International Food Assistance Programs in the Farm Bill

Legislative Activity

International Food Assistance Programs in the Farm Bill

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a full committee hearing focused on international food assistance programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Three major food aid programs authorized under past farm bills are the Food for Peace Act, which is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the Food for Progress Program, which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which is also administered by USDA’s FAS. Additionally, farm bill legislation has historically authorized programs that seek to promote U.S. agricultural products on global markets.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees, which are charged with reauthorizing farm bill programs before the current farm bill’s expiration date of September 30, 2018, will undoubtedly face  policy battles over the fate of certain international food aid programs, as they did during the two-and-a-half years leading up to the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill.

For example, there were several internal arguments over the jurisdiction of specific international food aid programs. House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership made clear its argument that the Food for Peace Act and other export promotion measures included in Title III of the farm bill fell within its legislative jurisdiction. On June 19, 2013, during the House floor debate of the farm bill (H.R. 1947), an amendment was offered by Reps. Edward Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that would have modified the Food for Peace Program to allow up to 45 percent of program funding to be sent overseas to be used as part of the local and regional purchase program, cash transfers, or vouchers in lieu of providing U.S. commodities. Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel, along with other proponents of the amendment, argued that modifications to the program were needed to reach more people in need, in a more efficient manner. Opponents of the amendment, such as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership and several major farm organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Corn Growers Association, argued that there would be no accountability, transparency, or requirement that the money was actually being spent on food. Additionally, opponents alleged the amendment would reduce U.S. agricultural exports, as well as the number of U.S. flagged vessels involved in international trade. Ultimately, the Royce/Engel amendment to modify the Food for Peace Program was narrowly defeated by a margin of 203-220.

Differences in opinions between certain legislators and the administration surrounding the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program may also to emerge, as President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request, released on May 23, 2017, proposed to eliminate the program. Specifically, the Budget Request explained that the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program “is duplicative of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs, lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented, and has unaddressed oversight and performance monitoring challenges.”

This week’s hearing will allow the committee to debate the future of existing programs and recommend ways to maintain the United States’ leadership role in addressing hunger, enhancing global food security, and promoting U.S. agricultural commodities.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: SNAP Technology and Modernization.”

With a Passing Glance at the President’s Request, Congress Continues Work on FY 2018 Appropriations

Legislative Activity

With a Passing Glance at the President’s Request, Congress Continues Work on FY 2018 Appropriations

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget request, which was released on May 23, was received in Congress with reservation by Democrats and Republicans alike. The $4.09 trillion federal budget request, entitled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” proposes cutting federal spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years. In addition to the anticipated backlash from Congressional Democrats, Republican members seemed to somewhat disregard the President’s request: “The president’s budget, as we all know, is a recommendation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted, “what I do like about it is it clearly focuses on increased defense spending, which is important given the threats that we face.”

Congress is continuing its work on FY 2018 appropriation bills, despite the fact that budget committees have yet to produce a budget resolution to provide topline spending levels for the upcoming fiscal year. Appropriators will likely begin construction of the FY 2018 appropriations legislation using the discretionary spending cap of $1.065 trillion mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA/P.L. 112-25), commonly referred to as sequestration-level funding.

The House and Senate budget committee chairmen are pledging to move forward with FY 2018 budget resolutions that will achieve a balanced budget within 10 years. However, as the reconciliation instructions included in the FY 2017 budget resolution are being utilized to address healthcare reform, the FY 2018 budget resolution cannot be put up for a final vote until the House and Senate finalize a healthcare package (passage of a new budget resolution would invalidate the previous budget resolution).

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, along with fellow House Republicans, are exploring the possibility of combining all 12 appropriations bills for FY 2018 into a single omnibus in order to ensure funding legislation is passed and sent to the Senate before the August recess. This would be a challenging task, as the House only has 31 days in session before the August recess and has yet to release any draft bills or schedule any markups. The lower chamber’s rush to pass legislation for FY 2018 appropriations before the end of the current fiscal year will only be further complicated by the absence of a FY 2018 budget resolution and the need for bipartisanship in order to win over several Democrats once it is passed over to the Senate.

This Week’s Hearings:

House Appropriations Committee

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a budget hearing for the Department of Labor. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary, Department of Labor
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “National Science Foundation Budget Hearing.” The witness will be:
    • Dr. France Cordova, Director, National Science Foundation
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has scheduled a budget hearing. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Ryan Zinke, Secretary, Department of the Interior
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Department of Housing and Urban Development budget hearing. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Ben Carson, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Commodity Futures Trading Commission – Budget Hearing.” The witness will be:
    • J. Christopher Giancarlo, Acting Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “National Aeronautics and Space Administration – Budget Hearing.” The witness will be:
    • Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., Acting Administrator, NASA
  • On Friday, June 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security has scheduled a hearing titled “Immigration and Customs Enforcement &Customs and Border Protection FY18 Budget Request.” The witnesses will be:
    • Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    • Todd C. Owen, Executive Assistant Commissioner, Customs and Border Protection
    • Carla L. Provost, Acting Chief, United States Border Patrol

