton also issued a statement that “President Trump’s revised immigration order is necessary to protect the homeland from those who wish us harm.”

California AG Xavier Becerra has announced that “California will continue to prohibit state-funded and state-sponsored travel and expenditures to North Carolina based on that state’s discriminatory laws,” according to a press release. The press release states that the decision “was reached following North Carolina’s enactment of House Bill 142 (H.B. 142). While this bill repealed the state’s controversial ‘bathroom bill’ (H.B. 2), H.B. 142 bans state and local entities, including universities, from prohibiting discrimination in public restrooms and changing facilities.” The press release notes that California law, A.B. 1887, “prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel to and expenditures in states with laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.”

State Attorneys General April 10 Update

Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.

In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging in the previous week.

Litigation

New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced on April 6 a $100,000 settlement with True Ultimate Standards Everywhere, Inc. (TRUSTe) “in connection with the company’s failure to adequately prevent illegal tracking technology from surfacing on some of the nation’s most popular children’s websites,” according to a press release. TRUSTe is a privacy compliance and risk management provider that operates a Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) safe harbor program “designed to assess website operators’ compliance with COPPA” and under which “TRUSTe is required to conduct a comprehensive review of website operators’ policies, practices, and representations,” according to the press release. However, “TRUSTe’s annual reviews failed to adhere to the company’s own policies,” for example, “[a]lthough TRUSTe conducted electronic scans of customers’ websites for third-party tracking technology prohibited by COPPA, in many cases TRUSTe omitted most or all of its customers’ children’s webpages from its scans,” according to the press release. The press release states that “TRUSTe’s failure to adequately assess its customers’ websites . . . left underage visitors to those websites vulnerable to illegal tracking.” As part of the settlement, TRUSTe will “pay a penalty of $100,000 and adopt new measures to strengthen its privacy assessments,” per the press release.

Advocacy

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas AG Ken Paxton have issued a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan calling on the US Congress to “promptly consider and pass the Free Speech Fairness Act” in order to “fully restore the legal right of churches to participate in the political debates of our society by removing a 60-year-old Internal Revenue Code provision – the Johnson Amendment – which threatens churches with the loss of their tax-exempt status if they support or oppose legislation or candidates.” Governor Abbott and AG Paxton “agree with the president that Congress should ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment.” They state in the letter that “[r]eligious liberty is a cornerstone of our republic” and that “until passage of the Johnson Amendment, churches and pastors played a vital role in bringing a faith perspective to the pressing political issues of the day.” The Free Speech Fairness Act would “ensure churches may once again freely participate in government,” according to the letter.

Attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection (collectively, “the states”), have issued a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to oppose resolutions introduced in the Senate and House that “would eradicate important protections that have been proposed for consumers who use prepaid cards . . . to receive wages, make purchases, or pay their bills.” Specifically, the proposed resolutions – S.J. Res.19, H.J. Res. 62, and H.J. Res. 73 – state that rules “relating to prepaid accounts” issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Truth in Lending Act “shall have no force or effect.” The states’ letter notes that prepaid cards “are a rapidly growing market and are often used by consumers who have limited or no access to a traditional bank account,” yet “consumers frequently report concerns about hidden and abusive fees as well as fraudulent transactions.”

The CFPB’s rules, which are proposed to take effect on April 1, 2018, are “intended to give prepaid card users some of the same protections that are given to users of traditional banking and credit products by, among other things, protecting prepaid card users against fraud and unauthorized charges, making the fees associated with prepaid cards more transparent, and limiting the abusive use of overdraft fees,” according to the states’ letter. The states urge Congressional leaders to oppose the proposed resolutions “so that our citizens will be protected from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices by some actors in the prepaid card industry.”

In Last Week Before Recess, Senate Turns to Gorsuch Vote

Senate Legislative Activity

The Senate stands adjourned until today, Monday, April 3 at 3:00 pm.  Following Leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of Calendar #18, S.89, Delta Queen, with the time until 5:30 pm equally divided in the usual form.  At 5:30 pm, the Senate will vote on passage of the bill.

Upon disposition of S.89, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for consideration of Calendar #24 the nomination of Elaine Duke, of Virginia, to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

At a time to be determined by the Majority Leader with the concurrence of the Democratic Leader on Tuesday, April 4, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination.

Monday, April 3 at 5:30pm – 1 roll call vote

  1. Passage of S.89, Delta Queen

Tuesday, April 4 at a time TBD

  1. Confirmation of Elaine Duke, Deputy Secretary of DHS

House Legislative Activity

The House will meet at 12:00 pm today for morning hour and 2:00 pm for legislative business.  Votes will be postponed until 6:30 pm.

The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 479 – North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.Res. 92 – Condemning North Korea’s development of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles, and for other purposes, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.Res. 54 – Reaffirming the United States-Argentina partnership and recognizing Argentina’s economic reforms, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires / Foreign Affairs Committee)

On Tuesday, April 4, the House will meet at 10:00 am for morning hour and 12:00 pm for legislative business.

The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  • Concurring in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 353 – Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

H.R. 1343 – Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Financial Services Committee)

On Wednesday, April 5, the House will meet at 10:00 am for morning hour and 12:00 pm for legislative business.

The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 369 – To eliminate the sunset of the Veterans Choice Program, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Veterans Affairs Committee) 

H.R. 1304 – Self-Insurance Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Energy and Commerce Committee)

On Thursday, April 6, the House will meet at 9:00 am for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 pm.

H.R. 1219 – Supporting America’s Innovators Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick McHenry / Financial Services Committee)

On Friday, no votes are expected in the House.

Sources:  www.democrats.senate.govhttp://www.majorityleader.gov/

State Attorneys General April 3 Update

Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.

In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging in the previous week.

Litigation

Car manufacturers Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Porsche AG, as well as their American subsidiaries, have “agreed to pay over $157 million to ten states . . . to settle the environmental lawsuits first filed last summer by New York and Massachusetts challenging the companies’ secret use of unlawful ‘defeat device’ software in their vehicles,” according to a press release from New York AG Eric Schneiderman. The press release states that the “defeat device” software “caused tens of thousands of tons of excess harmful pollutants to be emitted into the air in New York and other states.” As part of the settlement, Volkswagen has “agreed to substantially increase its commitment to New York’s emerging electric car market,” including by “at least tripl[ing] the number of electric car models its Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi brands offer to New Yorkers” by 2020, according to the press release. The press release also notes that New York and the other states settling with Volkswagen “have all incorporated into their state law the more stringent auto emissions standards established by California, as permitted by Section 177 of the federal Clean Air Act.”

Advocacy

Following President Trump’s signing of an executive order directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review its “Clean Power Plan,” Texas AG Ken Paxton issued a statement that: “President Trump’s executive order is a significant step toward sparing all of us from a potentially disastrous change to the nation’s energy policy that was orchestrated during the Obama era in violation of federal law.” AG Paxton continues that the “so-called Clean Power Plan would have subjected Americans to higher electricity costs and could have weakened the nation’s power grid.” AG Paxton also noted that “Texas and West Virginia led 22 states in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to block the plan. We’re heartened by the president’s latest action, which shows he’s serious about returning common sense and the rule of law to the EPA.”

