Outlook: Picking Up the Pace on Confirmations

The Senate will push forward on Steven Mnuchin and David Shulkin, with more of President Trump’s Cabinet picks right behind.

Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Andrea Drusch
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Andrea Drusch
Feb. 12, 2017, 8:01 p.m.

The Sen­ate is ex­pec­ted to spend the week con­firm­ing at least three more of Pres­id­ent Trump’s nom­in­ees, in­clud­ing one of the Left’s biggest tar­gets, Treas­ury pick Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin’s Monday even­ing vote comes after Re­pub­lic­ans punted plans to hold the cham­ber in ses­sion over the week­end—when mem­bers’ travel plans could have com­plic­ated the whip count. The week­end break also al­lowed Demo­crats to re­charge for one more ideo­lo­gic­al slog, be­fore mov­ing on to less-con­tro­ver­sial nom­in­ees.

After Mnuchin, the Sen­ate will move im­me­di­ately to con­firm Vet­er­ans Af­fairs nom­in­ee Dav­id Shulkin on Monday, fol­lowed by Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion nom­in­ee Linda McMa­hon on Tues­day. Shulkin re­ceived un­an­im­ous sup­port from the Sen­ate Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, and only one Demo­crat, Sen. Cory Book­er, voted against ad­van­cing McMa­hon from the Sen­ate’s Small Busi­ness and En­tre­pren­eur­ship Com­mit­tee.

Re­pub­lic­ans could file clo­ture on more nom­in­a­tions Monday even­ing, but haven’t in­dic­ated the or­der for the re­main­ing nom­in­ees. Still to come are two oth­er nom­in­ees likely to see Demo­crat­ic push­back: En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency nom­in­ee Scott Pruitt and Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment nom­in­ee Ben Car­son. Less likely to face head­winds are In­teri­or nom­in­ee Ry­an Zinke and Com­merce nom­in­ee Wil­bur Ross. Labor nom­in­ee An­drew Puzder is still await­ing a hear­ing with the Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee that is sched­uled to be­gin Thursday.

Mnuchin is likely to face the same treat­ment oth­er con­tro­ver­sial nom­in­ees re­ceived last week, when Demo­crats held the cham­ber in ses­sion for a gruel­ing 57 hours. Demo­crats on the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee boy­cot­ted hear­ings to try to keep Mnuchin and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices nom­in­ee Tom Price from ad­van­cing. They then used al­most all of their de­bate time on con­firm­a­tion votes for Price, Betsy De­Vos for Edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary, and Jeff Ses­sions for at­tor­ney gen­er­al, drag­ging the fi­nal vote un­til after 2 a.m. Fri­day.

De­bate on Mnuchin can run up to sev­en hours Monday if Demo­crats use all of the time, which ex­pires at a more reas­on­able 7 p.m. As with the de­bate over Price, which fo­cused on the GOP’s plans to re­peal Obama­care, Demo­crats will use the time to cri­ti­cize the White House’s plans to un­ravel Dodd-Frank fin­an­cial pro­tec­tions. An ex­ec­ut­ive or­der from Trump earli­er this month spe­cific­ally called on the Treas­ury sec­ret­ary to over­see those changes—po­ten­tially scrap­ping the Con­sumer Fin­an­cial Pro­tec­tion Bur­eau that Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren helped cre­ate.

Aside from the Cab­in­et, the Sen­ate could also vote on wheth­er to roll back more Obama-era reg­u­la­tions passed up from the House un­der the Con­gres­sion­al Re­view Act. One po­ten­tial con­tender is a rule that forced the So­cial Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion to sub­mit names of men­tally im­paired adults to a list that would pro­hib­it them from buy­ing guns.

The House, mean­while, will wade back in­to the abor­tion fight this week, vot­ing to al­low states to cut fed­er­al fam­ily-plan­ning fund­ing to Planned Par­ent­hood or oth­er health clin­ics that provide abor­tions.

The meas­ure would do away with an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion rule, which went in­to ef­fect last month, that barred states from with­hold­ing Title X fund­ing from clin­ics be­cause they provide abor­tions.

The vote is one of sev­er­al this week that seek to roll back Obama-era reg­u­la­tions. The House will also vote to give states lee­way to drug-test more people who re­ceive un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, al­low Alaskan au­thor­it­ies to kill wolves and bears on pub­lic land, and make it harder for states to start sav­ings plans for private-sec­tor em­ploy­ees who do not have a 401(k).

Here’s what else is on tap:

DE­FENSE AND FOR­EIGN POLICY

De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials Robert Work and James H. Baker are sched­uled to testi­fy Tues­day at a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing, which is closed to the pub­lic, about long-term de­fense chal­lenges and strategies. On Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee is set to hold a hear­ing on end­ing mod­ern slavery.

