Outlook: Gorsuch, Health Bill Headline Huge Week for Trump

Two of the administration’s top priorities will face tests on the Hill.

President Trump shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch on Jan. 31.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Daniel Newhauser and Alex Rogers
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Daniel Newhauser and Alex Rogers
March 19, 2017, 8:01 p.m.

It will be a high-stakes week for Pres­id­ent Trump and Re­pub­lic­ans on Cap­it­ol Hill, be­gin­ning with Su­preme Court nom­in­ee Neil Gor­such’s con­firm­a­tion hear­ing and end­ing with House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers’ biggest gamble yet, dar­ing their reti­cent mem­bers to vote against their em­battled bill to re­peal and re­place Obama­care.

GOP lead­ers were em­boldened by a meet­ing last week between Trump and mem­bers of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, after which the mem­bers com­mit­ted for the first time to vot­ing for the bill and Trump com­mit­ted to push­ing it across the fin­ish line.

Pres­sure from Trump will be key to de­liv­er­ing the fi­nal hol­d­outs needed to pass the meas­ure. Ob­jec­tions re­main, however, among mem­bers of the House Free­dom Caucus, mod­er­ates, and oth­ers with pa­ro­chi­al con­cerns, so the vote will be a nail-biter.

All eyes will be on the Rules Com­mit­tee early in the week to see wheth­er lead­ers can craft policy fixes to ad­dress some mem­bers’ con­cerns about Medi­caid block grants, work re­quire­ments, and premi­ums for low-in­come seni­ors without ali­en­at­ing oth­er mem­bers. As the bill is cur­rently writ­ten, at least three Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors—Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, Susan Collins of Maine, and Dean Heller of Nevada—would vote against it, enough to sink the bill. So more changes will be ne­ces­sary even if the House passes it this week.

The Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ings for Gor­such’s nom­in­a­tion, mean­while, will be­gin Monday, more than a year after Ant­on­in Scalia’s death left the Court with a va­cant seat. Sen­at­ors will de­liv­er their open­ing state­ments the first day and will have the chance to ques­tion Gor­such him­self on Tues­day. On Wed­nes­day, the com­mit­tee will hear from leg­al ex­perts about Gor­such’s re­cord and qual­i­fic­a­tions.

So far, Demo­crats haven’t moun­ted a par­tic­u­larly ro­bust or en­thu­si­ast­ic case against Gor­such, a judge on the 10th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals whose ju­di­cial philo­sophy is re­l­at­ively sim­il­ar to Scalia’s. They’ve signaled that their main line of at­tack this week will fo­cus on how Gor­such’s de­cisions have af­fected work­ers—ques­tions he’ll likely be able to bat away pretty eas­ily by say­ing judges have to fo­cus on the law even if they per­son­ally don’t like the prac­tic­al out­comes of their rul­ings.

Here’s what else is on tap:


The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is sched­uled to hold its much-an­ti­cip­ated open hear­ing Monday morn­ing on Rus­si­an in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey and Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency Dir­ect­or Mike Ro­gers are set to testi­fy.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary James Mat­tis will testi­fy Wed­nes­day at his first pub­lic hear­ing since join­ing Trump’s Cab­in­et be­fore the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee on de­fense. Joint Chiefs Chair­man Joseph Dun­ford is also slated to ap­pear at the hear­ing, which will fo­cus on the Pentagon’s budget.

Mean­while, former Sec­ret­ary of State Madeleine Al­bright and former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Steph­en Had­ley are set to testi­fy at a House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Amer­ica’s role in the world. The pan­el will also meet Wed­nes­day for a hear­ing on the evol­u­tion of hy­brid war­fare.

On Tues­day, the chairs and rank­ing mem­bers of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions and House For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tees will host an event fo­cused on Syr­ia, while the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee is sched­uled to hold a hear­ing on U.S. policy and strategy in Europe. The Armed Ser­vices pan­el will con­vene again Thursday for a hear­ing on the United States European Com­mand.