Virginia AG Mark Herring has issued a statement calling Virginia Governor McAuliffe’s proposal “to restore Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month” law a “great step to restore a commonsense measure that never should have been repealed in the first place.” The “one-handgun-a-month” law “make[s] it illegal to purchase more than one handgun in a 30-day period by Virginia residents and out-of-state purchasers,” according to a news release from Governor McAuliffe, who proposed reenacting that law on March 27. AG Herring’s statement said that “Virginia’s weak gun laws make it too easy for guns to get into the hands of criminals, making our families, communities, and especially our law enforcement officers less safe.”

Sonny Perdue Awaits Full Senate Vote

Legislative Activity

Sonny Perdue Awaits Full Senate Vote

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee easily approved Sonny Perdue’s nomination for the position of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary. The committee favorably reported his nomination by voice vote; however, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was the lone vote of opposition. Gillibrand stood behind her vote, outlining her disapproval of Perdue’s management of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the state of Georgia while serving as governor. SNAP is a federal-aid program jointly administered by USDA and the states. She further noted the importance of SNAP to families in her home state of New York.

Perdue’s final hurdle before being sworn in as USDA Secretary is a vote by the full Senate. The timing for a confirmation vote is still unclear. The Senate is faced with several upcoming items in April, including the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, a scheduled two-week recess, and a spending package to prevent a government shutdown before the current continuing resolution expires on April 28. If Senate party leaders are not able to reach an agreement to expedite Perdue’s confirmation vote, it could be pushed into May. As Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue would oversee nearly 110,000 USDA employees covering a wide range of issues pertaining to food and agriculture.

This Week’s Committee Activities:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Commodity Policy Part II.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: Credit Programs.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Agriculture and Tax Reform: Opportunities for Rural America.”

Fiscal Year 2017 Negotiations Continue; Fate of Supplemental Proposal Unclear

Legislative Activity

The FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on April 28, and Congress has eight session days remaining before that deadline. Those in leadership on the Committees on Appropriations have expressed their desire to vote on an Omnibus during the week of April 24, after Congress returns from the Easter recess, and negotiations towards an Omnibus spending bill are ongoing. The Omnibus could be added as an amendment to the March 8 passed FY 2017 Defense funding bill that is currently at the Senate, or the House could use one of the Appropriations Committee passed bills to originate the Omnibus in that chamber and send to the Senate. If Congress is unable to complete their work by April 28, a short-term CR would be needed in order to prevent a government shutdown.

Last month, President Trump submitted a $33 billion supplemental funding proposal for the border wall and defense measures. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provided the Appropriations Committees with nearly $18 billion of suggested cuts from non-defense bills to help offset that request. Details of the OMB proposal were leaked last week and have been met with great skepticism by some members on both sides of the aisle. In particular, many appropriators do not want to “reopen the book” and believe the request has come at too late of a time.

The largest potential obstacle to an Omnibus appears to be the supplemental funding for the border wall and defunding Planned Parenthood. If the supplemental is not provided, it is technically possible for some, or all, of the proposed $1.4 billion for the border wall to be included in the FY 2017 appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security.  However, that would require a shift of other priorities within the bill, and such a move may be met with opposition from Democrats.

Of note, Congress has addressed potential controversial policy provisions separate from the Appropriations process. For example, the Senate took a separate vote to rescind an Obama administration “midnight rule” from December 2016 that prohibited the states from defunding Planned Parenthood. The House voted its consent last month, and therefore the measure is expected to be signed by President Trump. Both actions may lessen the desire for a broader defunding approach in the Omnibus. Some Democrats have warned that controversial proposals would be met with Democrats’ own “poison pills,” such as demanding the President’s tax documents or blocking the implementation of President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

 This Week’s Hearings:

House Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Examining Federal Support for Job Training Programs.” The witnesses will be:
    • Douglas J. Besharov, Professor, University of Maryland School of Public Policy, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council;
    • Dr. Demetra Smith Nightingale, Institute Fellow, Urban Institute; and
    • Zoe Baird, CEO and President, Markle Foundation.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Federal Response to the Opioid Abuse Crisis.” The witnesses will be:
    • Barbara Cimaglio, Deputy Commissioner, Vermont Department of Health;
    • Bill Guy, Advocate, Parents Helping Parents;
    • Nancy Hale, President and CEO, Operation UNITE; and
    • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Senior Economist and Co-Director, Drug Policy Research Center, RAND Corporation.

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “National Water Hazards & Vulnerabilities: Improved Forecasting for Response & Mitigation.” The witnesses will be:
    • Dr. Louis Uccellini, NOAA Assistant Administrator, Weather Services, Director, National Weather Service;
    • Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research;
    • Ms. Mary Glackin, Senior Vice President for Public-Private Partnerships, The Weather Company, IBM; and
    • Mr. Bryan Koon, Director, Florida, Division of Emergency Management, Former President, National Emergency Managers Association.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Hearing on Preventing Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Joel Szabat, Executive Director, U.S. Maritime Administration;
    • Rear Admiral James Helis, Superintendent, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York; and
    • The Honorable Calvin Scovel, III, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled a closed hearing titled “Classified Hearing to Review Intelligence Programs & Threat Assessment.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Mike Pompeo, Director, Central Intelligence Agency; and
    • Admiral Michael S. Rogers, Director, National Security Agency.

House Appropriators Examine Job Training Programs; President Proposes More Cuts to Department of Education

Legislative Activity

Appropriators Consider Workforce Training Programs This Week

The House Committee on Appropriations this week will hold a hearing on federal support for job training programs, a target facing steep cuts under President Trump’s proposed budget. In his “skinny” budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, President Trump proposes cutting the Department of Labor (DOL) budget by 21 percent, with significant reductions to job training and employment grants, Job Corps programs, and job training for seniors. Last week, he proposed more cuts to job training programs for the remainder of FY 2017, including cuts to programs established by the very bipartisan Workforce and Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA).

It is expected the hearing in the House this week will highlight effective programs and reforms that can be made to ensure DOL operates programs to develop a robust workforce with skills necessary to compete in the 21st Century and eliminate wasteful spending on ineffective programs, a promise Alexander Acosta made during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).

This Week’s  Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will hold a hearing titled, “Examining Federal Support for Job Training Programs.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on H.R. 1180, “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017.”

Regulatory Activity

President Trump Proposes More Department of Education Cuts in FY 2017 Request

After proposing over $9 billion in cuts to the Department of Education in his “skinny” budget request for FY 2018, President Trump this week asked Congress to cut nearly $3 billion more in the five remaining months of FY 2017. The proposal includes the following cuts:

  • $1.3 billion from the Pell Grant program surplus;
  • $28 million in programs to support Advanced Placement classes for students from low-income families;
  • $49 million for Elementary and Secondary School Counseling;
  • $152 million for Mathematics and Science Partnerships;
  • $47 million for physical education programs;
  • $189 million for the Striving Readers Program
  • $1.2 billion to the Supporting Effective Instruction state grants

President Trump’s plan also calls for reductions this year to other agencies that affect education, including National Institutes of Health (3.8 percent cut); National Science Foundation (5 percent cut); NASA (nearly 1 percent cut); National Endowment for the Arts (10 percent cut); National Endowment for the Humanities (10 percent cut); and educational and cultural exchange programs at the State Department (23.7 percent cut).

