Congress Searches for Funding Solution; Senate to Vote on Perdue Nomination

Senate Legislative Activity

The Senate will convene at 3:00pm today, April 24.  Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for consideration of Calendar #31, the nomination of Sonny Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture.  The time until 5:30pm will be equally divided.  At 5:30pm, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the Perdue nomination.  Following disposition of the Perdue nomination, the Senate will immediately vote on the motion to invoke cloture on Executive Calendar #34, the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein to be Deputy Attorney General.

Monday, April 24 at 5:30pm – 2 roll call votes

  1. Confirmation of Sonny Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture
  2. Motion to invoke cloture on Rod J. Rosenstein to be Deputy Attorney General

House Legislative Activity

The House will meet today, April 24 at 12:00pm in pro forma session. No votes are expected.

On Tuesday, April 25, the House will meet at 12:00pm for morning hour and 2:00pm for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30pm.

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

  1. H.Con.Res. 35 – Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the National Peace Officers Memorial Service and the National Honor Guard and Pipe Band Exhibition (Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  2. H.Con.Res. 36 – Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for the Greater Washington Soap Box Derby (Sponsored by Rep. Steny Hoyer / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  3. H.R. 455 – To designate the United States courthouse located at 501 East Court Street in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “R. Jess Brown United States Courthouse” (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  4. H.R. 496– To repeal the rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration entitled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform” (Sponsored by Sen. Tammy Duckworth / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
  5. H.R. 876 – Aviation Employee Screening and Security Enhancement Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)
  6. H.R. 1372 – Homeland Security for Children Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)
  7. H.R. 534 – U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  8. H.Res. 187 – Relating to efforts to respond to the famine in South Sudan, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass / Foreign Affairs Committee)

On Wednesday, April 26, the House will meet at 10:00am for morning hour and 12:00pm for legislative business.

  1. H.R. 1695 – Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Judiciary Committee)

On Thursday, April 27 the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00pm for legislative business.

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

  1. H.R. 1694 – Fannie and Freddie Open Records Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

Consideration of Legislation Making Further Appropriations for FY 2017.

Additional legislative items are possible.

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

State Attorneys General April 24 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

Attorneys general from 14 states, led by West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey and Wisconsin AG Brad Schimel, have filed an amicus brief in support of President Trump’s Executive Order establishing the “1-in 2-out” rule, which is being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by Public Citizen, Inc. and other groups. That Executive Order, the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, provides in part: “Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency . . . publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed” (the “1-in 2-out” rule). In their brief, the states say that “agencies have implemented far more regulatory burdens than Congress ever envisioned,” and that the “unlawfully-imposed burden has been largely borne by the States and their citizens.” The Executive Order “will reduce the sprawl of unnecessary, costly regulations, consistent with Congressional intent and important public policy considerations,” according to the states. Further, the states argue, “past Presidents have also issued executive orders instructing federal agencies to consider, in the exercise of their sound discretion and as permitted by law, factors such as the cumulative costs of regulations, the national economy as a whole, and . . . the effect of rules on state and local governments,” and the Executive Order at issue “is a reasonable exercise of that inherent authority.”

Attorneys general from 11 states, led by Texas AG Ken Paxton (the “amici states”), have filed an amicus brief in a New York federal district court in support of Exxon Mobil Corporation’s challenge to a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) issued by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and a subpoena issued by New York AG Eric Schneiderman seeking Exxon Mobil documents relating to global warming and climate change as part of an investigation into “supposed violations of consumer protection laws through marketing and selling of fossil fuel-derived products and securities,” according to the amicus brief. The amici states argue that while state attorneys general do have the power to issue CIDs and subpoenas to “identify and remedy unlawful conduct,” the power “does not include the right to engage in unrestrained, pretextual investigative excursions to promote one side of an international public policy debate, or chill the expression of viewpoints in those debates.” The amici states say that the Massachusetts and New York AGs’ “tactics are part of an ‘aggressive’ approach to silence dissenting viewpoints by policing the ‘truth’ about climate change in the marketplace of ideas,” and that the “First Amendment condemns government action that restricts or chills speech because of the message conveyed.” The amici states also claim that the “Fourth Amendment limits the scope of administrative subpoenas” and that “Massachusetts and New York are abusing the power reserved to them under the U.S. Constitution.”

California AG Xavier Becerra has announced a $9.8 million settlement with drugstore chain Walgreens, which “involved allegations that Walgreens failed to adhere fully to requirements imposed by California law for the dispensing of certain prescription drugs under Medi-Cal,” a California Medicaid program, according to a press release. The settlement related to “lawsuits filed by whistleblowers” that alleged that “for more than five years, Walgreens falsely certified that it had complied with diagnosis-related requirements for the lawful dispensing of prescriptions to Medi-Cal patients,” according to the press release, which also notes that the claims “are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.” AG Becerra issued a statement that: “Californians expect that pharmacies dispensing prescription drugs will do so in a safe and lawful manner. It is a violation of the public trust when pharmacies seek payment from the Medi-Cal program while knowingly violating state law.”