The White House could re­lease long-stew­ing ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders to roll back Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate agenda as early as this week. The ac­tion—ex­pec­ted for weeks—would undo ma­jor rules like the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s lim­its on green­house-gas emis­sions from power plants and the In­teri­or De­part­ment’s morator­i­um against coal leas­ing on fed­er­al lands. Bloomberg re­por­ted last week that the or­ders could also re­strict agen­cies from con­sid­er­ing cli­mate im­pacts in en­vir­on­ment­al re­views for ma­jor pro­jects.

The Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee will vote on bi­par­tis­an le­gis­la­tion meant to in­crease the use of nuc­le­ar en­ergy by en­abling new re­act­or li­cens­ing, over­haul­ing Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion budget­ing pro­grams, and set­ting up a reg­u­lat­ory frame­work to pro­mote ad­vanced re­act­ors. The le­gis­la­tion, which has three Demo­crats among its eight ori­gin­al spon­sors, is ex­pec­ted to clear the com­mit­tee.

The Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing Tues­day on im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture im­port­ant to fed­er­al land and wa­ter re­sources.


The Amer­ic­an Health Care Act will head to the House Rules Com­mit­tee early this week, with a floor vote tent­at­ively ex­pec­ted Thursday.

The vote will come after the White House backed two changes pushed by the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee: provid­ing an op­tion for a Medi­caid block grant if a state wants it and op­tion­al work re­quire­ments for Medi­caid. This will shift the le­gis­la­tion fur­ther to the right, but it’s un­clear wheth­er this will bring all con­ser­vat­ives on board.

While many eyes will be on Phase One of the GOP’s plan to re­peal and re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act, the House Rules Com­mit­tee will be mov­ing for­ward with Phase Three Monday even­ing. The com­mit­tee will con­sider the Com­pet­it­ive Health In­sur­ance Re­form Act, which elim­in­ates an­ti­trust pro­tec­tion for in­sur­ance pro­viders, and the Small Busi­ness Health Fair­ness Act, which al­lows small busi­nesses to pool to­geth­er and pur­chase plans.

On Tues­day, the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing on Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion user-fee agree­ments. Wit­nesses in­clude FDA drug-cen­ter dir­ect­or Janet Wood­cock, bio­lo­gics-cen­ter dir­ect­or Peter Marks, and med­ic­al-device-cen­ter dir­ect­or Jef­frey Shuren.

At the same time the House Ap­pro­pri­ations labor and health sub­com­mit­tee will have a budget hear­ing on the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health. Wit­nesses in­clude sev­er­al dir­ect­ors from NIH, in­clud­ing NIH Dir­ect­or Fran­cis Collins.

The House En­ergy and Com­merce over­sight and in­vest­ig­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee will also be hold­ing a hear­ing Tues­day on fentanyl. “While fentanyl is a tightly con­trolled pre­scrip­tion medi­cine used to treat ex­treme pain, it is also easy to il­li­citly man­u­fac­ture and has been in­creas­ingly seen on the streets and the In­ter­net,” a com­mit­tee press re­lease states.

On Wed­nes­day, the En­ergy and Com­merce health sub­com­mit­tee will ex­am­ine FDA’s pre­scrip­tion-drug user-fee pro­gram.

The House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form health sub­com­mit­tee will have a hear­ing Wed­nes­day ex­amin­ing the im­pact of vol­un­tary re­stric­ted dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tems in the phar­ma­ceut­ic­al sup­ply chain.


Trump will con­tin­ue this week to lobby for the Re­pub­lic­an plan to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act, both with the pub­lic dur­ing a rally in Louis­ville on Monday and with in­terest groups and Re­pub­lic­an law­makers dur­ing the week. That in­cludes planned meet­ings with the vice pres­id­ent, the speak­er of the House and Sec­ret­ary of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Tom Price. He is also ex­pec­ted to meet with Sec­ret­ary of State Rex Tiller­son for a re­port on his trip to Asia. The Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus has also an­nounced its ex­ec­ut­ive com­mit­tee will meet with the pres­id­ent on Thursday.

Jason Plautz, Adam Wollner, George E. Condon Jr., Erin Durkin and Sam Baker contributed to this article.
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