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, indicated this week Republican leaders intend to keep the same spending levels that they have been working on for the last year and ruled out the attempts to make large cuts to the non-defense budget. Additionally, Secretary DeVos indicated she is interested in restoring year-round access to Pell grants and that the current restrictions prevent students from graduating on time. Given President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Pell surplus, which is a possible funding source for year-round Pell Grants, it is unclear if the program will be restored this year, despite bipartisan support in Congress and advocates at the Department of Education.

Senate Moving on Infrastructure; House to Consider Brownfields Reauthorization

Legislative Activity

Energy Infrastructure

Moving forward with her previously announced effort to write draft legislation to address energy infrastructure for the larger anticipated infrastructure bill, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will hold a hearing on Tuesday, April 4 to consider methods to protect the electricity grid and associated energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats.

Brownfields

On Tuesday, April 4, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hearing to consider a discussion draft of legislation that would reauthorize the Brownfields Program.

Water

On Tuesday, April 4, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans, will hold a hearing to examine the discussion draft of the “Bureau of Reclamation Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act,” which would authorize pumped storage hydropower development utilizing multiple Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs.

On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing to “examine national water hazards and vulnerabilities, focusing on forecasting for responses and mitigation.”

Coal Lands Restoration

On Wednesday, April 5, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a hearing to concerning  H.R. 1731, the Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More (RECLAIM) Act of 2017. The bill would amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 to provide funds to states and Tribes for reclamation and restoration of land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining carried out before August 3, 1977.

Financial Services Regulatory Reform Ramps Up

Legislative Activity

Senate Banking, House Financial Services Committees Set Sights on Financial Services Regulatory Reform

With the first 100 days of the Trump Administration largely behind them, financial services lawmakers are beginning to move forward with their review of and efforts to reform the financial services sector. During the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing last week, Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) indicated that the Committee’s proposals for financial services regulatory reform and housing finance reform are likely to come after tax reform – something that is not expected until later this year (likely no earlier than fall) or early next year. According to Chairman Crapo, the bills will be “broad, robust” solutions; however, in the near-term, lawmakers are likely to work on “smaller” bills. Notably, though Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has indicated he has no plans to allow a complete overhaul of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), he has at the same time expressed an openness to working with Republicans to resolve issues facing community banks – something that could come in the form of examining the process by which the government designates certain financial firms as “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs).

Relatedly, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing this week to examine the federal financial regulatory system and opportunities for reform. In addition to examining the SIFI designation process as their Senate counterparts are doing, the House will continue to focus on reforming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by, among other things, seeking to make the Director accountable to the President and brining the Bureau within the congressional appropriations process. Notably, the Committee will hold a hearing with Director Cordray this week, who will review the Bureau’s recent activities.  In advance of the hearing, see here for our analysis of the current legal and legislative landscape facing the Bureau.  Note that, in addition to these specific proposals, we anticipate that Chairman Hensarling will begin to move forward with more sweeping financial regulatory reform proposals (i.e., CHOICE Act 2.0) potentially as early as the end of this month.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled an Executive Session on the expected nomination of Mr. Jay Clayton, of New York, to be Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade has scheduled a hearing titled “Examining the Federal Reserve’s Mandate and Governance Structure.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Financial Services Subcommittees on Monetary Policy and Trade and Terrorism and Illicit Finance have scheduled a joint hearing titled “Increasing the Effectiveness of Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The 2016 Semi-Annual Reports of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy has scheduled a hearing titled “EP: The Current State of Retirement Security in the United States.”
  • On Thursday, April 6, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit has scheduled a hearing titled “Examination of the Federal Financial Regulatory System and Opportunities for Reform.”

Regulatory Activity

Labor Department Sends Fiduciary Rule Delay to OMB as Acosta Nomination Moves to Senate Floor

Last Monday, March 27, the Department of Labor (DOL) sent a final proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to delay the Fiduciary Rule’s applicability date from April 10 to June 9. The proposal is a result of President Trump’s February 3 Executive Memorandum (further discussed here) calling on the DOL to conduct a legal and economic review of the Fiduciary Rule’s potential impact. Relatedly, note that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted last week along party lines to advance Secretary of Labor-Nominee Alexander Acosta’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

SEC Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee to Meet

On Wednesday, April 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Equity Market Structure Advisory Committee will hold a meeting to discuss updates from its four subcommittees, including presentations from the Regulation NMS subcommittee on Rule 611 and the Trading Venues Regulation subcommittee on SRO rule-based limitations of liability and regulatory centralization.

Gottlieb Confirmation Hearing Set for April 5; CMS Issues Final Rule on Medicaid DSH Payments; Home Health CoPs Delayed; MedPAC Meetings This Week

Legislative Activity

Gottlieb Confirmation Hearing Set for April 5

On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will hold a confirmation hearing for Dr. Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s nominee for Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Gottlieb held a number of senior positions at the FDA during the George W. Bush Administration. He served as deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs and helped coordinate with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He also worked for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) where he aided with the implementation of the Medicare Part D program. In addition to his previous roles at the FDA, Dr. Gottlieb worked as an advisor to various investment firms and as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He is an advocate for lowering the cost of prescription drugs by modernizing the agency’s approval process and expediting generic competitors to market. Dr. Gottlieb is focused on easing burdensome regulations and supports policies that benefit patients. Members of the Senate HELP Committee are likely to ask Dr. Gottlieb how he would implement the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation spearheaded by the Senate HELP Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in the 114th Congress and signed by President Obama on December 13, 2016. Dr. Gottlieb may also receive questions regarding the reauthorization of the FDA user fee agreements and the rising price of prescription drugs.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, April 3: The House Committee on Rules will meet to formulate a rule on H.R. 1343, Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2017; H.R. 1219, Supporting America’s Innovators Act of 2017; and H.R. 1304, Self-Insurance Protection Act.
  • Tuesday, April 4: The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing titled “FDA User Fee Agreements: Improving Medical Product Regulation and Innovation for Patients Part II.”
  • Tuesday, April 4: The House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).”
  • Tuesday, April 4: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “An Assessment of Ongoing Concerns at the Veterans Crisis Line.”
  • Tuesday, April 4: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Cybersecurity in the Health Care Sector: Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships.”
  • Wednesday, April 5: The Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to be Commissioner of the FDA.
  • Wednesday, April 5: The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “Federal Response to the Opioid Abuse Crisis.”
  • Wednesday, April 5: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs will hold a hearing on a number of pieces of legislation including H.R. 1564, A bill to amend section 504 of the Veterans’ Benefits improvements Act of 1996 to specify the funding source for travel related to examinations by physicians not employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding medical disabilities of applicants for benefits under title 38, United States Code, to codify section 504 of the Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 1996, and for other purposes; and draft legislation titled Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017.

Regulatory Activity

CMS Issues Final Rule on Medicaid DSH Payments

On Thursday, March 30, CMS issued a final rule titled “Medicaid Program; Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments- Treatment of Third Party Payers in Calculating Uncompensated Care Costs.” The final rule addresses the hospital-specific limitation on Medicaid DSH payments and the application of the limitation in the annual DSH audits under the Social Security Act by clarifying the hospital-specific DSH limit is based only on uncompensated care costs. It explicitly states that uncompensated care costs include only those costs for Medicaid eligible individuals, including Medicare and other third party payments that compensate hospitals for care. The result is a hospital-specific limit calculation that only reflects the costs for Medicaid eligible individuals for which the hospital has not received payment from any source. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on April 3, 2017, and is effective 60 days after publication.

