1. Lawmakers old and new took a break from the usual partisan wrangling on January 3, 2017 to celebrate the start of the 115th Congress.
NECA’s Look Ahead:
Fresh from an election that gave Republicans control of both the White House and Congress for the first time since 2006, lawmakers reassembled in the Capitol Tuesday to solemnly swear their oath of office, ratify rules changes and prepare for the political combat that will intensify even before President-elect Donald Trump's January 20 inauguration as the nation's 45th president. The new House avoided a near catastrophe when it tried to pass a rules package that included significant reforms to the Office of Congressional Ethics, but after serious public backlash from constituents and the President-elect, the measure was pulled at the last minute. Afterwards, Speaker Paul Ryan, who won the post in October 2015 following John Boehner's resignation and easily won re-election by his colleagues, had the chance to preside over the opening of a new Congress and administer the oath of office to all new and returning House members for the very first time. Over in the upper chamber, Vice President Joe Biden swore in the 34 newly elected or re-elected senators, then on January 6 he gets to preside over a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College ballots that sealed Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton.
2. Now that Republicans remain in control of both houses of Congress and, in two weeks, the White House, Senate Republicans took the first step toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The upper chamber voted 51-48 to proceed to the resolution, S. Con. Res. 3, which would set up a filibuster-proof process, ensuring the chamber’s consideration of legislation repealing parts of Obamacare and replacing it, either as one bill or as separate measures. The action came as President Obama and Vice President-elect Pence both headed to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers from their respective parties to discuss efforts to preserve or repeal the health-care law.
NECA’s Look Ahead:
The 54-page document, unveiled yesterday by Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), directs committees of jurisdiction to come up with Affordable Care Act legislation by January 27, meaning a repeal bill could be sent to President Trump’s desk as soon as by the end February. The House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees, as well as the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committees are charged with drafting the legislation. The biggest question Republicans must grapple with now is how they will go about replacing what they repeal. Republican leaders are considering a "repeal and delay" approach of phasing repeal over the course of two or three years while a replacement plan would phase into place. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said that an Obamacare replacement proposal would be laid out on a step-by-step basis and could be fully written by the August recess. In the meantime, House Budget Committee members also met to build support for a House budget resolution to repeal the ACA and that bill could be introduced as soon as next week. Unlike the Senate, the House plans to hold a committee markup on its version of the legislation. If there are any differences between the two bills, any changes would have to be worked out in a conference committee.
3. Congress moved quickly to pass legislation, 238-184, that would grant the Senate and the House the authority to pass a single joint resolution blocking multiple rules completed during the final year of a president’s term. The legislation, known as the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 (H.R. 21.), would expedite the process that currently exists under the Congressional Review Act, which allows only a single regulation to be blocked at a time. During the 114th Congress, President Barack Obama vetoed measures that would have blocked several NECA-opposed rulemakings:
- The Labor Department’s fiduciary rule (H. J. Res. 88).
- The “Waters of the U.S” rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers (S. J. Res. 22).
- The EPA’s carbon emissions rule for new and modified power plants (S. J. Res. 23).
- The EPA’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants (S. J. Res. 24).
NECA’s Look Ahead:
Donald Trump’s election gives the Republican majorities in Congress an opportunity to overturn environmental, energy, labor and other Obama administration regulations.