House Budget Committee

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Pro-Growth Policies.” The witnesses will be:
    • Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, Ph.D., President, American Action Forum
    • John W. Diamond, Ph.D., Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Public Finance, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy
    • Jason Furman, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, June 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Betsy DeVos, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
  • On Tuesday, June 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for Military Construction & Family Housing.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Peter J. Potochney, Acting Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Energy, Installations And Environment
    • Lieutenant General Gwendolyn Bingham, U.S. Army, Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management
    • Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith, U.S. Navy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics
    • Major General John J. Broadmeadow, U.S. Marine Corps, Commander, Marine Corps Installations Command, Assistant Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics (Facilities)
    • Major General Timothy S. Green, U.S. Air Force, Director of Civil Engineers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Forest Service.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service
    • Ms. Sheri Elliot, Acting Director, Office of Strategic Planning, Budget and Accountability, U.S. Forest Service
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled a hearing titled, “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Army.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Robert M. Speer, Acting Secretary Of The Army
    • General Mark A. Milley, Chief Of Staff, U.S. Army
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Kristine Svinicki, Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • The Honorable Jeff Baran, Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • The Honorable Stephen G. Burns, Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled, “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Ben Carson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Requests for the Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Carla D. Hayden, Librarian Of Congress, The Library of Congress
    • The Honorable Stephen T. Ayers, Architect Of The Capitol
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Commerce.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Wilbur Ross, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Labor.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor

Senate Budget Committee

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Nomination Hearing for Deputy Director of White House Budget Office.” The witness will be:
    • Russell Vought to be Deputy Director, White House Office of Management and Budget

Secretary DeVos to Testify on Education Budget; New Hires at Department of Education

Legislative Activity

Secretary DeVos to Testify on Budget

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-Health and Human Services and Education on June 6. She will face tough questions from Democrats on the proposed 13 percent budget cut and school choice measures proposed in President Trump’s budget.

Senator Patty Murray Questions Ethics Official

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to the Department of Education’s ethics official questioning a decision to allow Secretary DeVos to speak at the American Federation for Children’s (AFC) national summit in May. Secretary DeVos formerly served as chairwoman of AFC, which advocates for tax credit scholarships and vouchers. Earlier this year, she signed an ethics agreement saying that for a period of one year following her resignation from the organization and its charitable arm, “I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know that entity is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate.”

Sen. Murray notes in her letter that between 2005 and 2015, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation “donated at least $600,000 to AFC and other related organizations.” She questioned when the Department’s ethics official was approached about the summit and wants to see their analysis as to why Secretary DeVos’ appearance did not present “the appearance of or an actual conflict of interest.” Murray also wants to know whether Secretary DeVos has received any ethics waivers since her confirmation. The letter can be found here.

Senator Elizabeth Warren Launches DeVos Watch Site

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has added a new page to her website, dedicated to holding Secretary Betsy DeVos “accountable to the public.” So far, what Warren is calling “DeVos Watch” is just a list of partisan press releases, a comment form for submitting “whistleblower tips” to the Senator about student loan issues, and links for submitting complaints about student loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, June 6, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Education.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Betsy DeVos, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education

Regulatory Activity

New Hires at the Department of Education

Secretary DeVos formally announced four new Education Department hires late Wednesday, May 31. They include Kathleen Smith, as a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education and will be acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education; Steven Menashi, who has been appointed deputy general counsel for postsecondary service and has been delegated the authority to perform the duties of the general counsel; Nathan Bailey , who will serve as communications director with the authority to perform the duties of the assistant secretary for communications and outreach; and José Viana, who will serve as assistant deputy secretary and director of the Office of English Language Acquisition.

Department of Energy To Cut Energy Development Regulations; EPA Stays Landfill Rules; Senate To Consider Nominations for DOE, EPA, DOI and Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Regulatory Activity

Department of Energy Cutting Energy Development Regulations

This follows our earlier report highlighting the Trump Administration’s recent memo with specifics as to how the President expects agencies to carry out his previously issued energy Executive Order (EO) 13783 – “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth”. EO 13783 directs agencies to identify regulations that would “burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. The President’s memo clarifies the EO and adds renewable energy to the group defined as domestically produced energy resources. The Department of Energy is seeking to identify any existing DOE rules that are obsolete, unnecessary, unjustified, or simply no longer make sense and is soliciting written comments on or before July 14, 2017.

EPA Stays Landfill Emissions Rules 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed a 90-day stay until August 29 on subparts of two final rules concerning landfill performance standards and emissions reductions. 

Legislative Activity

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, June 6, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to consider the following agency nominations:
    • The Honorable David Bernhardt to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior
    • The Honorable Dan Brouillette to be Deputy Secretary of Energy
    • Mr. Neil Chatterjee to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    • The Honorable Robert Powelson to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold a hearing titled “Oversight Hearing on the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Abandoned Mine Lands Program.”
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to consider the following agency nominations:
    • Kristine Svinicki to be reappointed as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • Annie Caputo and David Wright to be Members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    • Susan Bodine to be Assistant Administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance of EPA
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight Hearing on Burdensome Litigation and Federal Bureaucratic Roadblocks to Manage our Nation’s Overgrown, Fire-Prone National Forests.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has scheduled a budget hearing. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Ryan Zinke, Secretary, Department of the Interior
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to study cost reductions in emerging energy technologies.  The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Saturday, June 10, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a field hearing in Cordova, Alaska titled “Innovation in Action – Microgrids and Hybrid Energy Systems.”

House Set to Vote on CHOICE Act; Agency Nominations, Budgets, and Rulemakings Under Review

Legislative Activity

House Set to Choose Path for CHOICE Act as Senate Holds Hearing on Community Banking