Home Health CoPs Delayed

On Friday, March 31, CMS issued a proposed rule to delay implementation the new Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for Home Health Agencies (HHAs) which was published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2017. The proposed rule delays the effective date of the rule by six months to January 13, 2018, and is subject to a 60 day comment period. It will be published in the Federal Register on April 3, 2017.

Additional

MedPAC Meetings This Week

On Thursday, April 6, and Friday, April 7, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) will hold meetings to discuss Medicare policy issues and questions, as well as develop recommendations for Congress. The agenda includes the following topics:

  • Part B drug payment policy issues;
  • Using premium support in Medicare;
  • Implementing a unified payment system for post-acute care;
  • An overview of the medical device industry;
  • Regional variation in Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D spending and service use;
  • Measuring low-value care in Medicare;
  • Payment and plan incentives in Part D; and
  • Provider consolidation: The role of Medicare policy

House Hearing Examines Enforcement of US Immigration Law; Armed Services Chair, Air Force Nominee Oppose CR; Trump Administration Calls on Jurisdictions to Enforce Immigration Requirements; Trump Administration Appeals Federal Court Ruling on Immigration Executive Order

Legislative Activity

House Hearing Examines Enforcement of US Immigration Law

On Tuesday, March 28, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing titled “Restoring Enforcement of our Nation’s Immigration Laws” that featured the following witnesses:

  • The Honorable Thomas Hodgson, Sheriff, Bristol County, Massachusetts;
  • Jessica Vaughn, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies;
  • Andrew Arthur, Immigration Judge, Retired, Executive Office for Immigration Review, York, Pennsylvania; and
  • Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy and Programs, Tahirih Justice Center.

The hearing focused on the state of immigration enforcement in the United States, particularly as it relates to sanctuary jurisdictions. Participants displayed a clear divide in their views on sanctuary policies. Sheriff Hodgson, Ms. Vaughn, Mr. Arthur, and the Republican members of the Subcommittee generally argued that sanctuary jurisdictions were a threat to public safety and advocated for restricting federal funding to such jurisdictions. Alternatively, Ms. Pyati and Democrats argued in favor of sanctuary policies.

During the hearing, Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) argued that U.S. immigration laws are integral to the nation’s sovereignty and must be enforced. He stated that the Obama Administration encouraged undocumented immigrants to fraudulently claim asylum and deliberately undermine U.S. immigration law. Chairman Sensenbrenner cited several examples of undocumented immigrants committing serious crimes in the United States. He stressed that the Trump Administration must discourage sanctuary policies, arguing that jurisdictions have attempted to implement sanctuary policies for political gain. He stated the Department of Homeland Security Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report will be a useful tool in educating the public on the dangers of local sanctuary policies.

Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) criticized Republicans for arguing that the Obama Administration did not adequately enforce immigration law, noting that it conducted the highest volume of deportations of any previous administration. She argued that the Trump Administration was focused on attacking, shaming, and threatening local governments, rather than attempting to implement real immigration reform.  She noted that the 10th Amendment prohibits state and local officials from being compelled to enforce federal immigration law, emphasizing that state and local officials know how best to protect their communities. She stated that President Trump’s Executive Order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” has decreased public safety and created a culture of fear among immigrant communities in the United States.

Armed Services Chair, Air Force Nominee Oppose CR

On March 28, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) said that he would vote against a Continuing Resolution (CR) of any length, arguing that another temporary spending measure would be too damaging to the military. Speaking to reporters, Chairman McCain called the CR the “worst thing that could happen.”  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed that a CR through September would “destroy the Pentagon,” but added that he would support a shorter, week-long funding measure if necessary.

Air Force Secretary-nominee Heather Wilson also expressed concern with another CR during her March 30 confirmation hearing, explaining that it would hurt the service’s operations for the remainder of the fiscal year. “If there is a continuing resolution for this year, we will make all of the problems that we are talking about here so much worse,” Wilson cautioned, adding, “We can’t operate this way.”

Defense officials have warned a host of operations and programs would be curtailed if a full-year CR is enacted. Pentagon leaders have urged Congress to pass a full-year defense appropriations bill in tandem together with a $30 billion supplemental budget request. Lawmakers are working to fund the government through the remainder of FY 2017, but face an April 28 deadline to avert a government shutdown.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Assessing Progress and Identifying Future Opportunities in Defense Reform.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach?”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Use of Confidential Informants at ATF and DEA.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “United States Strategic Command Programs.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Fencing Along the Southwest Border.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Improving Border Security and Public Safety” with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Damage to the Military from a Continuing Resolution.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Damage to the Military from a Continuing Resolution.”
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster: Part II.”
  • On Thursday, April 6, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has scheduled a hearing titled “Evaluating the Defense Contract Auditing Process.”

Executive Branch Activity

Trump Administration Calls on Jurisdictions to Enforce Immigration Requirements

In 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in response to a letter from Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, agreed to conduct an audit of Department of Justice (DOJ) grant recipients’ compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (Sec. 1373), which prohibits jurisdictions from implementing policies that restrict government officials from sharing an individual’s citizenship information or immigration status with the federal government. Subsequently, DOJ sent a notice to Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) and State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) recipients warning that funding may be restricted if a grantee is found to be in violation of Sec. 1373.

As a result of this audit, DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs issued guidance to all JAG and SCAAP grantees reinforcing Sec. 1373 requirements. The guidance directed JAG and SCAAP recipients to honor Sec. 1373 requirements or risk losing federal assistance under the programs. DOJ also charged jurisdictions with informing personnel that “federal law does not allow any government entity or official to prohibit the sending or receiving of information about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status with any federal, state or local government entity officials.” Additionally, the update clarified that state governments are not allowed to provide subgrants to cities found to be in violation of Sec. 1373.

On March 27, Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the White House press briefing to urge states and local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration law.  Attorney General Sessions stated that sanctuary policies “make our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on our streets.” During the briefing, he stated that DOJ will require state and local jurisdictions to certify compliance with Sec. 1373 in order to be eligible for Office of Justice Programs (OJP) grants. He also stated DOJ will “take all lawful steps to claw-back funds awarded to a jurisdiction that willfully violates Section 1373.”

Trump Administration Appeals Federal Court Ruling on Immigration Executive Order

On Thursday, March 30, the Department of Justice filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the 9th Circuit challenging a federal judge’s ruling that blocked implementation of an immigration-related Executive Order (EO).  The March 6 EO, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” revoked and replaced a previous EO with the same title.

On March 15, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking implementation of several provisions, including limits on travel to the U.S. by individuals from six predominantly Muslim nations and a freeze on all admissions under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), effective nation-wide.  The Trump Administration’s action comes one day after Judge Watson extended his TRO to a preliminary injunction, preventing implementation of the EO while the challenge, originally filed by the State of Hawaii, is ongoing.

President Trump Signed New Executive Orders Last Week, Focused on Trade and Energy; The President Will Host the Leaders of Egypt, Jordan and China This Week, While Congress Continues to Focus on Iran, Russia and North Korea

President Donald Trump will welcome Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House this week. He is expected to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to Mar-a-Lago later in the week.

President Trump met last Thursday with Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. According to the White House, the two leaders “underscored the need to maintain momentum in the fight against ISIS.” The White House further acknowledged that Denmark was “one of the first countries to join the counter-ISIS coalition, offering F-16 fighter jets, military trainers, special operations forces, and humanitarian assistance to the effort.” The leaders also discussed Afghanistan and strengthening NATO.

