McCarthy lays out September agenda for House
Newly minted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) released a memo this week outlining the House GOP’s agenda for September.
McCarthy writes that, “With a limited number of legislative days before the election, we will have a busy September focused on our vision for prosperity and a government that is accountable to its people.”
The House GOP outlines several areas of legislative concern including: “Defeating our Terrorist Enemies,” “Job and Economic Growth,” “Lowering Costs on Gas and Groceries,” “Healthcare,” and “Accountability.”
McCarthy says the House will send the Senate a single jobs bill that will be crafted from roughly 15 or so pieces of separate GOP legislation that has been introduced.
The memo says that, “With gas prices still hovering near $3.50 per gallon and energy costs siphoning too much out of families’ paychecks, we must enact policies that encourage an American energy revolution. That is why we will send to the Senate a single, common-sense energy plan comprised of House-passed bills focusing on production, infrastructure, reliability, and efficiency.”
The House will also consider H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, authored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), which protects the long-standing federal-state partnership in the regulation of our waters.
On healthcare, McCarthy writes that House Republicans will pass H.R. 3522, the Employee Health Care Protection Act, authored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), which ensures that these workers can, in fact, keep the plan they have and like.
McCarthy closes by noting that, “the House will also pass a Continuing Resolution that will continue government operations as they are on September 30th into the new fiscal year.”
Litigation over the ACA Continues
The future of Affordable Care Act subsidies in 36 states will be reconsidered in court—this time in a situation more favorable for the White House.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced Thursday that it will reconsider a three-judge panel's July decision eliminating insurance subsidies for coverage bought on the federal exchange. The 2-1 ruling would make the subsidies illegal for more than half the country, rendering health coverage unaffordable for many and dealing a major blow to the foundation of the health care law if ultimately upheld.
A recent report from the Urban Institute estimated that 7.3 million people could lose out on $36 billion in financial assistance if the federal subsidies are nullified.
Thursday's court order means the July opinion is invalidated, and the case will be heard by the full D.C. Circuit Court. The announcement is good news for the Obama administration, which requested that the court rehear the case.
While the three-judge panel was comprised of two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, the majority of active judges on the full D.C. Circuit were tapped by Democratic presidents. There are 11 active judges on the court, seven of whom are Democratic appointees. Two senior judges who were on the three-judge panel -- one Democrat and one Republican -- will also weigh in.
In the original Halbig v. Sebelius decision, the court sided with challengers who argued that the provision of subsidies on the federal exchange is illegal because the Affordable Care Act specifically authorizes them in "an exchange established by the state."
The government says that this reading of the law is too narrow, and that Congress clearly intended for the tax credits to be provided equally on all insurance exchanges.
On the same day in July, another court ruled the opposite way in King v. Burwell, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rejecting a similar lawsuit that aimed to block insurance subsidies on the federal exchange.
The split court decisions raised the possibility that the issue could be elevated to the Supreme Court next session. Challengers in the King case appealed the decision directly to the Supreme Court, while the administration appealed the Halbig decision to the full D.C. Circuit.
The D.C. Circuit's decision to rehear the case dims the prospects of Supreme Court involvement, as the conflict in rulings would be resolved if the full court ultimately sides with the administration.
Oral arguments will be heard Dec. 17.
Former Virginia governor convicted
On Thursday afternoon, a jury found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) guilty of 11 counts of corruption, including "conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud." McDonnell, who was once considered a rising star and potential Romney VP selection, now faces up to 30 years in prison and 13 criminal counts, but will not receive his sentence until Jan. 6.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged with giving political favors to a wealthy Richmond businessman in exchange for extravagant gifts. Maureen was found guilty on eight counts of corruption, as well as obstruction of justice. Neither of the defendants were found guilty on charges of falsifying loan documents.
The businessman, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, allegedly treated the couple to vacations, luxury shopping trips, a $50,000 loan, catering for the McDonnells' daughter's wedding, rides in Williams' Ferrari, and in the governor's case, a personally engraved $6,000 Rolex watch.
In exchange, a Virginia Cabinet member testified that Williams was given unusual access to the governor's office. Star Scientific, the company led by Williams, manufactures dietary supplements. In June—perhaps in reaction to bad press—the company decided to change its name to Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals.