Full Senate Set to Confirm Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary

Legislative Activity

Full Senate Set to Confirm Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary

It has been nearly 14 weeks since President Donald Trump nominated Sonny Perdue, former two-term governor of Georgia, to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). His long wait for formal confirmation is likely to come to an end this week. The Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation vote late Monday afternoon, where Perdue is expected to receive bipartisan support.

Perdue easily secured the Senate Agriculture Committee’s support at its business meeting on March 30 by a 19-1 vote; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) voiced her opposition to his nomination and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) – cousin of Sonny Perdue – declined to participate because of their close connection. Senator Gillibrand requested her opposition be recorded, noting her disapproval of how certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) issues in the State of Georgia were handled by then-Governor Perdue. However, Sonny Perdue is one of President Trump’s more uncontroversial Cabinet choices, and he notably boasts the support of the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has made clear her support for the Senate to swiftly confirm Perdue for the top USDA spot.

A formal swearing-in ceremony for Perdue, likely to be held later this week, will officially recognize Perdue as the 31st Secretary of Agriculture.

This Week’s Legislative Activities:

  • On Monday, April 24, the Senate will hold a vote on confirmation of the nomination of Sonny Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture.

Government Shutdown Looms as Current CR Expires Friday; White House Expresses Interest in Bipartisan Negotiations

Legislative Activity

Government Shutdown Looms as Current CR Expires Friday; White House Expresses Interest in Bipartisan Negotiations

Congress faces a short time frame to pass a spending package for the remainder of the current fiscal year and prevent a government shutdown as the current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR/P.L. 114-254) expires Friday at midnight. House and Senate leadership remain optimistic that an FY 2017 omnibus will be passed this week, with House Appropriations spokeswoman Jennifer Hing indicating “a shutdown is not on the table;” but there has also been discussion of passing a week-long CR before April 28 to allow more time for negotiations. The White House also remains optimistic, with Kellyanne Conway and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer offering confidence that a government shutdown is unlikely.

As for the likely vehicle for the spending bill, the omnibus could be added as an amendment to the March 8 passed FY 2017 Defense funding bill that is currently in the Senate, or the House could use one of the Appropriations Committee-passed bills to originate the omnibus and subsequently send it to the Senate.

The greatest obstacles to passing an omnibus is the Trump Administration’s request for $3 billion for border security, an extra $30 billion for defense spending, and a prohibition on funds to “sanctuary cities.” Democrats are reportedly countering these GOP requests with measures to include funding for Affordable Care Act (ACA/PL 111-148/PL 111-152) health insurance subsidies and increased spending for overseas famine relief.

Late last week, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney indicated the White House is open to including ACA cost-sharing subsidies in the FY 2017 spending package in exchange for including the administration’s request for increased funds for border security and defense. Mulvaney offered this negotiation to Democrats saying the White House is “ready to talk about” a compromise, but that ultimately “we want wall funding” included in the spending bill.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, April 25, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs has scheduled a hearing titled “United States Assistance for Egypt.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations;
    • Michele Dunne; Director and Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International peace; and
    • The Honorable Tom Malinowski, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled a hearing titled “A Review of National Guard & Reserve Programs and Readiness.” The witnesses will be:
    • General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau;
    • Lieutenant General Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve;
    • Lieutenant General Maryanne Miller, Chief of the Air Force Reserve; and
    • Vice Admiral Luke M. McCollum, Chief of the Navy Reserve.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Preventing Veteran Suicide.” The witnesses will be:
    • Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence, Veterans Health Administration;
    • Harold S. Kudler, M.D., Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services, Veterans Health Administration;
    • Stephanie A. Davis, Ph.D., Suicide Prevention Coordinator and Staff Psychologist, VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, Veterans Health Administration; and
    • Ms. Melissa Jarboe, Chief Executive Director, Military Veteran Project, Topeka, Kansas.

EPA Plans Rewrite of WOTUS; House Contemplates Nuclear Waste Policy

Regulatory Activity

WOTUS

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated its plans to solicit comments by June 19 as to how the agency should rewrite the “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) rule following President Trump’s February 28 executive order (EO) directing the agency to revise the contentious Obama Administration rule. Following the EO, EPA specified its plans to revise the rule through a formal notice-and-comment rulemaking process. While this is  typically a lengthy procedure, the Trump Administration has expressed its interest in replacing the rule by the end of the year.

This follows a meeting last week that was held between the EPA and a number of groups representing state and local officials, including the National Governors’ Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties and the Environmental Council of the states, where participants discussed the Trump Administration’s rewrite of rule.

Legislative Activity

This week’s Hearings

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “A Review of the Technical, Scientific, and Legal Basis of the WOTUS Bill.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing to examine the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017. The bill would expedite the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository by authorizing the Secretary of Energy to order infrastructure operations as needed for building and operating the repository.  The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Mitigating Damage and Recovering Quickly from Disasters.” The witnesses will be:
    • Andrew Phelps, Director, Oregon Office of Emergency Management;
    • Chief John Sinclair, President and Chairman of the Board, International Association of Fire Chiefs;
    • Mark Berven, President and Chief Operating Officer, Nationwide Property and Casualty Operations (on behalf of the Build Strong Coalition);
    • The Honorable W. Craig Fugate, Former Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; and
    • The Honorable R. David Paulison, Former Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection has scheduled a hearing titled “Outdoor Recreation: Vast Impact of the Great Outdoors.” The witnesses will be announced.