This week, the House is set to vote on H.R. 10, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (CHOICE Act). After a contentious markup in the House Financial Services Committee last month, the bill was favorably voted out of the Committee along party lines, with all 34 Republicans voting in favor and all 26 Democrats voting against. Democrats offered 19 amendments to the CHOICE Act, all of which were voted down. The three-day markup highlighted the partisan disagreements over whether the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) has had a positive impact on the economy and whether the CHOICE Act would effectively reform the financial regulatory system. Republicans insisted that the CHOICE Act would help reduce burdensome requirements that they believe stifle growth for small businesses and community banks; Democrats opposed the CHOICE Act and made several procedural maneuvers during the markup to delay the Committee’s vote. Note, in advance of this week’s House vote on the CHOICE Act, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) introduced a substitute amendment that eliminates a repeal of the “Durbin Amendment” – a provision in Dodd-Frank that limits transaction fees imposed upon merchants by debit card issuers (a summary of other amendments is available here). Though we expect the House will pass the bill, it is unlikely that the CHOICE Act – at least in its present form – could pass the Senate. Indeed, last month, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed his doubts that the Senate will act on the sweeping financial deregulatory bill.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday to examine the role of financial institutions in local communities. The hearing comes amid calls on both sides of the aisle to revisit whether the $50 billion threshold resulting in a financial institution’s designation as systemically important is appropriate. In a recent hearing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee that banks with $50 billion in assets do not pose the same risks as banks that have “$750 billion or $2 trillion” in assets, for example. This week’s hearing will likely provide an indication as to the Committee’s next steps in this arena.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, June 6, the Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following nominations:
    • Kevin Hassett to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; and
    • Pamela Patenaude to be Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following nominations:
    • David Malpass to be an Under Secretary of the Treasury;
    • Brent James McIntosh to be General Counsel of the Treasury; and
    • Eric Hargan to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Flood Insurance Reform: A Taxpayer’s Perspective.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Fostering Economic Growth: The Role of Financial Institutions in Local Communities.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing titled “Review of the FY2018 Budget Request for the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Appropriations Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing titled “Commodity Futures Trading Commission – Budget Hearing.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance has scheduled a hearing titled “Virtual Currency: Financial Innovation and National Security Implications.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection has scheduled a hearing titled “Disrupter Series: Improving Consumer’s Financial Options With FinTech.”

Regulatory Activity

CFTC Budget in the Spotlight This Week

On Thursday, June 8, the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the budget of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Acting Chairman Christopher Giancarlo is set to testify before the Subcommittee and is seeking a $31.5 million boost to the CFTC’s current $250 million budget. The extra funding would be used to devote more resources to analyze the economic costs and benefits of the agency’s rules, boost compliance examinations of clearing houses, and further advance its newly unveiled financial technology (FinTech) initiatives (further discussed here). In contrast, the Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal called for the agency’s budget to remain flat at $250 million.

Federal Reserve to Increase Transparency on Bank Stress Test Process

Last week, Federal Reserve (Fed) Governor Jerome Powell identified ways the Fed will aim to make annual stress testing for banks more transparent. Governor Powell said the Fed will publish how the central bank’s models treat different types of loans. Thus far, the central bank has not provided much information about its modeling to prevent institutions from being able to game the tests, which are designed to measure how well banks will be able to withstand a severe economic crisis.

SEC Seeking Public Input on Fiduciary Standard

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) invited public comment on how the agency could develop standards of conduct for investment advisers and brokers. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton called for an updated assessment of the: (1) current regulatory framework; (2) current state of the market for retail investment advice; (3) and market trends in order to enhance the SEC’s ability to evaluate the range of potential regulatory actions. Relatedly, note that last month Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced that the Department of Labor (DOL) has no legal basis to delay the June 9 applicability date for its Fiduciary Rule aimed at brokers who offer retirement investment advice. That said, DOL may yet seek to make significant changes to the rule as part of President Trump’s Executive Order requiring a review of the rulemaking

CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board to Meet This Week

On Thursday, June 8, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) will meet to discuss credit visibility, credit products, trends and themes, and small business lending. The meeting will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray and discussion with CAB members. The CAB is designed to help inform the CFPB about emerging practices or trends in the consumer finance industry.

Secretary Price to Testify on HHS Budget Request

Legislative Activity

Secretary Price to Testify on HHS Budget Request

This Thursday, June 8, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price will appear before the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means to defend the President’s FY 2018 Budget titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” The President’s FY 2018 Budget, largely matches the Skinny Budget released earlier this year and calls for cutting federal spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years. Because of its proposed cuts, the Skinny Budget received significant opposition from stakeholder groups and Members of Congress.  The FY 2018 Budget, released on May 23, 2017, received a similar reception. The committee hearings will be the first opportunity for Members of Congress to question the President’s FY 2018 HHS budget request, which proposes drastic changes to the Medicaid program and cuts billions of dollars from public health programs and biomedical research.  Secretary Price will likely discuss proposals within committee jurisdiction including those that affect the Medicare program, health programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and health care reform. While the hearings have yet to be announced, Secretary Price is also expected to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing on the various nominations including the nomination of Eric Hargan to be deputy Department of Health and Human Services Secretary.
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Overcoming PTSD: Assessing VA’s Efforts to Promote Wellness and Healing.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Veterans Choice Program and the Future of Care in the Community.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 8 the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing titled “The President’s FY 2018 Budget.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Tom Price, MD, Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Department of Health and Human Services’ FY 2018 Budget Request.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Tom Price, MD, Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition will hold a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: SNAP Technology and Modernization.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Role of the Department of Health and Human Services in Health Care Cybersecurity.” The witnesses will be announced.
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing titled “Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis.” The witnesses will be:
    • Professor Sir Angus Deaton, Laureate of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Senior Scholar and Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs Emeritus, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Economics Department, Princeton University
    • The Honorable Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General
    • Lisa N. Sacco, Crime Policy Analyst, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress
    • Richard G. Frank, Margaret T. Morris Professor of Health Economics, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School

President Trump Welcomes the Romanian President To the White House; Montenegro Formally Joins NATO; Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis Attend AUSMIN; Congress Remains Focused on Russia, As Former FBI Director Comey Testifies

President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Thursday with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, where he explained his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord on Thursday.  He further reassured the United States remains committed to the Transatlantic alliance and to robust efforts to protect the environment.

