Government affairs

Legislative Updates

This week in Congress, Oct. 19-23

It’s been a very busy week on Capitol Hill as Congress tackles its fall agenda. Check out the latest hot topics on the Hill to see what is happening.

Budget deficit reduction bill

This week, House lawmakers passed a package (“Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act,” H.R. 3762) that would repeal parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act law dealing with the individual and employee mandates, the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, the upcoming tax on high-cost employer plans and the soon-to-be implemented mandate of automatically enrolling new full-time employees in health care coverage. The bill also would block funding for Planned Parenthood for one year while providing funds to community health centers for women’s health care. The bill seeks to reduce the deficit by $85.9 billion over 10 years. The White House issued a statement of administration policy pledging to veto the package.

House applies Band-Aid to debt ceiling

House lawmakers passed the Default Prevention Act (S. 692), which claims to prevent a default on the nation’s debt but actually instructs the U.S. Treasury to give priority to paying the principal and interest owed on our national debt over other financial obligations—such as Social Security and Medicare benefits. The action was prompted by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s announcement that the Treasury is moving up the debt-ceiling deadline to Nov. 3. The White House promised to veto S. 692 and called on Congress to enact a clean bill to raise the debt limit.

Defense bill vetoed

Following passage of it earlier this month by both congressional chambers, the President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (H.R. 1735), the annual defense policy bill that authorizes Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations and sets policies with regard to the military activities of the Department of Defense, military construction, and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Obama vetoed the measure due to its allocation of $38 billion extra for overseas contingency operations funds, which would be used to supplement the Pentagon’s operations. Democrats have vowed to oppose measures that do not lift non-defense spending caps.

Surface transportation advances in House

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed H.R. 3763, a six-year surface transportation bill. Highway funding is set to expire on Oct. 29, which means the House must pass the measure and work out the differences between it and H.R. 22, a bill approved by the Senate earlier this year. It is expected that Congress will authorize another short-term extension to continue working toward reconciling the House and Senate bills.

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