Full Steam Ahead with Financial Services Regulatory Reform

Legislative Activity

House Financial Services Committee Chooses CHOICE Act as President Trump Signs Financial Services Executive Orders

After a two-week recess, the House Financial Services Committee is wasting no time getting back to work as it plans to hold a hearing on the Financial CHOICE Act this Wednesday. The bill, an acronym standing for Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs, is set to be re-introduced soon by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who has released a discussion draft of the legislative text, available here. No doubt a wish list item of many House Republicans, the bill would overhaul the country’s financial regulatory system and overturn many provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). Among several provisions, the legislation aims to: (1) end taxpayer-funded bailouts; (2) hold Wall Street and Washington accountable; (3) promote strongly capitalized banks; and (4) empower Americans. The sweeping reform bill would also convert the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into the “Consumer Law Enforcement Agency.” This new agency would not have the regulatory powers that the CFPB currently does, and instead would only have authority to enforce certain consumer finance laws. Moreover, the bill proposes changes to the new consumer finance watchdog’s leadership structure and funding mechanisms so that Congress would have control over the agency’s budget. Looking ahead, Chairman Hensarling has pledged to work with President Trump to follow through on the President’s promise to do a “big number” on Dodd-Frank; something that the CHOICE Act no doubt seeks to accomplish.

While the Financial Services Committee appears set to focus on the CHOICE Act in the near-term, the Trump Administration also made important strides in its effort to review the current regulatory framework. Last Friday, April 21, President Trump signed two executive orders directing a review of key components of Dodd-Frank. One of the orders directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to examine the orderly liquidation authority (OLA) – a Dodd-Frank provision that allows the government to wind down failing megabanks outside of bankruptcy court and which would be eliminated by the CHOICE Act. While OLA has never been used, opponents say it institutionalizes taxpayer-funded bailouts for financial institutions that become insolvent. This will likely be a key focus of the financial services reform discussion going forward. The other executive order directs the Treasury Department to examine the risks of placing “systemically important” nonbank financial firms under the oversight of the Federal Reserve, which subjects them to stricter regulation. Here, too, the CHOICE Act would eliminate the government’s authority to anoint large financial institutions as “too big to fail” by repealing the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC) discretion to designate firms as “systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs).

Both of these actions by the White House follow President Trump’s February 3, 2017 executive order (further discussed here), which instructed the Treasury Department to report to the President within 120 days (due by June 3, 2017) on the extent to which existing laws, regulations, and guidance promote certain “Core Principles” of financial regulation, as enumerated in the order.

 This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “A Legislative Proposal to Create Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs.”
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance has scheduled a hearing titled “Safeguarding the Financial System from Terrorist Financing.”
  • On Thursday, April 27, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Countering Russia: Furthering Assessing Options for Sanctions.”

Regulatory Activity

CFPB Community Bank Advisory Council to Meet on Tuesday

On Tuesday, April 25, the CFPB’s Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC) has scheduled a meeting to discuss the CFPB’s requests for information on alternative data and consumer access to financial records. The meeting will feature remarks from Acting Deputy Director David Silberman and discussion with CBAC members.

CFTC Market Risk Advisory Committee to Meet on Tuesday

Also on Tuesday, April 25, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) will hold a meeting to discuss, among other items: (1) how Central Counterparties (CCPs) can further enhance their efforts in preparing for the default of a significant clearing member; (2) cybersecurity trends; and (3) how well the derivatives markets are currently functioning, including the impact and implications of the evolving structure of these markets on the movement of risk across market participants. Commissioner Sharon Bowen sponsors the MRAC, which includes representatives of clearinghouses, exchanges, intermediaries, market makers, end-users, academia, and regulators.

AHCA Revival or Retreat; CMS Issues IPPS and LTCH PPS Proposed Rule and Request for Information

Legislative Activity

AHCA Revival or Retreat

Congress reconvenes this week after a two-week recess, with the possibility of a government shutdown looming at the end of the week. Speaker Ryan has made it clear to his colleagues that funding the government beyond April 28 will be his highest priority. With the American Health Care Act (AHCA) seemingly back on the table, efforts could accelerate this week for the House to approve a compromise version so that its action can be counted as a win for President Trump in his first 100 days in office. Before the April recess, Vice President Pence negotiated with members of the House Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans in hopes of passing the AHCA out of the House of Representatives by the April recess. The idea of a risk-sharing fund gained support from some members of the conference, but it was not enough to deliver 216 votes. While members hosted fiery town hall meetings back home, House Republicans continued to negotiate the AHCA and warned members that if they reached a deal over the recess they would be called back to Washington, D.C. to vote on the bill. While a vote never occurred, it seems that Republicans are making progress. A summary of a potential amendment from Tuesday Group co-chair Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) was leaked to the press last week. The amendment text has not been officially released, but the draft of the tentative deal, brokered by Rep. MacArthur and Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), would allow states to apply for limited waivers that would undermine the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) protections for pre-existing conditions. Under the waivers, states could “opt-out” of ACA standards setting the minimum benefits that health plans must offer and a requirement forbidding insurers from charging different prices based on health status. Conservatives have pushed to eliminate these provisions and the draft makes elimination a possibility for states while also allowing states to maintain insurance protections including the community rating if they choose. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) said he still opposes the bill and without legislative text it is difficult to predict which way other Republicans will fall. Could the MacArthur amendment be the key to AHCA revival, or is it another attempt at compromise that will fall short causing Republicans to retreat on health reform without a win?