President Trump spoke again with British Prime Minister May on Sunday morning after a terrorist attack Saturday evening at the London Bridge resulted in seven dead and 48 injured.  He condemned this “heinous” attack and offered U.S. assistance as the British investigate and seek to bring to justice the perpetrators.  This is the third terrorist attack in three months in the United Kingdom.

President Trump decided against moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Thursday, citing the need to allow space for Israel and Palestine to negotiate a peace agreement.  President will welcome Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the White House on 9 June.

President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam to the White House on Wednesday.  The two released a joint statement for enhancing the Comprehensive Partnership  In sum, President Trump expressed his support for Vietnam in successfully hosting APEC 2017 and noted that he looks forward to visiting Vietnam and attending the APEC Leaders’ meeting in November.  Regarding the South China Sea, both leaders reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and “highlighted the importance that parties refrain from actions that would escalate tensions, such as the militarization of disputed features.”  President Trump also “stressed that the United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Sydney, Australia with Secretary of Defense James Mattis from 5-6 June to participate in the 2017 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) hosted by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne.  Secretary Tillerson will travel next to New Zealand to reaffirm strong bilateral ties and to discuss coordination on shared strategic interests with Prime Minister Bill English and Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.  Secretary Mattis arrived in Singapore over the weekend and addressed the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia-focused defense summit of ministers and delegates from more than 50 countries, on Saturday.  He will join Secretary Tillerson in Australia for the AUSMIN.

Both chambers of Congress are in session this week.  There is currently a bipartisan push underway in Congress to tighten sanctions on Russia.  The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday announced a bipartisan agreement on legislation that would strengthen and expand sanctions against Moscow as it pertains to Ukraine and Syria.

North Korea – New U.N. Sanctions Approved; U.S. Tests Missile Defense System

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke after the U.N. Security Council approved additional sanctions against North Korea on Friday.  She said:  “The United States will work tirelessly to make sure that the international community never gets used to North Korea’s violations or looks the other way.  And North Korea must understand that the international community will never accept the regime’s development and testing of nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the Missile Defense Agency confirmed the U.S. military successfully intercepted a mock ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean in a test of a missile-defense system on 30 May.  The test was aimed at protecting the United States from the type of ballistic missiles North Korea is developing.  Vice Adm. Jim Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, explained that “[t]his test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”

The mock ICBM-class target was fired from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site in the Marshall Islands.  An interceptor, launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, successfully locked on the target and brought it down.  The test is the first of the ground-based, mid-course defense system against an ICBM-class target.

While North Korea has conducted an “unprecedented” number of tests and launches over the past year, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that the test was not in direct response to tensions with North Korea, explaining that the country “is not the only reason why we have this capability and why we test this capability.”

Shangri-La Dialogue

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Singapore on Friday to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue from 2-4 June.  The summit, which includes bilateral meetings and sessions on security in the Asia-Pacific, comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region with China and North Korea.

This marks Secretary Mattis’s second visit to Asia since taking office in January.  During his speech on Saturday, Secretary Mattis emphasized that while the United States appreciates Chinese cooperation on North Korea, it will not accept Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.  While speaking at the forum, Secretary Mattis also eased concerns for allies in the Asia-Pacific, providing reassurance that the region remains a priority and that the United States remains fully engaged with its partners.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also in Singapore for the dialogue.  On 2 June, Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented Gen. Dunford with Singapore’s Military Distinguished Service Order medal for his unwavering support of the U.S.-Singaporean partnership.  After the ceremony, Gen. Dunford and Secretary Mattis met with Singaporean government leaders before returning to the dialogue.

Asia-Pacific:  U.S., Japanese, South Korean Army Leaders Discuss Security Cooperation

Army Gen. Robert B. Brown, the U.S. Army Pacific commander, held a trilateral meeting on 23 May with South Korean Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jang Jun-Gyu and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshiya Okabe.  The three leaders agreed that cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea remains a priority in in the light of the threat posed by North Korea.

Gen. Brown noted that such meetings are significant because “they enable cooperation among regional powers in Northeast Asia.”  The three leaders agreed to a follow-up meeting at the Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference/Pacific Armies Management Seminar, which will be co-hosted by South Korea and the United States in September.

Syria, Iraq – Strikes Continue Against ISIS Targets

On 1 June, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, confirmed that Iraqi forces are closing in on the final terrorist-held areas in western Mosul, while partnered forces in Syria are only a few kilometers from Raqqa.  In the past week, the coalition has conducted 21 strikes in support of the Iraqi security forces’ efforts, hitting mortars, machine guns, multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and factories where they are made.

While the Iraqi government has instructed civilians to evacuate Mosul’s Old City, Army Col. Dillon noted that the terrorists are targeting fleeing civilians, explaining that citizens have been “victims of ISIS-emplaced bombs and bobby traps as they attempt to flee.”

In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to close in on ISIS targets around Raqqa.  “The coalition is dedicated and focused on the defeat of ISIS.  Our partnered forces are dedicated and focused on the defeat of ISIS,” Army Col. Dillon shared, adding that “all parties in southern Syria should remain focused on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to the region and worldwide peace and security.”

  • On Thursday, 8 June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS’ Global Reach.”

NATO – Montenegro, The Newest Member

On Monday, 5 June, Under Secretary Thomas Shannon will accept Montenegro’s instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO).  Montenegro’s Prime Minister Duško Marković will officially deposit the instrument at the ceremony, making Montenegro the twenty-ninth NATO Ally.  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will also participate in the ceremony to welcome Montenegro as the Alliance’s newest member.  On June 7, Montenegro’s flag will fly over NATO Headquarters for the first time.

