Energy & Environment

Those That Shall Not Be Named: Cost Sharing Reductions
Once a nonstarter, health insurance subsidies part of year-end calculus

Speaker Paul D. Ryan once panned a measure that would restore cost-sharing reduction subsidies for health insurance companies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In Congress, where most lawmakers are hesitant to spill secrets about ongoing negotiations, answers are often found in what lawmakers are not saying. And House Republican leaders are not saying much about subsidies for health care insurers lately.

GOP leaders’ continued refusal in recent weeks to rule out funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies, or CSRs, which President Donald Trump’s administration has stopped paying, is not a guarantee that Congress will do so. But it’s certainly a green light for negotiations to continue.

Why Pups Push Partisanship Aside on the Hill
‘These little animals here, they don’t care about political parties’

Riggins from Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office attended the holiday party dressed as an elf. (Screenshot from Roll Call's Facebook Live)

It seems like Sen. Thom Tillis started a trend.

Office dogs have always been part of the culture on Capitol Hill, but the North Carolina Republican raised the bar when he hosted a Halloween party for dogs.

Opinion: Where Science Goes, So Goes Our Nation
Investing in research and innovation pays off big

A scientist tracking tornadoes in Oklahoma in May looks at radar on his smartphone as part of a project that gets funding from the National Science Foundation and other government programs. Rep. Paul Tonko  writes that federal funding has had a direct impact on technology such as Doppler radar, GPS and smartphones. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

A recent opinion column “Science That Leads” by my colleague, House Science Chairman Lamar Smith, argued that certain kinds of science, especially social and behavioral sciences, are not worth public investment. As an engineer, I take special care when I say: The facts disagree.

In 2014, the world’s foremost doctors and medical experts were working furiously to manage the rapidly growing threat of Ebola. Anthropologists, representing a field of behavioral science, understood the funeral practices in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and were able to act as mediators to intervene in ways that slowed the spread of the illness and saved countless lives. The full economic and public health value of this contribution is impossible to quantify but the lives and resources they saved are very real.

The Alabama Senate Race: A Religious Experience
Both campaigns tap into religious networks to turn out voters

Alabama Democrat Doug Jones speaks, flanked, from left, by Selma Mayor Darrio Melton, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Alabama Rep. Terri A. Sewell, outside the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

GALLANT, Ala. — At Roy Moore’s home church here on Sunday, there wasn’t much talk of the upcoming Senate election — even though throngs of cameras waited outside to catch a glimpse of the elusive Republican candidate.

After the Sunday service began at Gallant First Baptist Church, Rev. Tom Brown offered a prayer.

Opinion: One Year Later — Why 21st Century Cures Still Matters
Help underway for diseases that impact virtually every family

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., left, and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., hold thank you signs made by Max Schill, who’s diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2015. Upton and DeGette spearheaded the act. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

 

 

Opinion: Why a DACA Fix Next Year Would Come Too Late
It takes months for the government to ramp up a new program

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, right, here with Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, broke with his party this fall when he announced he wouldn’t support any bill funding the government beyond Dec. 31 until the DACA issue is resolved. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As Congress speeds toward its year-end pileup of “must pass” legislation, a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, remains in the balance. President Donald Trump insists it should not be tied to the annual appropriations scramble. But many Democrats — and a few Republicans — are calling for the issue to be addressed this year, with some threatening to withhold their votes to fund the government if legislation for so-called Dreamers is not attached.

Beyond the political posturing and jockeying for leverage, there is a pragmatic reason why any fix, if that is what both parties really want, should happen this year: it takes months for the government to ramp up a new program.

Opinion: How Debt Limit Drama Gets Resolved Is Up in the Air
Policymakers have always extended limit just in time — but the script is now flipped

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is resorting to so-called extraordinary measures to pay the government’s bills after the debt limit suspension ended Dec. 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the first year of the Trump administration, Capitol Hill has specialized in drama. From health care to taxes, decisions affecting large swaths of the economy have come down to the last minute. Months of wrangling over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act culminated in an ignominious defeat. Tax reform also came down to the wire in the Senate, narrowly squeaking through in a middle-of-the-night roll call. Next up, a debt limit drama could be on the way.

The debt limit’s suspension quietly ended on Dec. 8, the same day policymakers chose once again to punt on negotiating a budget agreement. In what has become ordinary practice over the past seven years, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the implementation of so-called extraordinary measures — accounting maneuvers that temporarily give Treasury extra borrowing room (and thus, cash) to pay the government’s bills while operating at the debt limit. BPC’s projection is that those measures would last until March, although tax reform, spending cap adjustments, and additional disaster relief could shorten the time frame.