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following measures:
    • S. 652, Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act of 2017;
    • S. 309, National Clinical Care Commission Act;
    • S. ___, Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017;
    • S. 849, Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act; and
    • Nomination of Scott Gottlieb to serve as the Commissioner of Food and Drugs.
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Stopping Disability Fraud: Risk, Prevention, and Detection.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Preventing Veteran Suicide.” The witnesses will be:
    • Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence, Veterans Health Administration;
    • Harold S. Kudler, M.D., Chief Consultant for Mental Health Services, Veterans Health Administration;
    • Stephanie A. Davis, Ph.D., Suicide Prevention Coordinator and Staff Psychologist, VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, Veterans Health Administration; and
    • Melissa Jarboe, Chief Executive Director, Military Veteran Project, Topeka, Kansas.
  • On Thursday, April 27, The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel has scheduled a hearing titled “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injury.” The witnesses will be:
    • Captain Mike Colston, Director, Department of Defense, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE);
    • Lieutenant Colonel Chris Ivany, Chief, Behavior Health Division, United States Army, HQDA, Office of the Surgeon General;
    • Captain Thomas Johnson, Site Director, United States Navy, Intrepid Spirit Concussion Recovery Center Camp Lejeune, NC; and
    • Colonel Steven Pflanz, Deputy Director of Psychological Health, United States Air Force.

Regulatory Activity

CMS Issues IPPS and LTCH PPS Proposed Rule and Request for Information

On Friday, April 14, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule titled “Medicare Program; Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System and Proposed Policy Changes and Fiscal Year 2018 Rates; Quality Reporting Requirements for Specific Providers; Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program Requirements for Eligible Hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals, and Eligible Professionals; Provider-Based Status of Indian Health Service and Tribal Facilities and Organizations; Costs Reporting and Provider Requirements; Agreement Termination Notices.” The proposed rule would update Medicare payment and policies when patients are admitted to hospitals for FY 2018. CMS also released a Request for Information (RFI) on suggestions of how to “better achieve transparency, flexibility, program simplification and innovation.” It states that feedback will be used to inform the discussion on future regulatory action related to inpatient and long-term hospitals. In addition, CMS asked for comments on the appropriate role of physician-owned hospitals within the delivery system. The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on April 28, 2017, and CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule and RFI until June 13, 2017.

Democratic Senate Staff Report Examines Costs of Proposed Border Wall; President Trump Signs Buy American and Hire American Executive Order; Trump Administration Warns “Sanctuary Cities” on Grant Funding

Legislative Activity

Democratic Senate Staff Report Examines Costs of Proposed Border Wall

On Tuesday, April 18, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee minority staff released a report detailing the costs of the Trump Administration’s proposed concrete wall along the United States’ southern border. The report, which claims the wall could cost nearly $70 billion, used U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cost estimates for certain sections of the wall to extrapolate the project’s total cost. CBP’s cost estimates were also published by Committee staff.

The report notes that the analysis does not include land acquisition costs and states that projected per-mile costs for the wall are “rapidly increasing,” as extrapolated construction costs for FY 2018 totals over $36.6 million per-mile. It also notes that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will reprogram $20 million for prototypes, design standards, and planning for the wall. The report states that the funding will also be used to complete an enforcement zone in San Diego and that maintenance costs for the wall may run as high as $150 million annually.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities has scheduled a hearing titled “Creating a Flexible and Effective Information Technology Management and Acquisitions System: Elements for Success in a Rapidly Changing Landscape.”
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Armed Services Committee has scheduled a Member Day hearing.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security has scheduled a hearing titled “The Border Wall: Strengthening our National Security.”

Executive Branch Activity

President Trump Signs Buy American and Hire American Executive Order

Following through on his promise to put “America first,” President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) on April 18 titled “Buy American and Hire American,” a two-part document addressing both procurement and immigration programs.  As he announced the EO in Wisconsin – a state that helped him win the 2016 election – President Trump relied on many of the populist themes that drove his presidential campaign, pledging the EO would help end the “theft of American prosperity” and “protect workers and students.”  Further information on the EO, including our analysis of what it means, is available here.

Trump Administration Warns “Sanctuary Cities” on Grant Funding

On Friday, April 21, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent letters to nine jurisdictions requiring them to demonstrate compliance with 8 U.S.C. 1373, which restricts local law enforcement from implementing policies that prohibit the sharing of an individual’s immigration information with the federal government, or risk losing federal grant funding. The letters cite requirements included in FY 2016 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program applications that made awards conditional on Sec. 1373 compliance. Jurisdictions were informed that they must submit documentation and legal opinions verifying Sec. 1373 compliance by June 30, 2017.