On the House side, the Armed Ser­vices pan­el will have a hear­ing Tues­day on coun­terter­ror­ism strategies. The Tac­tic­al Air and Land Forces Sub­com­mit­tee will meet Thursday to dis­cuss the F-35 Joint Strike Fight­er. De­fense Sec­ret­ary James Mat­tis re­cently ordered a re­view of the costs as­so­ci­ated with the F-35 jet. The House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee is also set to hold a hear­ing Thursday called “Ir­an on No­tice,” an echo of com­ments made earli­er this month by Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Mi­chael Flynn.

EN­ERGY AND EN­VIR­ON­MENT

Con­gress will con­tin­ue its roll­back of Pres­id­ent Obama’s en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions through the Con­gres­sion­al Re­view Act, with the House set to bring up a Fish and Wild­life Ser­vice rule re­gard­ing wild­life man­age­ment on refuge lands in Alaska. The Sen­ate is also ex­pec­ted to vote on a House-passed meas­ure rolling back In­teri­or De­part­ment rules lim­it­ing meth­ane waste from gas-drilling op­er­a­tions.

A long-sim­mer­ing de­sire among Re­pub­lic­ans to over­haul the En­dangered Spe­cies Act is the sub­ject of a Wed­nes­day hear­ing in the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee. Chair­man John Bar­rasso has said he’d like to up­date and re­form the law, which he’s said makes it too easy to block in­dustry activ­ity. Demo­crats and en­vir­on­ment­al­ists have blocked pre­vi­ous ef­forts to roll back the ESA, but the ef­fort has new life un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Con­gress.

Ex­pect the ghost of Solyn­dra to be in­voked when the House Sci­ence Com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on the En­ergy De­part­ment’s loan-guar­an­tee pro­gram. The ini­ti­at­ive—which caught flak from Re­pub­lic­ans after the fail­ure of the sol­ar-power com­pany des­pite its broad­er suc­cess—is po­ten­tially on the chop­ping block un­der Trump.

The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee’s en­vir­on­ment sub­com­mit­tee will ex­am­ine op­por­tun­it­ies to mod­ern­ize or re­write land­mark en­vir­on­ment­al laws—in­clud­ing the Clean Air Act, Brown­fields cleanup pro­grams, and laws gov­ern­ing haz­ard­ous waste—at a Thursday hear­ing. The pan­el’s en­ergy sub­com­mit­tee also holds a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on the elec­tri­city grid and dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems.

HEALTH

The White House now has its Health and Hu­man Ser­vices sec­ret­ary after Price was con­firmed in the early morn­ing hours Fri­day. With him in place, the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee will be mov­ing on to con­sider Seema Verma, Pres­id­ent Trump’s pick to head the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices.

But first, the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee on Monday will be mark­ing up a res­ol­u­tion that dis­ap­proves the D.C. Coun­cil’s ap­prov­al of a “Death with Dig­nity” bill.

The Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Caucus on Tues­day will be hold­ing a brief­ing on med­ic­al in­nov­a­tion with rep­res­ent­at­ives from Cel­gene, the Pa­tient-Centered Out­comes Re­search In­sti­tute, and Avalon Health Eco­nom­ics.

The Sen­ate health ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on ex­amin­ing treat­ments and ser­vices for men­tal health care.

The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing Thursday on GOP Rep. Paul Gos­ar’s bill that would re­store the ap­plic­a­tion of fed­er­al an­ti­trust laws to the health in­sur­ance busi­ness. “End­ing this spe­cial-in­terest ex­emp­tion is an in­teg­ral piece of any Obama­care-re­peal ef­fort and is the only re­form that will ac­tu­ally rein in in­sur­ance com­pany prac­tices, in­crease com­pet­i­tion, and lower prices for con­sumers,” Gos­ar said when the le­gis­la­tion was in­tro­duced.

The same day, the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee will con­sider the nom­in­a­tion of Verma, who has ex­per­i­ence re­design­ing Medi­caid pro­grams in sev­er­al states, and was the ar­chi­tect of the Healthy In­di­ana Plan.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Rep. Mark Mead­ows told re­port­ers last week that Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scal­ise will be host­ing brief­ings with mem­bers on health sav­ings ac­counts and Medi­caid re­form.

WHITE HOUSE

Pres­id­ent Trump wel­comes two for­eign lead­ers to the White House this week. Ca­na­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets with him on Monday, with en­ergy and a pos­sible rene­go­ti­ation of the North Amer­ic­an Free Trade Agree­ment on the agenda. On Wed­nes­day, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu is here, seek­ing to thaw a re­la­tion­ship that be­came frosty in the fi­nal year of Pres­id­ent Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. On Thursday, he will take his first non-va­ca­tion trip away from Wash­ing­ton ex­cept for his vis­it to Delaware to wit­ness the ar­rival of the coffin of a SEAL killed in an over­seas mis­sion. He will go to Vi­enna, Ohio, just north of Young­stown, to sign in­to law a bill re­vers­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ban on dump­ing waste in­to streams near coal mines. In his speech, he is ex­pec­ted to cast the ban as a key part of what he has called Obama’s “war on coal.”

Daniel Newhauser, Adam Wollner, Jason Plautz, Erin Durkin, Alex Rogers and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.
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