President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq last Wednesday. According to the White House, “[t]he President commended Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership and the courage of the Iraqi Security Forces fighting ISIS in Mosul with the support of the United States and the Global Coalition against ISIS. The two leaders reiterated their commitments to political, economic, and security cooperation rooted in the Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq. The President also praised the remarkable bravery and sacrifices of the Iraqi people in our shared fight against terrorism.”

Vice President Michael Pence administered the oath of office last Wednesday to David Friedman, the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

New Executive Orders – Energy and Trade

President Trump signed some new Executive Orders (EO) last week. The 28 March order called for a review of existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, and policies that potentially burden the use of domestically-produced energy. This order also revokes several previous executive actions relating to climate change, carbon emissions, and pollution standards.

On 31 March, the President signed two trade-related EOs. The first one begins with a lengthy policy section stating that “[t]he United States must address the challenges to economic growth and employment that may arise from large and chronic trade deficits and the unfair and discriminatory trade practices of some of our trading partners.” It requires the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative – in consultation with the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, Defense, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, and the heads of any other relevant agencies – to prepare an “Omnibus Report on Significant Trade Deficits” within 90 days.  They are authorized to hold public meetings and seek comments from outside stakeholders to aid in preparing the report. According to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the study will help to guide the Administration’s future policymaking. Secretary Ross also explained that the Administration may take interim actions to address trade deficits before the study is finalized, but may, in some cases, decide that no action is warranted.

The second order requires the Secretary of Homeland Security – working with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the U.S. Trade Representative – to prepare a plan that would require covered importers that pose a risk to the revenue of the United States (determined by a risk assessment conducted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP)) to provide security for antidumping and countervailing duty liability through bonds and other measures. The plan, which must be prepared within 90 days, must also identify other appropriate enforcement measures. Also within 90 days, the CBP Commissioner must develop and implement a strategy and plan for combating violations of U.S. trade and customs laws for goods, and for enabling interdiction and disposal, including through methods other than seizure, of inadmissible merchandise entering through any mode of transportation. The EO also prioritizes timely and efficient enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) protections.  The order furthermore directs the Attorney General, working with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to develop recommended prosecution practices and allocate resources to ensure Federal prosecutors give high priority to prosecuting significant offenses related to violations of trade laws.

Trade – Draft NAFTA Renegotiation Letter Circulated; NTE Report Released

Last week, the Trump Administration provided lawmakers with a draft letter notifying Congress of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The draft letter aligns with some of the themes from the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) law, while also incorporating some of President Trump’s campaign priorities. Once formally transmitted, which could happen as soon as this week, this letter will kick off a 90-day consultation period before formal NAFTA negotiations can begin.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also released the 2017 National Trade Estimate (NTE) last Friday, highlighting significant barriers facing American exports in specific markets around the world. The report notes Canada’s low de minimis threshold and concerns with Mexico’s customs administrative procedures, two areas that could potentially be addressed through new NAFTA talks.

Syria – Combatting ISIS

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Turkey on Thursday, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other senior Turkish government officials.  In a meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Secretary Tillerson acknowledged Turkey is a NATO ally and “a friend of the United States in a very turbulent part of the world.”  He said that he conveyed President Trump’s commitment to strengthening the relationship between the two countries in his meetings with the Foreign Minister and President Erdoğan.  The Secretary noted that Turkey has helped to alleviate the ongoing refugee crisis stemming from the conflict in Syria and served “as a key partner for stabilization effort in areas once held by ISIS and for ensuring our NGO and UN partners can continue to provide humanitarian relief services inside and outside of Syria.”

Secretary Tillerson said that his discussions in Turkey also included how to secure areas inside of Syria, create zones of stabilization, to allow the return of people to Syria and to set the stage for a longer-term political solution for the conflict. Secretary Tillerson also said that “in terms of the future of Raqqa, we look forward to the liberation of Raqqa and the return of its control to local – to its local citizens.”

Regarding the Trump Administration’s priority to defeat ISIS, Secretary Tillerson said:

“That is why we meet with our very important partners here, as well as other very important coalition members who are engaged directly in the military activities in Iraq and Syria. So there is more discussion yet to be had regarding the way forward. What we discussed today were options that are available to us. They are difficult options, let me be very frank. These are not easy decisions. They are difficult choices that have to be made. So this has been very good, the conversations today were very frank, very candid, and we will be taking those conversations away.  I know the foreign minister and the president and the prime minister, they will consider all of the exchanges we had today, but ultimately, Turkey and the United States will stay together in the fight as part of the broader coalition to defeat Daesh.”

In a shift from the Obama Administration’s policy, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Nikki Haley said on Thursday that the U.S. policy is no longer focused on Bashar al-Assad stepping down from power. Secretary Tillerson also said in Ankara that Assad’s longer-term status “will be decided by the Syrian people.” Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) denounced this shift in policy.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with British officials, including Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, in visit to London last week. In a joint press conference on 31 March, Secretary Fallon confirmed that the U.S. and U.K. stand “shoulder-to-shoulder as leading members of the counter-Daesh coalition.” On Syria, Secretary Mattis said that the U.S. is working on the “Assad issue…one day at a time.”

Iran – Congress Considers Legislation

On 28 March, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on U.S. policy towards Iran, including enforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Syrian conflict, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, and Iran’s relations with other countries in the Middle East. Lawmakers expressed their concern over Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the region, and several senators, including Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), who advocated in favor of stricter enforcement of the JCPOA. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) raised the possibility of cooperation between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), but the witnesses testifying noted that such cooperation would remain unlikely so long as Iran continues its destabilizing behavior. Several senators voiced support for the recently-introduced Iran sanctions legislation, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S. 722), which would impose sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, support for acts of international terrorism, and violations of human rights.

On 29 March, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing focused on Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles and the potential impact of non-nuclear sanctions legislation, such as the recently-introduced Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act (H.R. 1698). Several Members expressed support for additional sanctions but the witnesses cautioned that if pre-JCPOA sanctions are re-imposed under a different justification, Iran would likely withdraw from the nuclear agreement entirely.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Joseph Votel identified Iran as “the greatest long-term threat to stability” in the Middle East during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on 29 March. He cited operations in the Straits of Hormuz and support for Houthi forces in Yemen as examples, expressing that Iran’s objective is to become “the regional hegemon.” He added that, “We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means their activities.”

When asked about comments made in 2012 that the three primary threats the United States faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran,” Defense Secretary Mattis told reporters last week that Iran’s behavior had not changed in the years since. “At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of U.S. Central Command and that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today,” Secretary Mattis said.

On average, CENTCOM reports more than 300 incidents with the Iranian Navy in the Straits of Hormuz per year, according to Gen. Votel, and of those, the command classifies about 10 to 15 percent as “abnormal, unprofessional, or unsafe.” But he noted that Iran’s actions in the Straits of Hormuz very rarely prevent the U.S. Navy from accomplishing its missions.

Russia – House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Russian Activities in Europe

During a House Armed Services hearing on 28 March, General Curtis Scaparotti testified that the European Command has made a “shift to deterrence and defense” in response to Russian aggression and the increased threat from terrorist groups operating on the continent. He shared that the Kremlin is modernizing its hybrid, conventional, and nuclear forces in an attempt to re-establish itself as a great power.