The letters come amid Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ visit to San Diego, California to tour the U.S.-Mexico border. During the trip, Attorney General Sessions announced the letters and argued that sanctuary jurisdictions “put criminals back [in the] streets” and put “innocent life – including the lives of countless law-abiding immigrants – in danger by refusing to share vital information with the federal government.”  Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions were joined by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

President Trump Welcomes Argentine President to the White House and is Expected to Sign Additional Orders This Week; Congress Returns to Session and Focuses First on Averting a Federal Government Shutdown, While Holding Hearings on Russia, Syria, Afghanistan and the Asia-Pacific

Congress returns to Washington today after a two week recess. Both chambers must quickly pass legislation to fund the Federal Government through the end of FY 2017, before existing authority expires on 28 April.

President Donald Trump signed a number of orders last week related to trade and financial services.   He signed an Executive Order on Tuesday focused on his “Buy American, Hire American” policy.  The President signed a memorandum on Thursday directing the Secretary of Commerce to investigate the implications of steel imports to possible threats to U.S. national security and provide the White House with a report of recommendations. President Trump also signed three directives on Friday related to financial services. The President is expected to sign additional orders this week, ahead of the 100 day mark of his presidency on 29 April.  These orders will reportedly focus on offshore drilling, cybersecurity, veterans affairs and agriculture.

President Trump also welcomed Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to the White House last week.  He will welcome Argentine President Mauricio Macri this Thursday.

Last Friday, President Trump also welcomed Aya Hijazi, an American aid worker detained for three years in Egypt, to the Oval Office after quietly working to secure her release this week. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing on Friday that President Trump directed his national security team weeks ago to work on securing her freedom. Spicer also said the President talked privately about her case when he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House earlier this month.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis travelled to the Middle East last week, with stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti.  Vice President Michael Pence will conclude a 10-day Asia-Pacific trip  early this week that had stops in Alaska, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Australia and Hawaii.

Italy – President Trump Hosted the Italian Prime Minister

The President welcomed Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni for a bilateral meeting on Thursday. At a joint press conference, President Trump acknowledged Italy’s contributions to the fight against ISIS and in Afghanistan, adding the two countries could partner to address “large-scale migration and international smuggling.”  The visit comes one month before President Trump’s trip to Italy for the G-7 Summit.  Prime Minister Gentiloni affirmed to the press that Italy is working toward its 2 percent GDP NATO commitment.

President Trump fielded a question about the United States’ role in Libya, responding:

“I do not see a role in Libya.  I think the United States has right now enough roles.  We’re in a role everywhere.  So I do not see that.  I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS.  . . .  I see that as a primary role, and that’s what we’re going to do, whether it’s in Iraq or in Libya or anywhere else.  And that role will come to an end at a certain point, and we’ll be able to go back home and rebuild our country, which is what I want to do.”

The two leaders were at their podiums when reports emerged of an attack in Paris that killed one police officer and wounded two others.  President Trump expressed condolences to the people of France in what he said “looks like another terrorist attack.”

Vice President Pence’s Asia-Pacific Trip Recapped

Vice President Pence met with U.S.-South Korean business CEOs while in Seoul last Tuesday morning, prior to heading to Japan.  According to the White House, the Vice President reiterated security concerns with respect to North Korea, prior to discussing trade matters with the business group.  Vice President Pence said of trade:

“President Trump has made it clear that the United States will pursue and America first policy in trade and exchange.  We’ll pursue trade that is both free and fair, and that will be true in all of our trade relationships, including KORUS.  We’re reviewing all of our trade agreements across the world to ensure that they benefit our economy as much as they benefit our trading partners.”

In Tokyo, Vice President Pence met with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso to discuss a framework for the new Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue, which was officially kicked off, “opening a new page” for the bilateral relationship.  At a joint press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Aso said that the dialogue would include three pillars: (1) a common strategy on trade and investment rules and issues; (2) cooperation in economic and structural policy area; and (3) sectoral cooperation.  Vice President Pence said that “This dialogue presents the United States and Japan with an opportunity to deepen our bilateral economic ties and to foster jobs, prosperity, and growth.”

Vice President Pence was still in Tokyo on Wednesday.  From the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Vice President reiterated the “United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia Pacific.”  The Vice President also recapped recent U.S. military action and said the United States “will defend the rules-based order upon which the region’s progress, past and future, depends.  We will protect the freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea, in the South China Sea and elsewhere, and we will ensure the unimpeded flow of lawful commerce on the Seven Seas.  And we will uphold international rules and norms, promote peaceful diplomatic dialogue to address issues of regional and international concern, and we will defend human rights — because the dignity and worth of every person is an eternal value of the United States of America.”

