Republican leaders in Congress plan to take the initial steps towards repealing and replacing Obamacare this week, hoping to deliver on the campaign promises made by most Republicans over the past six years and by President-elect Trump during the 2016 election cycle.

Both chambers are expected to begin their consideration of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget resolution, the legislative vehicle that will provide for the repeal of Obamacare.  Adoption of a budget is a necessary precondition to a reconciliation bill, which Republicans plan to use as the vehicle to repeal Obamacare.  Reconciliation instructions in the budget resolution would direct congressional committees to develop legislation that would repeal a number of spending authorizations, taxes, and programs established through the health care law.   This repeal legislation can then move through a fast-track process and can pass the Senate with only a simple majority, rather than the traditional 60-vote threshold because the bill is not subject to a filibuster.  Republican leaders are proceeding with the intent of sending legislation to President-elect Trump for signature upon his inauguration.  Moving to repeal President Obama’s signature legislative achievement with no replacement legislation ready is causing some Republicans to express reservations about the speed with which Congress is moving.  Whether these members are able to slow the train will become a focus in the coming weeks.

The Senate is expected to begin the week with votes on amendments to its version of the budget resolution, S. Con. Res. 3.  A successful procedural vote last week initiated 50 hours of debate on the measure.  The debate time is set to expire on Wednesday, after which the chamber will begin an extended sequence of back-to-back votes on the amendments.  The first vote is scheduled for Monday evening, on an amendment offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that would revise the underlying resolution in order to balance the budget by 2024 while still providing for the repeal of Obamacare.  A second vote is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on an amendment offered by former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would prevent the Senate from taking up any legislation that would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  It is unclear at this point how many Senate amendments will receive a vote during the course of debate.  Senate Democrats have filed upwards of 20 amendments as of this writing.  Many of these propose to keep the Senate from considering any reconciliation legislation that would repeal insurance mandates, or, much like the Sanders amendment, would reduce Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits, or roll back funding for disease prevention efforts, reduce healthcare tax credits, or other vulnerable provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Consideration of amendments and final passage of the budget resolution are expected to take up the majority of the Senate floor schedule this week.

Compounding the busy floor activity in the Senate is a busy hearing schedule with several committees beginning their official “advice and consent” role on the cabinet nominations of the President-elect.  There are nine nomination hearings on the calendar, scheduled to begin on Tuesday of this week.  Although several of the hearings may be contentious, the prospect for blocking any of the nominees is slight, given the Democrats’ decision in 2014 to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for executive branch nominees.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will appear before his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday over his nomination to serve as Attorney General; the committee will hear from outside witnesses on Wednesday.  On Tuesday afternoon, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold its hearing on Gen. John Kelly, nominated to be Secretary of Homeland Security.  Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is scheduled to testify before the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday regarding his nomination to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Also on Wednesday, Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush (and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), will appear before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on her nomination to serve as the Secretary of Transportation.  Betsy DeVos is scheduled to testify before the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee regarding her qualifications to serve as Secretary of Education.  The Foreign Relations Committee will also meet on Wednesday on the nomination of Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State.  On Thursday, Dr. Ben Carson will testify before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on his nomination to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Wilbur Ross will appear before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on his qualifications to serve as Secretary of Commerce.  Also scheduled on Thursday is an appearance by Gen. James Mattis before the Armed Services Committee regarding his nomination to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Besides the nomination hearings, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, Adm. Michael Rogers, Commander of US Cyber Command, and CIA Director John Brennan are scheduled to testify before the Intelligence Committee on Tuesday regarding Russian intelligence activities.  This appearance follows their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and the release of a declassified intelligence report on Friday which concluded Vladimir Putin had a direct role in Russia’s cyber hacking during the 2016 election cycle.

Across the Capitol, the House is scheduled to convene on Monday when it plans to take up five bills under suspension of the rules, four within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee and one within the jurisdiction of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  These are bills the House passed in the previous Congress.

On Tuesday, members will take up an additional nine bills, which had passed the chamber in the prior Congress, under suspension of the rules.  The House will then begin consideration, under a rule, of several bills related to regulatory reforms.  The first of these is H.R. 79, the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act, introduced by Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH).  This bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to revise its general solicitation regulations to provide carveouts for certain activities related to startup investment and financing pitches.  This legislation passed the House in 2016.

During the remainder of the week, the House will take up three additional regulatory reform bills, each subject to a rule.  H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017, introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is a package of six regulatory reform bills that passed the House during the 114th Congress.  Largely aimed at preventing the development of new federal regulations, the legislation would require federal agencies to provide greater justification for any proposed regulations and to choose the lowest-cost rulemaking alternative to meets statutory objectives.  Also among the provisions are a repeal of the Chevron and Auer doctrines that would end judicial deference to an agency’s interpretation of governing statutes and an agency’s interpretation of its own regulations. The bill would also prevent new rules with billion-dollar annual costs from taking effect until courts can resolve litigation challenging their promulgation.

Additionally, members will consider H.R. 78, the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, legislation that would specify new requirements for the Securities and Exchange Commission to meet when developing or amending regulations.  Action is also expected on H.R. 238, the Commodity End-User Relief Act, a reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), an independent agency charged with regulating futures and options markets related to commodities, through 2021.  The bill also proposes some controversial changes that would limit the agency’s ability to impose Dodd-Frank Act derivatives rules and requires the CFTC to analyze the costs and benefits of all new rules.  During House consideration of this bill last year, President Obama issued a veto threat over the legislation.

Finally, the House may also begin its consideration of an FY 2017 budget resolution this week.

Because the House of Representatives is still finalizing committee assignments for the 115th Congress, there are currently no official hearings scheduled in the chamber this week.  The full schedule of events for the Senate this week is included  below:

 
Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Senate Committees

Civilian Control of the Armed Forces
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SH-216

Backpage.com’s Knowing Facilitation of Online Sex Trafficking
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-342

Attorney General Nomination
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SR-325

Russian Intelligence Activities
Senate Select Intelligence
Full Committee Hearing
1 p.m., SD-106

Intelligence Matters
Senate Select Intelligence
Full Committee Hearing (CLOSED)
2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Senate Committees

Secretary of Transportation Nomination
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10:15 a.m., SR-253

Secretary of State Nomination
Senate Foreign Relations
Full Committee Hearing
9:15 a.m., SD-106

Education Secretary Nomination
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-430

Attorney General Nomination
Senate Judiciary
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SR-325

CIA Director Nomination
Senate Select Intelligence
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SH-216

Secretary of Homeland Security Nomination
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
2 p.m., SD-342

Intelligence Briefing
Senate Select Intelligence
Full Committee Briefing (CLOSED)
1 p.m., SH-219

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Senate Committees

Secretary of Defense Nomination
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Hearing
9:30 a.m., SD-G-50

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Nomination
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SD-538

Secretary of Commerce Nomination
Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Full Committee Hearing
10 a.m., SR-253

Providing an Exception to the Defense Secretary Seven Years Rule
Senate Armed Services
Full Committee Business Meeting
TBA