Outlook: Senate Looks to Bide Its Time on Health Care

A July 4 deadline appears to be in peril, as key members ask for more time … and transparency

Sen. Bob Corker
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Erin Durkin
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Erin Durkin
June 18, 2017, 8 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans are head­ing in­to crunch time if they still aim to hold a vote on their health care over­haul bill by Ju­ly 4. But mem­bers now are send­ing the sig­nal that this is not a hard dead­line, with some ur­ging cau­tion against rush­ing.

“I’d say give us a little more time,” Sen. John Cornyn told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “The end of Ju­ly by the latest.”

Sen. Ron John­son also does not want to see a vote be­fore the Fourth of Ju­ly break. He prefers to take more time to re­view the forth­com­ing bill. “What I’ve been primar­ily ask­ing for is once lead­er­ship fi­nally does be­lieve they have enough in­put, think we’re close enough, craft a bill. I want to make sure the Amer­ic­an people, I want to make sure mem­bers of Con­gress, have enough time to eval­u­ate it,” he said.

There also has been no hint of what the bill’s lan­guage will look like. Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans said last week that they were send­ing pieces of their le­gis­la­tion to the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice, but even Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Tom Price has not seen it. And some Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers re­portedly are ex­press­ing con­cern around the secrecy.

“I’ve said from Day One, and I’ll say it again,” Sen. Bob Cork­er told The New York Times. “The pro­cess is bet­ter if you do it in pub­lic, and that people get buy-in along the way and un­der­stand what’s go­ing on. Ob­vi­ously, that’s not the route that is be­ing taken.”

While the Sen­ate GOP is pre­oc­cu­pied with health care, House law­makers will be fo­cus­ing on Rus­sia, as former Home­land Se­cur­ity Sec­ret­ary Jeh John­son is set to testi­fy in front of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee as part of the com­mit­tee’s in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in the elec­tion.

An­oth­er big ques­tion in the House: wheth­er Re­pub­lic­ans will be able to pass a budget. Dis­cus­sions about the budget will hap­pen be­hind closed doors while a num­ber of nom­in­al bills will be on the floor.

The House will vote on le­gis­la­tion to al­low in­di­vidu­als to buy trans­ition­al health in­sur­ance with a fed­er­al tax cred­it, provide funds to sub­sid­ize em­ploy­ment for the needy, al­low park of­fi­cials to cut down dan­ger­ous trees that could fall on power lines, and seek to stream­line the per­mit­ting pro­cess for above-ground wa­ter-stor­age pro­jects.

To end the week, the House En­ergy and Com­merce Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing ex­amin­ing fund­ing for the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, Fed­er­ally Qual­i­fied Health Cen­ters, and the Com­mu­nity Health Cen­ter Fund.

Here’s what else is on tap:

DE­FENSE AND FOR­EIGN POLICY

The Sen­ate over­whelm­ingly passed a tough Ir­an and Rus­sia sanc­tions bill last week des­pite con­cerns from the White House that the le­gis­la­tion didn’t provide enough flex­ib­il­ity. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials will now have the chance to weak­en the bill as it goes over to the House for de­bate.

The Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is set to meet on Wed­nes­day morn­ing for a hear­ing on Rus­sia’s ef­forts to meddle in the 2016 elec­tion, fea­tur­ing wit­nesses from the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cur­ity, the FBI, the Illinois State Board of Elec­tions, and the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of State Elec­tion Dir­ect­ors, as well as an ex­pert on elec­tion se­cur­ity.

The Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee has a closed hear­ing Thursday to dis­cuss “re­cent de­vel­op­ments” in North Korea.

The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee will hold hear­ings on Tues­day to con­sider the nom­in­a­tion of Patrick Sha­na­han to be deputy De­fense sec­ret­ary and on Thursday to con­sider the nom­in­a­tion of Richard Spen­cer to be sec­ret­ary of the Navy.

The House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee will mark up the FY18 Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act the fol­low­ing week, on June 28.

EN­ERGY AND EN­VIR­ON­MENT

In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Ry­an Zinke will face le­gis­lat­ors to de­fend the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s budget pro­pos­al, which would cut his de­part­ment’s budget by 12 per­cent and lay the ground­work for in­creased en­ergy pro­duc­tion on fed­er­al lands. Zinke will ap­pear be­fore the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee on Tues­day, the Sen­ate In­teri­or and En­vir­on­ment Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day, and the House Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee on Thursday.

Also mak­ing the rounds for budget hear­ings will be En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Rick Perry, who will testi­fy be­fore the House En­ergy Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on Tues­day, the Sen­ate En­ergy Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day, and the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee on Thursday. Perry will face ques­tions about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al to cut 18 per­cent from his budget, out­side of nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity pro­grams, and elim­in­ate sev­er­al re­new­able-en­ergy and cli­mate-change pro­grams.