In Jakarta on Thursday, Vice President Pence met with President Joko Widodo. At a joint press conference, the Vice President said the United States seeks to expand the commercial relationship with Indonesia and increase U.S. market access. He also spoke of the bilateral security relationship and shared efforts to combat the spread of terrorism. Still in Indonesia on Friday, Vice President Pence announced U.S. and Indonesian businesses signed 11 commercial deals worth $10 billion.  While the Vice President praised reforms in Indonesia, he also touched again on market access issues, noting this includes intellectual property (IP) challenges, a lack of transparency and local manufacturing content requirements.

Vice President Pence arrived in Australia late on Friday, spending the weekend there and meeting with Australian officials.  The Vice President will next travel to Hawaii before returning to Washington early this week.

Syria – Chemical Weapons Stockpiles Exist

During a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis shared that the Syrian Air Force has moved its combat aircraft to make them less vulnerable to attack. “They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt,” Mattis said during the first visit to Israel by a Cabinet official from the Trump Administration.

Secretary Mattis also confirmed reports that the Syrian regime, which was targeted by U.S. missile strikes for air attacks against rebel fighters using nerve gas, still has stockpiles of chemical weapons. The Secretary said:

“Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that they removed them all.  It is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

The Secretary emphasized the U.S. position that that any further chemical attacks would not be tolerated.

Israel – Security Relationship Reaffirmed

After meeting with Minister Lieberman, Secretary Mattis also pledged to further enhance military cooperation with Israel, including assistance in acquiring new weapons. He called the $30 billion aid package signed last year by the Obama Administration a “foundation of our long term commitment.” The pact will “enable Israel to continue to acquire the most advanced U.S. military technology,” according to Secretary Mattis.

Iran – Administration Remains Critical of the Deal

Late last Tuesday, the State Department posted a statement from Secretary Tillerson noting that he had informed Congress that “Iran is compliant through April 18th with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” but adding that the President “has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review” of the nuclear deal. Secretary Tillerson also addressed the media on Wednesday, giving remarks critical of Iran, its alleged destabilizing activities across the Middle East, and the nuclear deal.

Global Magnitsky – Administration Submits First Report

In accordance with Section 1264 of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, President Trump submitted a report to the relevant congressional committees on the bill’s implementation on Thursday. The report, which is currently not publicly available, was compiled by the Departments of State and the Treasury, and other relevant executive departments and agencies.  While the Administration has not yet identified any individuals or entities for designation under the Global Magnitsky Act, nor has Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published any additions to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, a letter accompanying the report noted his Administration’s support for the “important legislation,” adding “my Administration is actively identifying persons and entities to whom the Act may apply and are collecting the evidence necessary to apply it. Over the coming weeks and months, agencies will undertake thorough interagency vetting to ensure we fulfill our commitment to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption accountable.”

Afghanistan –MOAB Impact Investigation a No-Go

Secretary Mattis confirmed the United States will not conduct a damage assessment in eastern Afghanistan after the United States dropped the so-called “mother of all bombs,” a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), on Islamic State fighters. The Secretary told reporters:  “We stay away from [bomb damage assessment] in terms of the number of enemy killed,” adding, “[it] is continuing our same philosophy that we don’t get into that, plus, frankly, digging into tunnels to count dead bodies is probably not a good use of our troops’ time.”

The U.S. military dropped a GBU-43/B on a tunnel complex used by ISIS in Afghanistan on 13 April. The strike was the first time the U.S. used it during combat. The Afghan government estimated that the weapon killed more than 90 ISIS militants.

Shortly after dropping theMOAB, National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster met with met Afghan officials in Kabul on 9 April and said the Trump Administration is weighing diplomatic, military, and economic responses to the Taliban and ISIS threats in Afghanistan, adding:  “We’ll give him those options.  And we’ll be prepared to execute whatever decision he makes.”  NSA McMaster met with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss bilateral relations, including security and counter-terrorism efforts.

Iraq – U.S. Approves a Military Equipment Sale

The Department of State has approved the sale of $295.6 million worth of U.S. military equipment to Iraq for artillery and infantry Kurdish Peshmerga units, the Pentagon confirmed on 19 April. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the equipment requested by the Iraqi government would outfit two Peshmerga infantry brigades and two support artillery battalions. While Congress was notified of the approval on 18 April, the notice does not mean the sale has been concluded, the agency said.

Trade – NAFTA Raised Again

President Trump spoke of trade agreements, including, last Tuesday while in Wisconsin to sign an Executive Order.  With respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the President said:  “We’re also going to stand up for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin.”  He added:  “Because in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others, and we’re going to strategy working on that with [Senator] Ron [Johnson] and with [Governor] Scott [Walker] and with [Speaker of the House] Paul [Ryan], with all of your representatives.  What’s happened to you is very, very unfair.  It’s another typical one-sided deal against the United States.  And it’s not going to be happening for long.”

Cuba – Ex-Military Officers Argue for Lifting Cuba Embargo

Over a dozen retired military officers encouraged President Trump to normalize relations with Cuba for national security reasons, in a letter reportedly hand-delivered to NSA McMaster. “Cuba’s location in the Caribbean and proximity to the U.S. make it a natural and strategically valuable partner on issues of immediate concern, including terrorism, border control, drug interdiction, environmental protections, and emergency preparedness,” the retired officers wrote in the letter.  According to them, building on progress that former President Barack Obama made over the past two years would “finally secure the United States’ ‘Third Border.’”