Using hybrid warfare as an example, Gen. Scaparotti said that it includes cyber intrusions to disrupt public utilities, disinformation campaigns using media outlets, and “political provocations,” such as trying to influence elections in Western Europe. Gen. Scaparotti shared that he is looking for more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability to better understand Russian actions. He added that more armored ground forces, including permanently stationing another Brigade Combat Team in Europe, improved antisubmarine warfare and strike capacity, modernized prepositioned war stocks, and enhanced missile defense systems, would bolster deterrence and defense.

NATO – 2 Percent Military Spending Requirement Emphasized; Congress Voted on Montenegro

Secretary Tillerson was in Belgium on Friday at NATO headquarters, where he acknowledged that the “Alliance remains the bedrock for transatlantic security,” but added, “Allies must demonstrate by their actions that they share U.S. government’s commitment” to the Alliance. The Secretary was reinforcing the Trump Administration’s position that NATO members must meet 2 percent GDP defense spending requirements.  Secretary Tillerson also said: “As we plan for the May Leaders meeting, the United States is considering what more NATO might do, particularly in bringing stability to Iraq and contributing to the Coalition to Defeat ISIS.”

During a joint press conference with his British counterpart on 31 March, Defense Secretary Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defending its NATO allies, calling it an “absolute bedrock,” in response to a question about Russian aggression. “I think the point I would make is that NATO stands united,” Secretary Mattis said. “We are going to maintain Article 5 as an absolute bedrock of the NATO alliance.” Article 5 requires that NATO members come to the defense of other members of the alliance as if they themselves had been attacked. It has been invoked only once, after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Secretary Mattis was in London on his third trip as Defense Secretary, which included an earlier stop at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Mattis’ statements came after the Senate voted overwhelmingly on 28 March to back Montenegro’s NATO membership, sending the treaty to President Trump’s desk. Republican Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Mike Lee (Utah) opposed approving the country’s NATO membership, but lawmakers from both parties stressed that the move will help push back against Russian influence. Russia opposes NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe.

Europe – EUCOM’s Ability to Surge Forces at Risk

The Commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) shared that the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) is concerned about whether it could surge forces in the event of a contingency. “Our capacity on the lift side is being challenged,” TRANSCOM Commander Gen. Darren McDew told the House Armed Services’ Subcommittees on Readiness and Seapower and Projection Forces, citing recent decision to shift two C-17 and eight C-5 transport aircraft into back-up inventory, adding that, “We need those assets in primary inventory.” Gen. McDew explained that TRANSCOM has sufficient assets to support forces now deployed to Europe as part of the European Deterrence Initiative, but an unforeseen contingency could pose a problem. TRANSCOM is also assessing how to effectively move equipment on European railways, where the spacing of the rails in different than American tracks, according to Gen. McDew’s testimony.

North Korea – New SDN Designations Announced; The House Considers Legislation

On Friday, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added a number of individuals and entities to its list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), including some with ties to China. The designations were made for alleged involvement in North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions. More information on this action can be found on the Treasury Department’s website here.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to consider two pieces of North Korea-related legislation under suspension of the rules on Monday, 3 April: (1) H.R. 479 – North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act of 2017, as amended; and (2) H.Res. 92 – Condemning North Korea’s development of multiple intercontinental ballistic missiles, and for other purposes, as amended.

U.N. Nuclear Ban Proposal – U.S. Air Force General Opposes

On 31 March, Air Force General John Hyten, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, expressed his disagreement with a draft U.N. resolution to ban nuclear weapons. He argued that nuclear weapons have prevented conflicts from escalating into large-scale wars with large numbers of casualties. Gen. Hyten emphasized that although the U.S. has de-emphasized investment in its nuclear capabilities, the rest of the world has done “exactly the opposite,” pointing to investments made by Russia and China, as well as advancements by North Korea and Iran in developing nuclear weapons. The United Nations began considering a draft resolution last week that would call for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

While Gen. Hyten was adamant about the need to update the U.S. arsenal, he also noted that arms control agreements with other nuclear powers are equally important. He expressed support for the 2011 New START Treaty, which limits the number of nuclear warheads in the United States and Russia and requires regular inspections by both sides. President Trump has previously referred to the agreement as a “bad deal.”

Africa – Pentagon Increases Airstrikes in Somalia, AFRICOM Commander Discusses Africa Strategy

On 29 March, President Trump signed a directive giving the U.S. military authorization to conduct offensive counterterrorism airstrikes in Somalia targeting al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group. Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis stated, “The president has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces operations to defeat al-Shabab in Somalia.” Until now, the U.S. carried out airstrikes in limited circumstances in Somalia, but senior military officials had sought leeway to approve strikes more quickly. This  decision comes after a year in which militants took some territory back from the Somali government, and as regional peacekeeping forces begin withdrawing from the country next year.

Early last week, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander Gen. Thomas Waldhauser visited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he discussed the significant challenge of strengthening the Somali National Security Forces against threats from al-Shabab and other militant groups. He also shared the AFRICOM’s efforts in North Africa, where at the request of Libyan leadership and with the assistance of European allies, AFRICOM has conducted over 500 precision strikes against ISIS strongholds.

Foreign Policy Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 4 April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “The European Union as a Partner Against Russian Aggression: Sanctions, Security, Democratic Institutions and the Way Forward.”
  • On Tuesday, 4 April, the House Financial Services Subcommittees on Monetary Policy & Trade and Terrorism & Illicit Finance are scheduled to hold a joint hearing titled “Increasing the Effectiveness of Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran.”
  • On Wednesday, 5 April, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Assessing the Iran Deal.
  • On Wednesday, 5 April, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Turkey’s Democracy Under Challenge.”
  • On Wednesday, 4 April, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “A Progress Report on Conflict Minerals.”
  • On Thursday, 6 April, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights and International Organizations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Enforcement Is Not Optional: The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children.”

Defense-Related Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 4 April, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled “Cyber Threats to the United States.”
  • On Wednesday, 5 April, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled “Classified Hearing to Review Intelligence Programs & Threat Assessment.”

Cyber-Related Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 4 April, the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing to examine efforts to protect U.S. energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats.
  • On Tuesday, 4 April, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Cybersecurity in the Health Care Sector: Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, 5 April, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Facilitating the 21st Century Wireless Economy.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following events:

  • Early April: Trump Administration expected to formally notify Congress of intent to renegotiate NAFTA
  • 3 April: President Trump welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to the White House
  • 5 April: President Trump welcomes King Abdullah II of Jordan to the White House
  • 6-7 April: President Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping to Mar-a-Lago
  • 12 April: President Trump welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to the White House
  • 21-23 April: World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meeting in Washington
  • 28 April: U.S. Federal Government funding expires
  • 25 May: President Trump to attend the NATO Leaders Meeting in Belgium

Brady’s BAT Battle; Trump Takes on Tax Reform

Legislative Activity

Brady May Be Open to “Significant Modifications” on BAT as the Trump Administration Takes More Active Role in the Tax Reform Debate

As the health care reform debate continues to unfold, congressional tax-writers are preparing to move forward swiftly with their tax reform efforts. Though House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has continued to press forward with the efforts to complete Committee action by spring, the Chairman last week began to show signs of altering the House GOP tax reform “Blueprint.” Specifically, Chairman Brady suggested that he may be open to “significant modifications” to the border adjustable tax (BAT). Though specific details have not been released, these modifications could include a myriad of things, including carve-outs for certain sectors, a gradual imposition of the tax, etc.

