DC Digest – April 25, 2017

In Today’s Issue:
  • Funding Showdown
  • Trump Promotes STEM
  • Tax Plan Coming
  • Cuts at Ed Department
  • Surgeon General Steps Down

CONGRESS RETURNS, QUESTIONS REMAIN

Congress is back in session this morning after a two-week break, and some lawmakers are under pressure to act on the ACA before the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency passes this April 29. GOP leaders have said they might have a plan to revive the American Health Care Act, but there is not a vote scheduled on the House calendar right now, and it’s not clear Republicans will be able to get a bill out of the House this week.

In addition to healthcare talks, a significant portion of the government won’t have any funding come Friday if lawmakers don’t pass a spending bill.

Playing Chicken

A budget showdown is precisely the scenario Capitol Hill leaders have feared since both parties decided to punt spending talks with a Continuing Resolution last December. With just three days left until the April 28 funding deadline, President Trump’s border wall funding proposal (and the corollary opposition) may threaten to shut down the government — if not this weekend, maybe the next.

Lonely Island Boys

Democrats have been vocal in opposing any border wall funding. Some Republicans say they don’t support the White House’s most recent initiative; other Republicans have said more specifically that they do not support the timing. That leaves the White House largely on its own in a high-stakes game of political chicken. In the absence of border wall funding, there is likely to be an increase in funding for general border security measures such as surveillance and new personnel.

As always, the Office of Government Relations is monitoring the situation closely and will keep you updated as events materialize.

WHITE HOUSE TAX PLAN

White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Sunday, April 23 that Trump would unveil his tax reform plan on Wednesday, April 26 — but in the next breath he said the plan will skirt specifics in favor of broad ideas for Congress to consider.

Capitol Hill’s primary influence on Trump’s tax proposal comes from the duo of Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Back in the summer of 2015, the two came up with an international tax plan that took one-time corporate repatriation money and funneled it into the Highway Trust Fund to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — an idea that has received the support in the past of Ryan and even former President Barack Obama.

“It’s the only thing we’ve seen out there that has some bipartisan support,” Schumer said in July 2015.

Now, the Trump administration is trying to resurrect this idea as way to tackle infrastructure spending and tax reform as part of one package and to woo Democrats by pitching an idea put forward by one of their most vocal leaders, Schumer.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROMOTES STEM EDUCATION

President Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump hosted a video call this morning April 25 to congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson on her record-breaking stint aboard the International Space Station. The Education Department is using the event to highlight STEM education. The department last week released a guide to help state and local officials better use federal funding to support “innovative, equity-focused pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (Pre-K-12) STEM education strategies.”

International Innovation Station

EDUCATION FOR EDUCATION

As the Trump administration proposes a 13-percent reduction to the Education Department’s $68 billion budget for the next fiscal year, the agency is turning to outside experts for training on how to go about laying off employees. Federal records show that the department has purchased more than $28,000 worth of training related to how to plan and conduct a “reduction in force” action – which is common parlance for laying off employees.

School’s Out

SURGEON GENERAL LEAVES

The Trump administration has a new top health position to fill: Surgeon General. HHS announced over the weekend that the Trump administration asked Dr. Vivek Murthy to step down from the public health post. Murthy’s deputy, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, is stepping in as acting Surgeon General.

“While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges,” Murthy wrote in a Facebook post, “I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served.” President Trump has yet to name a new director for the CDC, while Dr. Francis Collins is staying on as the director of the NIH for now.

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