President Trump has yet to take a clear stance on his policy toward Cuba, but has previously said he would reverse the Obama Administration’s decision to open relations if a better agreement between the two countries is not possible.

 Foreign Policy-Related Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 25 April, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “United States Assistance for Egypt.”
  • On Tuesday, 25 April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “The Crisis in Libya: Next Steps and U.S. Policy Options.”
  • On Wednesday, 26 April, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “China’s Technological Rise: Challenges to U.S. Innovation and Security.”
  • On Wednesday, 26 April, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “The Questionable Case for Easing Sudan Sanctions.”
  • On Wednesday, 26 April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the following nominations: (1) The Honorable Tulinabo Salama to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; and (2) Mr. Todd Philip Haskell to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo.
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Syria After the Missile Strikes: Policy Options.”
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Afghanistan’s Terrorist Resurgence: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Beyond.”
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Countering Russia: Furthering Assessing Options for Sanctions.”
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Safeguarding the Financial System from Terrorist Financing.”

Defense-Related Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 25 April, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Policy and Strategy in the Asia-Pacific.”
  • On Wednesday, 26 April, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.”
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “United States Pacific Command and United States Forces Korea.”
  • On Thursday, 27 April, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Cyber-enabled Information Operations.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 20 April: President Trump welcomes Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy to the White House
  • 21-23 April: World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meeting in Washington
  • 27 April: President Trump will host Argentine President Mauricio Macri
  • 28 April: S. Federal Government funding expires
  • Late April: Trump Administration may formally notify Congress of intent to renegotiate NAFTA
  • 25 May: President Trump to attend the NATO Leaders Meeting in Belgium
  • 26-28 May: President Trump to attend the G-7 Leaders’ Summit in Taormina, Sicily
  • 18-20 June:  SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Maryland

Trump and Treasury Turn to Tax Reform

Legislative Activity

How About That Hearing?: The Tax Reform Saga Continues

After speculation by some that the House Ways and  Means Committee would hold the first hearing on its tax reform proposal this week, no such hearing was ultimately scheduled. That said, tax-writers are continuing to work to push forward their tax reform efforts. Our analysis of where things stand in the tax reform process is available here.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Stopping Disability Fraud: Risk, Prevention, and Detection.”
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Hearing on the 2017 Tax Filing Season.”
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations has scheduled a hearing titled “Reviewing the Unintended Consequences of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.”

Regulatory Activity

Treasury Promises Tax Reform Details This Week, Begins Review of Tax Regulations

The Trump Administration has promised to reveal details about its tax reform plan as early as Wednesday of this week – a proposal that will include “massive tax cuts” – cuts President Trump suggested will be “bigger [] than any tax cut ever.” This announcement follows President Trump’s signing of an executive order last week requiring the Treasury Department to review “all significant 2016 tax regulations” – including rules on corporate inversions and earnings stripping – and recommend specific action going forward. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Treasury is “going to go through and look at every single significant regulation” and recommend modifying or repealing rules that are too burdensome or complex. Pursuant to the executive order, Treasury is required to recommend action in a report due in 150 days.

FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Deployment of Next-Generation Broadband Infrastructure

Legislative Activity

Chairman Pai Tells Members of Congress that Set-Top Box Docket to Stay Open

On Thursday, April 13, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai responded to a January 25 letter (previously discussed here) from members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee that asked Chairman Pai to make a “healthy practice of closing dockets that are no longer under active debate and consideration,” including the docket in the FCC’s set-top box proceeding, which began in early 2016. Chairman Pai indicated that “it would be premature to close th[e] docket” at this time. The chairman noted that, despite his disagreement with previous Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules concerning set-top boxes, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the proceeding had “teed up certain issues” on which the FCC may want “to take appropriate action” in the future, the possibility of which would be foreclosed by “immediately closing th[e] docket.” Specifically, Chairman Pai noted that the NPRM “sought comment on eliminating the current CableCARD reporting requirement.” A CableCARD is a one-way device that can be used with a CableCARD-compatible device to access television content provided by the cable companies, thereby allowing television subscribers to access content on third-party devices not sold or rented by the cable companies. Chairman Pai indicated that he “d[id] not want to impede [the FCC’s] ability to take appropriate action with respect to [the CableCARD reporting requirement] in an efficient manner by immediately closing [the] docket.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Wireless Broadband Deployment

The FCC has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry (NPRM and NOI) that “commences an examination of the regulatory impediments to wireless network infrastructure investment and deployment, and how we may remove or reduce such impediments consistent with the law and the public interest, in order to promote the rapid deployment of advanced wireless broadband service to all Americans.” The NPRM and NOI notes that “deployment of next-generation wireless broadband has the potential to bring enormous benefits to the Nation’s communities,” and that by one assessment, “the next generation of wireless broadband is expected to directly involve $275 billion in new investment, and could help create 3 million new jobs and boost annual GDP by $500 billion.” The FCC’s proposals include “potential measures or clarifications intended to expedite [] review” of wireless facility deployment applications by states and local regulatory agencies, and the FCC also in the NPRM “undertake[s] a comprehensive fresh look at our rules and procedures implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) . . . in the context of wireless infrastructure deployment.” The FCC also “invite[s] commenters to propose other innovative approaches to expediting deployment.” Comment deadlines will be announced by a notice published in the Federal Register.