European Reassurance Initiative – FY 2018 Defense Budget Request Includes $4.7 Billion for ERI

Last week, Air Force Maj. Gen. David W. Allvin, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, shared that the Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request includes nearly $4.8 billion for the ERI to enhance deterrence and defense and improve the readiness of forces in Europe.  Gen. Allvin explained that the funding “is one of our nation’s commitments to Europe” and “demonstrates our strong dedication to the trans-Atlantic bond and the defense of our allies.”

In a news release last week, EUCOM Commander Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said that the funding “increases our joint capabilities to deter and defend against Russian aggression,” adding that these investments will “further galvanize U.S. support to the collective defense of our NATO allies and bolster the security and capacity of our U.S. partners.”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the United States authorized ERI at $985 million in 2015, $789 million in 2016, and $3.4 billion in 2017. The FY 2018 ERI budget request also includes $150 million to continue efforts to build Ukraine’s capacity to conduct internal defense operations to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Monday, 5 June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS’ Global Reach.”
  • On Tuesday, 6 June, the Senate Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is scheduled to hold a hearing to examine Austria’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, focusing on priorities and challenges.
  • On Wednesday, 7 June, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Energy Opportunities in North America.”
  • On Thursday, 8 June, the House Foreign Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Attacking Hezbollah’s Financial Network: Policy Options.”
  • On Thursday, 8 June, the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Former Director James Comey, FBI.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 9 June: President Trump welcomes Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to the White House
  • 12 June: USTR deadline for written comments re: NAFTA
  • 18-20 June: SelectUSA Investment Summit in National Harbor, Maryland
  • 27 June: USTR hearing on NAFTA
  • Before August: Congress to vote on the raising the debt ceiling

Tax-Writers, Treasury Talk Tax Reform

Legislative Activity

Pressing Forward with Tax Reform

Prior to last week’s Memorial Day recess, both the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees held hearings, which focused on the state of tax reform. First, in their hearings reviewing the President’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal, tax-writers focused on various issues, including: (1) the timing and approach to tax reform; (2) revenue neutrality; (3) the border adjustment tax (BAT); (4) full and immediate expensing; (5) interest deductibility; (6) tax credits and deductions; (7) pass-throughs; and (8) simplicity. Generally, the hearings reinforced the notion that the Trump Administration is still in the early stages of the tax reform process; though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared before both tax-writing committees on consecutive days to discuss the budget and the Administration’s approach to tax reform, he did not provide many new details on key tax policy proposals. Republican lawmakers commended the Secretary on his active involvement in tax reform discussions, while Democrats criticized the slow pace thus far and lack of details from the White House.

Additionally, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing, which examined the border adjustment tax (BAT) and international tax modernization as “core elements of comprehensive tax reform and the implications of these policies for increasing jobs, investment, and economic growth.” Overall, the hearing confirmed that advancing the Blueprint past the Committee, despite its Republican majority, remains challenging; during the hearing, three GOP tax-writers voiced their concerns – or outright disapproval – of the BAT as proposed; at least four tax-writers have publicly expressed concern about the proposal. Though all parties recognized the need for tax reform, divisions among Committee Republicans materialized, highlighting disagreements over how the BAT will impact American consumers.  Meanwhile, Democrats focused their efforts on pushing for a more bipartisan tax reform effort, highlighting how a tax overhaul could benefit the middle class.  Notably, Chairman Brady closed the hearing by reaffirming his support for the BAT, suggesting that “thoughtful transition” planning could sufficiently address concerns raised by the proposal’s critics.  However, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin criticized the BAT on the same day as the hearing, noting that “one of the problems…is that it does not create a level playing field.”

While a firm timeline for additional hearings or the release of legislative text have not been announced, recent discussions suggest that much of the negotiations will be done behind the scenes over the next several months, with details likely coming after the August recess. That said, it was clear during the most-recent round of hearings that Republicans in the House, Senate, and White House are working closely together to fill in the gaps of a comprehensive tax reform proposal.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider the following nominations:
    • David Malpass, to Be An Under Secretary of the Treasury, United States Department of the Treasury; and
    • Brent James McIntosh, to Be General Counsel For the Department of the Treasury, United States Department of the Treasury

FCC’s Tentative Agenda for June 22 Open Meeting Includes Broadband and Public Safety Items

Legislative Activity

Senators Seek Probe of Cyber Attacks on FCC’s Website

On May 31, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote a letter to Andrew McCabe, Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), asking agency to “prioritize” an investigation into cyber-attacks that affected the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in early May. The attacks, which the FCC announced on May 8, are believed to have been distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks. A DDos attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources. According to the FCC’s announcement, the attacks were “deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to [the FCC’s] commercial cloud host.” The FCC further stated that “[w]hile the comment system remained up and running the entire time, the[] DDos events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments.” In their letter, the senators noted that the “public comment period associated with the FCC’s rulemaking authority is a critical part of the regulatory process and the primary way for the America people to make their voices heard.” They called the cyber-attack “extremely troubling given that it threatens to stifle the public’s ability to weigh in on” important issues. The senators noted that a congressional inquiry regarding the attacks has already been sent to the FCC and requested that the FBI “investigate the source of this attack” and to provide a briefing to the group on the matter by June 23.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for June 22 Open Commission Meeting

The FCC has announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for consideration at the agency’s Open Commission Meeting on Thursday, June 22:

  • New Emergency Alert System (EAS) Event Code for Blue Alerts. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would amend its EAS rules to add a dedicated event code, “BLU,” for Blue Alerts, “so that EAS alerts can deliver actionable information to the public when a law enforcement officer is killed, seriously injured, missing in connection with his or her official duties, or if there is an imminent and credible threat to a law enforcement officer.”
  • First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would establish “the procedures and standards the Commission will use to review alternative plans submitted by states seeking to ‘opt-out’ of the FirstNet network and to build their own Radio Access Networks that are interoperable with FirstNet.”
  • Exemption to Calling Number Identification Service. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that “would amend the Caller ID rules to allow disclosure of blocked Caller ID information to aid law enforcement in investigating threatening calls and continue the waiver of those rules that is currently in effect for Jewish Community Centers.”
  • OneWeb Market Access Request. The FCC will consider an Order and Declaratory Ruling that would recommend “granting OneWeb’s request to be permitted to access the U.S. market using its proposed global non-geostationary satellite constellation for the provision of broadband communications services in the United States.”
  • Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multiple Tenant Environments. The FCC will consider a Notice of Inquiry that would seek “comment on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments such as apartment buildings, condominium buildings, shopping malls, or cooperatives.” The Notice of Inquiry also would seek “comment on the current state of broadband competition in such locations and whether additional Commission action in this area is warranted to eliminate or reduce barriers faced by broadband providers that seek to serve the occupants of multiple tenant environments.”
  • Electronic Annual Notice Declaratory Ruling. The FCC will consider a Declaratory Ruling that “would clarify that the ‘written information’ that cable operators must provide to their subscribers via annual notices pursuant to Section 76.1602(b) of the Commission’s rules may be provided via e-mail.”
  • Modernization of Payphone Compensation Rules. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order that “(1) proposes to eliminate the requirement that carriers that complete payphone calls conduct an annual audit of their payphone call tracking systems and file an associated annual audit report with the Commission, and (2) waives the annual audit and associated reporting requirement for 2017.”
  • Enforcement Bureau Action. The FCC will consider an enforcement action.

The FCC has released draft versions of the non-enforcement items, which are available here.

The FCC’s Open Commission Meeting will be held on June 22 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 www.fcc.gov/live.

President to Highlight Infrastructure Initiative This Week; FAA Reauthorization Update

Legislative Activity

President to Highlight Infrastructure Initiative This Week

President Trump will hold several events this week intended to increase support for his Infrastructure Initiative presumably by providing more details about the proposal.

On Monday, the President will make an announcement at the White House with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) about the President’s air traffic control (ATC) reform proposal. The proposal was also included in the President’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal released on May 23; a three-page fact-sheet released by the Administration is available here. Very generally, the President proposes to shift day-to-day air traffic management responsibilities from the Federal Aviation Administration to a non-governmental, non-profit corporation.

On Wednesday, the President will travel to Ohio and Kentucky to give a speech about the Nation’s waterways and rural areas. The speech will reportedly include more information on how the Administration plans to support rural and transformative projects.

On Thursday, the President will meet with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors from across the country at the White House to discuss infrastructure issues.

The week will end with a Friday address by the President at the Department of Transportation that will focus on overhauling regulations impacting highway and rail infrastructure projects, including changes to the Federal government’s permitting and approval processes to advance projects more quickly.

The Administration released a six-page fact sheet on the President’s Infrastructure Initiative with his FY 2018 Budget Proposal; the fact-sheet is available here.

FAA Reauthorization Update

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee will hold hearings on FAA reauthorization this week in anticipation of an FAA reauthorization effort later this year. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, will testify at both the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday, June 7, and the House T&I Committee hearing on Thursday, June 8.

The current FAA authorization expires September 30, and Congress is expected to consider legislation during the summer months. Recently, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said he intends to have the Committee mark up an FAA reauthorization bill in June and hopes to secure floor consideration in July. However, Chairman Thune also noted that he would like to see the House act on legislation first.

House T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) is expected to advocate for fundamental ATC reform again this Congress, though he has indicated there may be some changes from his proposal in the last Congress that are intended to gain additional support from aviation stakeholders, such as the general aviation community. Chairman Shuster has found some increased support for his ATC reform proposal from the Trump White House, and we anticipate that Secretary Chao may offer support for ATC reform in her testimony before both Committees this week.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “FAA Reauthorization: Administration Perspectives.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Elaine Chao, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities.” The witnesses will be:
    • Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard;
    • Vice Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard;
    • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director, Acquisition Sourcing & Management Team, Government Accountability Office; and
    • Ms. Cari Thomas, National Executive Director, Navy League of the United States.
  • On Thursday, June 8, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has scheduled a nomination for three candidates to fill positions subject to Senate confirmation. The witnesses will be:
    • Derek Kan, of California, to be Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy;
    • David J. Redl, of New York, to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce; and
    • Robert L. Sumwalt, III, of South Carolina, to be Member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for a 5-year term expiring December 16, 2021, and to be designated Vice Chairman for a term of 2 years.
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Federal Aviation Administration Authorization.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Elaine Chao, Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation.

States Attorneys General May 29 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.

Advocacy

Led by California AG Xavier Becerra and District of Columbia AG Karl Racine, 15 AGs are demanding that U.S. AG Jeff Sessions rescind the Department of Justice’s harsh sentencing guidelines. In a May 10 memorandum, AG Sessions urged federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” and follow “mandatory minimum sentences.” AG Racine said, “There is simply no evidence to support the notion that these kinds of tough-on-crime guidelines are effective at anything other than ballooning prison populations and budgets.” Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors disagree with the AG’s directive by writing, “although there are no certain benefits to the newly announced policy, there are definitive and significant costs. The increased use of mandatory minimum sentences will necessarily expand the federal prison population and inflate federal spending on incarceration.” Many state leaders are calling Sessions’ directive a step in the wrong direction and one that should be quickly corrected.

Six attorneys general are asking for new federal regulations that would place restrictions on crude oil transported by rail through their states. New York AG Eric Schneiderman noted the danger of these trains traveling through densely populated areas without any limit on explosiveness or flammability. Much of the concern comes in response to a 2013 tanker explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec.