As Con­gress and the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ue to dis­cuss an in­fra­struc­ture pack­age, a Sen­ate com­mit­tee will ex­am­ine ways to im­prove fin­an­cing for much-needed wa­ter pro­jects. The En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works hear­ing Tues­day will build on fin­an­cing re­forms from last year’s Wa­ter Re­sources De­vel­op­ment bill and could set the stage for wa­ter fund­ing in an in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram. Sep­ar­ately, the Sen­ate En­ergy Com­mit­tee’s pub­lic-lands sub­com­mit­tee will hear from In­teri­or and Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment of­fi­cials at a Tues­day hear­ing on restor­ing wa­ter­sheds and large land­scapes.

HEALTH

While Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans will be con­tinu­ing ne­go­ti­ations around their health care over­haul, they will also be eval­u­at­ing the fund­ing for key pub­lic health agen­cies.

On Tues­day, Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sion­er Scott Got­tlieb will testi­fy in front of the Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee’s ag­ri­cul­ture and FDA sub­com­mit­tee on the agency’s 2018 budget re­quest. Then on Thursday, the 2018 budget re­quest for the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health will be the fo­cus of the sub­com­mit­tee that cov­ers Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. NIH Dir­ect­or Fran­cis Collins will be a wit­ness at the hear­ing.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee will hold a sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day on the World Health Or­gan­iz­a­tion and pan­dem­ic pro­tec­tion in a glob­al­ized world.

The House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Thursday on the 2018 De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs budget re­quest for the Vet­er­ans Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

TECH­NO­LOGY

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion will hold its monthly open meet­ing on Thursday. The com­mis­sion is slated to vote on sev­er­al items, in­clud­ing a re­port and or­der to es­tab­lish the stand­ards and pro­ced­ures through which the FCC will eval­u­ate plans sub­mit­ted by sev­er­al states to opt out of the AT&T-op­er­ated pub­lic-safety net­work First­Net and build their own sys­tems. The FCC will also vote on be­gin­ning an in­quiry in­to wheth­er ex­ist­ing rules gov­ern­ing the pro­vi­sion of in­ter­net and TV ser­vices to multi-ten­ant apart­ment build­ings are stifling broad­band com­pet­i­tion.

The Sen­ate Com­merce Sub­com­mit­tee on Com­mu­nic­a­tions, Tech­no­logy, In­nov­a­tion, and the In­ter­net will hold a hear­ing Tues­day to ex­am­ine how the FCC’s Uni­ver­sal Ser­vice Fund pro­motes the de­ploy­ment of rur­al broad­band. The com­mit­tee has in the past de­bated the best way to chan­nel ad­di­tion­al fed­er­al funds to rur­al broad­band should money be­come avail­able as part of an in­fra­struc­ture pack­age, and the Uni­ver­sal Ser­vice Fund has been floated as a po­ten­tial vehicle for fur­ther broad­band in­vest­ment. The House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee is get­ting in on the broad­band ac­tion as well, with the Com­mu­nic­a­tions and Tech­no­logy Sub­com­mit­tee slated to hold a hear­ing Wed­nes­day to define and map broad­band cov­er­age in the United States.

Sen. Ted Cruz, chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Space, Sci­ence, and Com­pet­it­ive­ness Sub­com­mit­tee, will con­tin­ue a series of hear­ings on com­mer­cial space op­er­a­tions on Thursday, with this par­tic­u­lar hear­ing fo­cus­ing on part­ner­ships between the gov­ern­ment and private act­ors in space.

TRANS­PORT­A­TION

Amtrak Pres­id­ent Charles Moor­man will testi­fy be­fore the House Trans­port­a­tion Com­mit­tee Thursday as part of a hear­ing on in­ter­city rail, along with of­fi­cials from the Fed­er­al Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Cali­for­nia’s High Speed Rail Au­thor­ity. House Re­pub­lic­ans have been skep­tic­al of Amtrak’s op­er­a­tions in the past and have pitched privat­iz­ing ser­vice on the North­east Cor­ridor, a pro­pos­al sure to come up again.

The Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee will meet Wed­nes­day to con­sider the nom­in­a­tion of former Coast Guard Vice Com­mand­ant Dav­id Peko­ske to be ad­min­is­trat­or of the Trans­port­a­tion Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

WHITE HOUSE

Pres­id­ent Trump wel­comes Panama’s Pres­id­ent Juan Car­los Varela to the White House on Monday be­fore he meets with the Amer­ic­an Tech­no­logy Coun­cil. On Wed­nes­day, he will travel to Ce­dar Rap­ids, Iowa, for a cam­paign rally. On Thursday, he will host the an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al pic­nic on the South Lawn, and he will hold a vet­er­ans’ event on Fri­day.

Brendan Bordelon, George E. Condon Jr., Alex Rogers, Jason Plautz and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this article.
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