FCC Seeking Comment on Measures to Promote Wireline Broadband Deployment

On April 21, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment seeking comment on measures “to better enable broadband providers to build, maintain, and upgrade their networks, which will lead to more affordable and available Internet access and other broadband services for consumers and businesses alike.” The FCC notes that “[a]ccess to high-speed broadband can create economic opportunity, enabling entrepreneurs to create businesses, immediately reach customers throughout the world, and revolutionize entire industries.” The FCC proposes in the item “to remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment at the federal, state, and local level; suggest changes to speed the transition from copper networks and legacy services to next-generation networks and services; and propose to reform [FCC] regulations that increase costs and slow broadband deployment.” Comment deadlines will be announced by a notice published in the Federal Register.

FCC Reinstates “UHF Discount” For Broadcast TV Stations

The FCC voted on April 20 to reinstate the “‘UHF discount’ until the [FCC] can address its national television ownership rule more holistically, in a proceeding to be launched later this year,” according to an FCC news release. The UHF (or “ultra high frequency”) discount allows “stations broadcasting in the UHF spectrum . . . to count 50 percent of the television households in their market when determining compliance with the 39 percent national cap,” per the news release. The news release states that the UHF discount was eliminated in August 2016 by the FCC “on a party-line vote,” and that the April 20 Order (which has not yet been released)“finds that this action had the effect of substantially tightening the national cap for companies without any analysis of whether this tightening was warranted given current marketplace conditions.” Further, the FCC’s previous decision “erred by getting rid of the UHF discount without simultaneously considering whether the [national] cap itself should be modified,” and the FCC “plans to take up both the question of the 39 percent cap and the UHF discount later this year,” according to the news release.

Mulvaney on Infrastructure Bill; Transportation Appropriations This Week

Legislative Activity

Mulvaney: Infrastructure Bill Might Include $200 Billion in Direct Spending

Last week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney said that the Administration’s proposed FY 2018 budget could include $200 billion for infrastructure with the understanding that it would be leveraged at a 5-to-1 ratio to spur more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment. The Administration’s full infrastructure proposal is not expected to be released until this summer or fall.

Appropriations Action Expected This Week

The current short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds federal programs expires on April 28 and Congress will need to pass another spending bill to keep the federal government open.  This week, we should learn how much funding Congress intends to appropriate for several discretionary transportation programs. While Congress could pass another short-term CR to buy additional time to consider appropriations for FY 2017, Republicans and Democrats are reportedly close to a deal that would combine the FY 2017 appropriations bills into a single Omnibus funding bill.

In March, the President proposed significant cuts to transportation programs in the Administration’s FY 2018 “Skinny Budget” proposal released in March.  This included cuts to the Capital Investment Grants program (New Starts) and completely zeroing out both the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.  Additionally, the Administration suggested cuts to these programs for FY 2017 to offset an increase in Defense spending and funding for a southern border wall.

However, these transportation programs have broad support from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and we expect final FY 2017 appropriations to reflect the funding levels for these programs that were included in the House and Senate FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bills that emerged last year.  Those funding levels are identified here:

  • CIG
    • House: $2.5 billion
    • Senate: $2.338 billion
  • TIGER
    • House: $450 million
    • Senate: $525 million
  • EAS
    • House: $150 million
    • Senate: $150 million

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, April 26, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: The State of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Safety Regulations and Opportunities for Reform.” The witnesses will be:
    • Linda B. Darr, President, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association;
    • Roger Nober, Executive Vice President, Law and Corporate Affairs, BNSF Railway;
    • Paul Rankin, President, Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (on behalf of the Interested Parties for Hazardous Materials Transportation);
    • Robin Rorick, Group Director of Midstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute;
    • Donald J. Santa, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America; and
    • John Tolman, Vice President and National Legislative Representative, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
  • On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness has scheduled a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Reducing Regulatory Barriers and Expanding American Free Enterprise in Space.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Robert Bigelow, Founder, Bigelow Aerospace;
    • Mr. Rob Meyerson, President, Blue Origin;
    • Mr. George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic; and
    • Mr. Andrew Rush, CEO, Made in Space.
  • On Thursday, April 27, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Mitigating Damage and Recovering Quickly from Disasters.” The witnesses will be:
    • Andrew Phelps, Director, Oregon Office of Emergency Management;
    • Chief John Sinclair, President and Chairman of the Board, International Association of Fire Chiefs;
    • Mark Berven, President and Chief Operating Officer, Nationwide Property and Casualty Operations (on behalf of the Build Strong Coalition);
    • The Honorable W. Craig Fugate, Former Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency; and
    • The Honorable R. David Paulison, Former Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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/

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