Wisconsin AG Brad Schimel asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a ruling that would require state legislators to develop new electoral maps by November 1, 2017. Schimel said,  “Wisconsin should not be required to invest the considerable time, effort and taxpayer resources required to redraw district maps, especially when the case is likely to be reversed.”

Litigation

Attorneys General from 47 states and the District of Columbia reached a settlement with Target for $18.5 million. The settlement comes in response to a security breach that compromised 70 million customers’ personal information, including their names and credit card numbers. Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Alabama were the only states not included in the settlement agreement. The awards will be distributed based largely on a state’s population; California will receive the largest award of $1.4 million. According to the company’s most recent annual statement, Target has spent over $202 million in legal fees attempting to resolve the data breach issue.

A federal court indefinitely stayed litigation over an Obama administration methane rule for new oil and gas operations to give the current Environmental Protection Agency time to review the rule. West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey said the decision is a victory for West Virginia families. He went on to say, “we appreciate the Trump Administration’s willingness to review the devastating impact of the oil and gas rule and look forward to hearing the new administration’s take on this unlawful regulation.”

Congress Awaits 2018 Budget Proposal; Senate to Vote on Branstad Nomination

Senate Legislative Activity

The Senate stands adjourned until 3:00 pm today, May 22.

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of Executive Calendar #55, the nomination of Terry Branstad, of Iowa, to be Ambassador to China, with the time until 5:30 pm equally divided. At 5:30 pm, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the Branstad nomination.

Additionally, the Senate has reached an agreement that at 11:00 am on Tuesday, May 23, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on Executive Calendar #58, the nomination of John Sullivan, to be Deputy Secretary of State.

Monday, May 22 at 5:30 pm – 1 roll call vote

  • Confirmation of Terry Branstad to be Ambassador to China

Tuesday, May 23 at 11:00 am – 1 roll call vote

  • Motion to invoke cloture on John Sullivan to be Deputy Secretary of State

House Legislative Activity

Today, the House will meet at 12:00 pm 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:

  1. H.R. 1862 – Global Child Protection Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby / Judiciary Committee)
  2. H.R. 1842 – Strengthening Children’s Safety Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Judiciary Committee)
  3. H.R. 1188 – Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner / Judiciary Committee)
  4. H.R. 883 – Targeting Child Predators Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Ron DeSantis / Judiciary Committee)
  5. H.R. 695 – Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff / Judiciary Committee)
  6. H.R. 1625 – TARGET Act (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce / Foreign Affairs Committee)

On Tuesday, 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:

  1. H.R. 1809 – Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis / Education and the Workforce Committee)
  2. H.R. 1808 – Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Brett Guthrie / Education and the Workforce Committee)
  3. H.R. 2052 – PRIVATE Act (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Armed Services Committee)
  4. H.R. 467 – VA Scheduling Accountability Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  5. H.R. 1005 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans (Sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  6. H.R. 1162 – No Hero Left Untreated Act (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  7. H.R. 1329 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  8. H.R. 2288 – Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Bost / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  9. H.R. 1545 – VA Prescription Data Accountability Act (Sponsored by Rep. Ann Kuster / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  10. H.R. 1725 – Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Tim Walz / Veterans Affairs Committee)
  11. H.R. 1370 – Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul / Homeland Security Committee)
  12. H.R. 2473 – Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner / Judiciary Committee)

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

H.R. 953 – Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

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

  1. H.R. 624 – Social Security Fraud Prevention Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. David Valadao / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  2. H.R. 1293 – To amend title 5, United States Code, to require that the Office of Personnel Management submit an annual report to Congress relating to the use of official time by Federal employees (Sponsored by Rep. Dennis Ross / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

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

H.R. 1973 – Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Susan Brooks / Judiciary Committee)

H.R. 1761 – Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Johnson / Judiciary Committee)

On Friday, the House will meet at 10:00 am in pro forma session.  No votes are expected in the House.

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

State Attorneys General May 22 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

Led by California AG Xavier Becerra and New York AG Eric Schneiderman, 16 AGs took legal action against the Trump Administration to defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA). AGs filed a Motion to Intervene in House v. Price, a suit by House Republicans that challenges the legality of cost sharing subsidies under the ACA. Intervening states said the Republican-led action “undercuts the affordability of health insurance plans under the ACA.” AG Becerra said that President Trump’s unpredictable behavior and failure to defend access to healthcare threatens the lives of millions of Americans. The Motion refers to President Trump’s own words vowing to let the ACA “explode.”

Regulatory

West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey and eight other states identified a list of federal regulations they said should be repealed, replaced, or modified. The recommendations are in response to a request for public comment from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Recommendations in the letter include: the Clean Power Plan, Water of the United States rule, Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the Clean Water Act, and the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule.

Advocacy

Louisiana AG Jeff Landry offered his support for new Louisiana House legislation aimed to prohibit the adoption of sanctuary city policies.  AG Landry said he is “hopeful the Louisiana Senate will follow the lead of Texas, where Governor Abbot recently signed a law prohibiting sanctuary cities in Texas.” AG Landry identified this bill as an important public safety measure that prohibits “the harboring of illegal aliens” in Louisiana.

President Trump’s Budget to be Released; Appropriations Committee Work for FY 2018 Begins

Legislative Activity

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget

This week brings the long-anticipated full details of President Trump’s FY 2018 budget, which is expected to be released on Tuesday. The Administration’s “skinny budget” released in March indicated the potential for large cuts to several agencies amounting to a $54 billion reduction in domestic spending. The budget also included an equal increase in defense spending. Details of the President’s FY 2018 budget have been leaked and reported in some media outlets, but the actual document has not yet been released. Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney will be in front of the House and Senate Budget Committees on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the proposal in further detail.