Picture This: A ‘Perfecto’ Final Tax Bill
As House, Senate negotiate, president raises expectations

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with reporters about the GOP tax bill between votes in the Capitol on Nov. 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House and Senate are not even in formal conference negotiations on a tax overhaul measure yet, but the expectation from the White House is clear: It’s got to be “perfecto.”

On a day of increasing uncertainty over how to fund the government past Dec. 8, President Donald Trump hosted a small group of Senate Republicans at the White House and placed his marker. 

Take Five: John Curtis
Utah Republican says his predecessor, Jason Chaffetz, told him not to run

Utah Rep. John Curtis is walking less than he did as mayor but he gets more tired now. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Rep. John Curtis, 57, a Utah Republican, talks about using all his energy on the GOP primary, advice from former Rep. Jason Chaffetz and missing Christmastime in Provo.

Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?

GOP Power Play in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico
Conditional funding gains support amid talk of new Marshall Plan

Workers in Caguas, south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, repair electrical lines on Oct. 25, more than a month after Hurricane Maria hit the island. (Ramon Tonito Zayas/AP file photo)

In late September, just over a week after winds of 155 miles per hour flattened homes and struck down power lines and more than 30 inches of rain inundated parts of the island of Puerto Rico, a leader of the recovery efforts with the Army Corps of Engineers offered his blunt assessment of the damage.

“This is a massive undertaking, one in which I don’t think we’ve undertaken before in terms of this magnitude,” Col. James DeLapp told CNN. The closest thing he could think of by way of comparison? “When the Army Corps led the effort to restore … electricity in the early stages of the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004.”

In Utah Trip, Trump Looks to Boost Hatch
President pushing senior-most GOP senator to seek re-election

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch  at the Utah State Capitol on Monday. Trump signed executive orders shrinking the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. (George Frey/Getty Images)

After President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday drastically diminishing the scale of national monuments in Utah, he handed off the pen to a senator who still seems a most unlikely ally.

“I’ve served under many presidents — seven to be exact — but none is like the man we have in the White House today. When you talk, this president listens,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said Monday in introducing Trump at Utah’s state Capitol in Salt Lake City.

Trump Reduction of National Monuments a Rare Move
Antiquities Act has primarily been used to increase, not reduce protected areas

Part of the Bears Ears monument in Utah. (Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump on Monday signed two executive actions that drastically slash the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and criticized former presidents for their use of the Antiquities Act to designate such monuments.

Trump called former President Barack Obama’s designation of Bears Ears an overreach of executive power, even as he unilaterally undid much of the designation himself. President Bill Clinton first designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument in 1996 .

Why Moore’s Money Mismatch Might Not Matter
Some Republicans are confident former judge still has edge over Doug Jones

Democrat Doug Jones holds a significant cash advantage over Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones has financially overwhelmed his Republican opponent Roy Moore but all his money may not make a difference in the Alabama Senate special election.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore rocked the race, initially boosting Jones’ fundraising and standing in the polls. But polling numbers have tightened in recent days. With the Dec. 12 election roughly a week away, both campaigns are making their final cases to voters for the seat vacated by former Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. 

Opinion: Bipartisanship Still Exists and Financial Reform Is Proof
Senate bill isn’t perfect, but it can have a lasting effect

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will mark up a bipartisan bill this week. From left, Chairman Michael D. Crapo, Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, ranking member Sherrod Brown and Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz prepare for a hearing in July. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As U.S. politics descends ever further into partisanship, there are still signs that old-fashioned legislating is not dead. This week, the Senate Banking Committee will mark up one of the first significant pieces of financial regulatory legislation in years with real bipartisan support. That means an opportunity for lasting, incremental progress that we should welcome.

The proposed bill, which has 10 Republican and 10 Democratic co-sponsors, would not revolutionize the U.S. financial regulatory system, and that’s a good thing. The Dodd-Frank Act and other post-financial crisis reforms have made the financial system and Americans safer overall, but like most major reforms, they have also created unintended consequences. The Senate bill would address some of these, while retaining the overall post-crisis framework that is generally working.

Opinion: Fiscal Order Goes Way of the Dinosaur in Tax Debate
Latest actions show Congress isn’t serious about debt and deficits

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a press conference Thursday on small-business taxes. Pay-as-you-go requirements do not apply to the current tax reconciliation bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There was a time when members of Congress expressed concerns over the country’s level of debt and deficits. Laws were enacted to create speed bumps and stop signs to establish fiscal discipline. That now seems like a distant memory. Exhibit A is the current tax reform effort.

The permanent pay-as-you-go law is in effect, as is the Senate’s pay-as-you-go rule. The requirement that increased federal spending or tax cuts be matched by reduced spending or revenue increases to avoid expanding the budget deficit dates to the Reagan administration.