On the other side of the Capitol, though the Senate has been less active (at least publicly) than the House, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) last week noted that “Republicans in the Senate, the House, and the White House agree on about 80 percent of the major tax reform issues, and a number of key and fundamental questions are answered in that 80 percent.”  The BAT, however, does not appear to be one of those items, thus Chairman Brady’s seeming willingness to make changes to his proposal would seem to bode well for the prospects of tax reform.  Note too, the White House has similarly suggested that it would reject the BAT “as is.”  Relatedly, though the Administration originally suggested it would put out a “phenomenal” tax plan and recently indicated that it would take the lead on tax reform negotiations, White House press secretary Sean Spicer last week seemed to soften this position, noting only that President Trump “will put out principles” on tax reform.

More on the timing and substance of tax reform will likely come to light in the coming weeks, though with the upcoming two-week spring recess, these details may not surface until lawmakers return to Washington at the end of the month.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Thursday, April 6, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The 2017 Tax Filing Season: Internal Revenue Service Operations and the Taxpayer System.”
  • On Thursday, April 6, the House Small Business Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Scam Spotting: Can the IRS Effectively Protect Small Business Information?”

Regulatory Activity

Treasury Staffs Up, Coordinating with Congress on CRA Efforts

After announcing several high-profile Treasury appointments over the last several weeks, it is rumored that the Trump Administration is set to appoint David J. Kautter as Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy. Whoever is ultimately selected to fill this position will play an important role in helping Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin navigate the tax reform debate this Congress.

Relatedly, Treasury has been working with GOP tax-writers to determine which Treasury regulations should be undone using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). While it does not appear that a decision has been made at this time, there is a potential that such efforts could be used to make changes to the section 385 debt-equity regulations issued last year. That said, there is a feeling by some that the regulations could be better addressed as part of the tax reform process.

House Approves Joint Resolution to Repeal the FCC’s Broadband Privacy Rules and FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for April Open Commission Meeting

Legislative Activity

House Approves Joint Resolution to Repeal the FCC’s Broadband Privacy Rules, Sending the Measure to the President

On March 28, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Congressional Review Act (CRA) joint resolution (S.J. Res. 34) passed by the Senate last week to repeal the broadband privacy rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in October 2016. As discussed previously, a CRA joint resolution allows Congress to repeal or prevent a regulation issued by a federal agency from going into effect and cannot generally be filibustered. With limited exceptions, joint resolutions passed under the CRA prevent a substantially similar rule from being imposed again. The House vote on the joint resolution was 215-205. All Democrats who voted opposed the joint resolution and 15 Republicans who voted also opposed the joint resolution. Having passed both houses of Congress, the joint resolution now goes to President Trump for his signature or veto. The White House has indicated that President Trump is likely to sign the joint resolution.

Following passage of the joint resolution by the House, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement in which he claimed that the FCC had “pushed through, on a party-line vote, privacy regulations designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies” and that the joint resolution was the result of “the FCC’s own overreach.” Chairman Pai continued that Congress had acted “appropriately” in passing “a resolution to reject this approach of picking winners and losers before it takes effect.” Chairman Pai also stated that until the passage of the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, “the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] was protecting consumers very effectively, policing every online company’s privacy practices consistently and initiating numerous enforcement actions.” However, with the passage of the FCC’s rules, Chairman Pai stated that “the FCC stripped the FTC of its authority over Internet service providers.” Noting “the FCC’s struggles to address the privacy issue over the past couple of years,” Chairman Pai emphasized that, going forward, “the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected through a consistent and comprehensive framework.” Chairman Pai suggested that the best way to achieve this would be to “return jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area.”

Legislation Expanding Rural Wireless Coverage Introduced

On March 30, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced H.R.1814, the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act. The bill is designed to “expand wireless coverage in rural communities” according to a press release on Rep. Kinzinger’s website. Specifically, the legislation would “direct the FCC to establish a program that would provide a 3-year extension of the spectrum license to wireless carriers that lease unused spectrum to rural and smaller carriers, encouraging collaboration between companies to bridge service gaps in rural areas.” As a result, the bill would incentivize certain wireless carriers to make unused spectrum available for use in rural areas by smaller carriers. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (House Commerce Committee).

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, April 5: The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Facilitating the 21st Century Wireless Economy.” According to a press release, “[m]embers will examine the impact of spectrum on economic growth and how the federal government can help meet America’s ever-growing spectrum needs.” In addition, the subcommittee will also examine S.19, the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act (MOBILE NOW Act). The witnesses will be announced.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for April Open Meeting

The FCC has announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the FCC’s April 20 Open Commission Meeting:

  • Connect America Fund. The FCC will consider an Order on Reconsideration that “would amend the construction project limitation within section 54.303 of the Commission’s rules to permit carriers to report, for universal service purposes, capital expenses per location up to the established per-location per-project limit, rather than disallowing all capital expenses associated with construction projects in excess of the limit.”
  • Wireline Infrastructure Deployment. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment that “would propose to remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment, suggest changes to speed the transition from copper networks and legacy services to next-generation networks and services dependent on fiber, and propose to reform Commission regulations that are raising costs and slowing, rather than facilitating, broadband deployment.”
  • Wireline Infrastructure Deployment. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry that “commences an examination of the regulatory impediments to wireless network infrastructure investment and deployment, and how the Commission may remove or reduce such impediments consistent with the law and the public interest.”
  • Business Data Services. The FCC will consider a Report and Order that “recognizes the strong competition present in the business data services market and modernizes the Commission’s regulatory structure accordingly to bring ever new and exciting technologies, products, and services to businesses and consumers.”
  • Reinstating the UHF Discount. The FCC will consider an Order on Reconsideration to “reinstate the UHF discount used to calculate compliance with the national television audience reach cap.”
  • Noncommercial Educational (NCE) Station Third-Party Fundraising. The FCC will consider a Report and Order that “would adopt rules permitting NCE stations not funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to alter or suspend regular programming in order to conduct fundraising for third-party non-profit organizations so long as such stations do not spend more than one percent of their total annual airtime on such activities.”
  • Promoting Diversification of Ownership in the Broadcasting Services. The FCC will consider an Order on Reconsideration that would “allow noncommercial broadcasters greater flexibility to use a Special Use FRN for ownership reporting purposes and avoid the need to submit personal information to the [FCC].”

The FCC has also released draft versions of the above items, which are available here.

The FCC’s Open Commission Meeting will be held on April 20 at 10:30 a.m.in the Commission Meeting Room at the FCC’s headquarters at 445 12th Street S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554, and will be streamed live at fcc.gov/live.

Infrastructure Bill Could be Packaged with Tax Reform; Senate Commerce Committee to Consider Rosen’s Nomination to be DOT Deputy Secretary Soon; Many Members of Congress Seeking to Protect New Starts Funding; House and Senate Committees to Hold FAA Hearings

Legislative Activity

Infrastructure Bill Could be Packaged with Tax Reform

There has been considerable discussion on the Hill and in the Trump Administration about the prospects of combining a large-scale infrastructure bill with comprehensive tax reform. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin recently met with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans working to find common ground on tax reform and infrastructure. The White House intends to craft its own tax reform proposal, independent from House Republicans’ efforts, and there is limited consensus within the Republican party on the particulars or even the pay-fors for tax reform. This White House effort could signal that President Trump intends to propose a type of tax reform bill that has eluded congressional leaders: one that can gain Democratic support.