Tensions between the President’s proposal and Congressional Republicans are already evident, and are likely to continue as the process moves forward. Many reached out to Director Mulvaney after the “skinny budget” was released and conveyed their opposition to the drastic cuts to agencies like the Departments of State and Health and Human Services. Some members on the Appropriations Committee have stated that the President’s budget is “largely symbolic” and that there are items that cannot be passed by Congress due to the political backlash members would receive.

Appropriations and Budget Caps

The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations have several hearings scheduled for this week to discuss the President’s budget. Some senior Democratic members on that committee have expressed their concern over the current spending cap, and are likely to make a push to raise the caps set forth in the 2015 budget agreement. Initial reports indicate that the President’s budget will propose a cap of $360 billion in discretionary spending in ten years, which is $200 billion less than the government is currently operating under.

Press reports are indicating that there will be a proposal of approximately $800 billion over ten years in cuts to entitlement programs. President Trump repeatedly promised not to cut Medicare or Social Security on the campaign trail. This budget appears to keep his promise, but may touch on fraud and abuse aspects of those programs, as well as make cuts to the Social Security Disability Insurance program. Such a proposition will be met with significant opposition from Democrats.

This Week’s Hearings:

House Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, May 23, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has scheduled a hearing titled “IRS Oversight.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for the Tax Administration; and
    • Ms. Nina E. Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate, Internal Revenue Service
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Budget: USDA Office of the Secretary.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture;
    • Dr. Robert Johansson, Chief Economist, Department of Agriculture; and
    • Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, Department of Agriculture
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled a hearing titled “National Guard and Reserve.” The witnesses will be:
    • General Joseph L. Lengyel, United States National Guard Bureau;
    • Lieutenant General Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the Army Reserve;
    • Vice Admiral Luke M. McCollum, Commander of the Marine Corps Forces Reserve; and
    • Lieutenant General Maryanne Miller, Chief of the Air Force Reserve
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has scheduled a hearing titled “General Services Administration.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Tim Horne, Administrator, General Services Administration
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Corps of Engineers (Civil Works) and the Bureau of Reclamation FY 2018 Budget Requests.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Doug Lamont, Senior Official, Performing the Duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works);
    • Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers;
    • Mr. Scott J. Cameron, Special Assistant, Department of the Interior; and
    • Mr. Alan Mikkelsen, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Department of Education Budget.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Budget-Indian Health Service.” The witness will be:
    • Rear Admiral Chris Buchanan, Acting Director, Indian Health Service
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Department of Justice Budget.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Jefferson Sessions, Attorney General

House Budget Committee

  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, Director, Office of Management and Budget

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • On Wednesday, May 24, the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing to examine the President’s proposed budget request and justification for fiscal year 2018 for the Navy and Marine Corps. The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Acting Secretary, U.S. Navy;
    • Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations; and
    • General Robert B. Neller, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
  • On Thursday, May 25, the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing to examine the President’s proposed budget request and justification for fiscal year 2018 for the Department of Justice. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Senate Budget Committee

  • On Thursday, May 25, the Senate Budget Committee has scheduled a hearing to examine the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, Director, White House Office of Management and Budget

Senate Considers Changing NAAQs; House Examines Army Corps and US Forest Service Budgets; State Department Seeks Global Scientists

Legislative Branch Activity

This week on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, will hold a hearing titled “Making Implementation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ground-Level Ozone Attainable: Legislative Hearing on S.263 and S.452.” The NAAQs have been highly controversial since their publication in 2015. The change in the attainment requirement from 75 parts per million (PPM) to 70 PPM threatens a significant number of cities and counties in the US which could fall out of attainment. The legislation to be examined during the hearing includes the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017 (S.263) and the ORDEAL Act of 2017 (S.452), both of which would which would delay the implementation of the 2015 ozone NAAQS.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, will hold a hearing to discuss the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Civil Works) and the Bureau of Reclamation’s FY 2018 budget requests.
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will hold a hearing titled “Examining Impacts of Federal Natural Resources Laws Gone Astray.”
  • On Tuesday, May 23, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hearing titled “Expanding the Role of States in EPA Rulemaking.”
  • On Thursday, May 25, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Budget-U.S. Forest Service.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture; and
    • Mr. Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service
  • On Wednesday, May 24, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources has scheduled a hearing titled “Discussion Draft of the Community Reclamation Partnerships Act.” The bill would authorize partnerships between States and non-governmental entities for the purpose of reclaiming and restoring land and water resources adversely affected by coal mining activities.
  • On Tuesday, May 23, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Federal Lands, will hold a hearing to examine Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2199), which would require the Secretary of the Interior to develop a multipurpose cadre of federal property and identify duplicative, and lapsed Federal land inventories. The Committee will also consider the Public Lands Telecommunications Act (H.R. 2425), which would address communications sites on or adjacent to Federal lands concerning the retention and use of rental fees.

Regulatory Activity

Methane

Last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals approved the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) request to issue an indefinite stay of the lawsuits challenging its final rule titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed and Modified Sources,” as the agency reconsiders portions of the rule. The rule, which establishes restrictions on methane gas emissions for oil and gas sources, was finalized by the Obama Administration in June 2016. In addition to granting the stay, the court instructed the agency to issue status updates every 60 days regarding its regulatory review.

Global Ecosystem Biodiversity

The Department of State is seeking scientific experts to provide comments for the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on six assessments related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, four regional assessments, one global assessment, and one assessment on land degradation and restoration.

The IPBES was established in 2012 by more than 100 governments as a mechanism to provide scientific information in response to requests from policy makers. The IPBES includes a current membership of 126 governments and operates under the auspices of the UNEP, FAO, UNDP, and UNESCO. One thousand scientists from around the world currently contribute to the work of IPBES on a voluntary basis. The mission of IPBES is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. Comments are due upon several different dates from now until August 15. Click here for access to the process to provide comments.

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