McDonnell is the first Virginia governor to face corruption charges. He joins a pantheon of governors—mostly from Illinois—who have been recently convicted on corruption charges. In 2011, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty on 17 counts of corruption. Blagojevich is currently serving a 14-year sentence in a federal prison in Colorado.
The jury deliberated for 17 hours over the course of three days. Federal prosecutors initially offered McDonnell a plea deal, which would have convicted McDonnell on just one count of felony fraud and avoided any charges for his wife. McDonnell rejected the offer.
House GOP plans to force Obama’s hand on ISIS
House Republicans are scheduling a series of hearings and meetings aimed at drafting a plan to defeat the terrorist group ISIS.
While the Republican Conference has no authority over military operations, Republican lawmakers are hoping to force the president's hand after spending weeks during recess hearing from constituents who are worried the United States is not doing enough against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
House Republican efforts could include legislation within the next few weeks, House leaders told their members in a conference call on Wednesday.
On the call, Speaker John Boehner told members that, while traveling the country on behalf of candidates over the past several weeks, leaders heard considerable anxiety from the public about the militant group and the limited U.S. response thus far.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Obama's response to ISIS's rapid gains, saying it revealed the misplaced priorities of the government bureaucracy. As an example, he seized on an article on a U.S. Forest Service blog providing safety tips for making s'mores.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers briefed members on ISIS's growing ranks, noting that Al Qaeda affiliates have been joining the group over the past several weeks.
His committee, along with Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Armed Services, will hold hearings next week about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the threat it poses to U.S. interests, and the appropriate U.S. response.
There have been increasing calls from within Congress for Obama to act, especially after ISIS released a gruesome video showing the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff—the second such video in as many weeks.
The administration started airstrikes in Iraq last month, and for the action to continue beyond 60 days, an authorizing resolution might be necessary under the War Powers Act. Leaders of the Foreign Affairs Committee have already said they want Congress to pass an authorizing bill by the beginning of next month. But with so much uncertainty about the U.S. strategy and little information coming out of the administration, many lawmakers remain unclear about the need for such legislation.
Transportation in focus
No to Norway
In a big win, albeit a temporary one, for United States airlines and their unions, the Department of Transportation rejected Norwegian Air's bid to operate in the U.S. The decision by DOT isn't a final one. DOT said it will continue to review the application and the airline's record.
Unions have claimed that Norwegian Air was seeking to exploit international aviation policy and law to gain an unfair economic advantage over American carriers. Norwegian Air says it "stands behind its business – from its pilots and cabin crew to its affordable fare model to its desire to bring competition to the transatlantic market."
Arizona 1st Congressional District: Gary Kiehne (R-AZ) conceded to Andy Tobin (R-AZ) in the GOP primary. Tobin will face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) in November.
California 52nd Congressional District: The Chamber of Commerce endorsed Democrat Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) over Republican challenger Carl DeMaio (R-CA).
Arkansas: A measure to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas has been certified for the November ballot. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) supports the increase. His opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) hasn't taken a position on it.
Kansas: Chad Taylor (D-KS), a little-known and underfunded candidate who won the Democratic nomination last month, notified the Kansas Secretary of State that he was withdrawing from the race. His withdrawal clears the field for independent businessman Greg Orman (I-KS) in his challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). Prominent Democrats pushed for this move.
Kentucky: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leads challenger Alison Lundergran Grimes (D-KY) 50 to 46 percent according to a new CNN poll.
California: According to a new Field Poll, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) leads challenger Neel Kashkari (R-CA) 50 to 34 percent.
A look ahead
Monday: House Rules Committee - Meeting. Full committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R.5078, the "Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014"; and H.Res.644, condemning and disapproving of the Obama administration's failure to comply with the lawful statutory requirement to notify Congress before releasing individuals detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and expressing national security concerns over the release of five Taliban leaders and the repercussions of negotiating with terrorists.
The Senate is in session but no hearings are currently posted.
Washington by the numbers
$2 billion – Expected decrease in revenue due to CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes.
11,603 – Traffic citations written last year by the seven-member police department in Waldo, Fla., which AAA has identified as one of the nation’s top two “traffic traps.”
“I never leave home without my Bible and my woman, Hannity.” – Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, to Fox’s Sean Hannity (Washington Post)
"Hillary Clinton is returning to Iowa next month for the first time since her failed presidential run in 2008. Hillary denies just being there for politics. She said, 'I love Iowa for their ... OK, I'm running for president.'" – Jimmy Fallon
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