While the Administration has provided few details on its expected infrastructure bill, the most likely legislation to carry revenues needed to pay for the legislation’s promised investments would be comprehensive tax reform. President Trump has recently expressed his willingness to partly fund infrastructure investment through a repatriation tax holiday whereby earnings held abroad by U.S. companies would be taxed at a lower rate when brought back to the U.S. during the period of the tax holiday.

Senate Commerce Committee to Consider Rosen’s Nomination to be DOT Deputy Secretary Soon

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said he wants to markup Jeffrey Rosen’s nomination to be Deputy Secretary at the Department of Transportation (DOT) this week, if Mr. Rosen’s paperwork can be finalized in time. During his nomination hearing before the Committee last week, Mr. Rosen faced several pointed questions about his support for the Administration’s proposed cuts to the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. In response, Mr. Rosen said that it would be his role to support the Administration’s priorities, noting that the Administration has indicated a desire to fund infrastructure through the most efficient programs.

Many Members of Congress Seeking to Protect New Starts Funding

Dear Colleague letters are circulating in the House and Senate to encourage Appropriators to fund the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants program (commonly referred to as New Starts) at levels authorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. These efforts are in response to President Trump’s FY 2018 “Skinny Budget,” which zeroed out the TIGER grant program and limited New Starts funding to only projects that have signed Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs), and the President’s recommendation to provide $1.7 billion in FY 2017 for New Starts –again, an amount sufficient to cover only projects with signed FFGAs. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) are leading the effort in the House, while Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are leading the effort in the Senate.

House and Senate Committees to Hold FAA Hearings

Both of the subcommittees responsible for aviation authorization in the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Commerce committees will hold hearings his week on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization. The current FAA authorization expires on September 30, 2017, and Congress is expected to consider a long-term reauthorization this year.

On Tuesday, April 4, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation will hold a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace.” The witnesses will be representatives from FAA, FlyGlo LLC, Airmap, Virgin Galactic, Amazon Prime Air, and VDOS Global.

On Thursday, April 6, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security will hold a hearing titled “FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Rural Air Service and the General Aviation Community.” The witnesses will be representatives from Pierre, SD, the U.S. Contract Tower Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment has scheduled a hearing to discuss the following:
    • “Brownfields Reauthorization Draft.”
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Enabling Innovation in the National Airspace.” The witnesses will be:
    • Shelly J. Yak, Director, William J. Hughes Technical Center, Federal Aviation Administration;
    • Calvin Clifford “Trey” Fayard, III, Chief Executive Officer, FlyGlo LLC;
    • Gregory McNeal, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Airmap;
    • Michael P. Moses, President, Virgin Galactic;
    • Sean Cassidy, Director, Safety and Regulatory Affairs, Amazon Prime Air; and
    • Brian Whiteside, President, VDOS Global.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation has scheduled a hearing titled “Authorization of Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Programs.” The witnesses will be:
    • Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant, United States Coast Guard;
    • Master Chief Steven W. Cantrell, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard;
    • Michael A. Khouri, Acting Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission; and
    • Joel Szabat, Executive Director, in Lieu of the Administrator, Maritime Administration.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach?” The witnesses will be:
    • Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, Director, Joint Task Force – East, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
    • Chief Paul A. Beeson, Commander, Joint Task Force-West, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
    • Janice Ayala, Director, Joint Task Force-Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations; and
    • Rebecca Gambler, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans has scheduled a hearing to discuss the following:
    • R. 220 – To authorize the expansion of the existing Terror Lake hydroelectric project, and for other purposes;
    • R. 1411 – Exempts the summer flounder fishing from current federal fishery regulations; and
    • Discussion Draft of H.R. ____ – To amend the Reclamation Project Act of 1939 to authorize pumped storage hydropower development utilizing multiple Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “National Water Hazards & Vulnerabilities: Improved Forecasting for Response & Mitigation.” The witnesses will be:
    • Louis Uccellini, NOAA Assistant Administrator, Weather Services, Director, National Weather Service;
    • Antonio Busalacchi, President, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research;
    • Mary Glackin, Senior Vice President for Public-Private Partnerships, The Weather Company, IBM; and
    • Bryan Koon, Director, Florida, Division of Emergency Management, Former President, National Emergency Managers Association.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Keeping Goods Moving: Continuing to Enhance Multimodal Freight Policy and Infrastructure.” The witnesses will be:
    • Derek J. Leathers, President and Chief Executive Officer, Werner Enterprises;
    • Lance M. Fritz, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Union Pacific;
    • Michael L. Ducker, President and Chief Executive Officer, FedEx Freight; and
    • James Pelliccio, President and Chief Executive Officer, Port Newark Container Terminal.
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing “To examine efforts to protect U.S. energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats.” The witnesses will be:
    • Patricia Hoffman, Acting Assistant Secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy;
    • Andrew Bochman, Senior Cyber and Energy Security Strategist, Idaho National Laboratory;
    • Gerry Cauley, President and CEO, Northern American Electric Reliability Corporation;
    • Duane D. Highley, President and CEO, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation;
    • Dave McCurdy, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Gas Association; and
    • Colonel Gent Welsh, Chief of Staff, Washington National Guard, Vice Commander, 194th
  • On Tuesday, April 4, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Fencing Along the Southwest Border.” The witnesses will be:
    • David Aguilar, Former Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
    • Ronald Colburn, Former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol at U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and
    • Terence M. Garrett, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Public Affairs and Security Studies Department, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation has scheduled a hearing titled “FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives.” The witnesses will be:
    • Michael Patterson, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, representing the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials;
    • Gary Thomas, president and executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, representing the American Public Transportation Association; and
    • Atlanta, Ga. Mayor Kasim Reed, representing the United States Conference of Mayors.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Response to the Baton Rouge Flood Disaster: Part II.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has scheduled an Executive Session to discuss the following:
    • 763 – Surface and Maritime Transportation Security Act;
    • 61 – A bill to remove the sunset provision of section 203 of Public Law 105-384 (the Dungeness Crabs bill);
    • 74 – Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act;
    • 396 – A bill to make technical amendments to certain marine fish conservation statutes;
    • 701 – A bill to improve the competitiveness of United States manufacturing by designating and supporting manufacturing communities;
    • 755 – Fairness for Pilots Acts;
    • 756 – Save Our Seas Act of 2017; and
    • 770 – Making Available Information Now to Strengthen Trust and Resilience and Enhance Enterprise Technology (MAIN STREET) Cybersecurity Act.
  • On Wednesday, April 5, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Improving Border Security and Public Safety.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable John F. Kelly, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • On Thursday, April 6, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security has scheduled a hearing titled “FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Rural Air Service and the General Aviation Community.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Laurie Gill, Mayor, Pierre, S.D.;
    • Spencer Dickerson, Executive Director of U.S. Contract Tower Association, an affiliated organization of the American Association of Airport Executives;
    • Mark Baker, President & CEO, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; and
    • Guy M. Smith, Professor Emeritus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
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