Sebelius Resigns and Burwell Nominated for Secretary of HHS

The Administration made a major announcement at the end of last week: Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, will be stepping down. Sebelius’ legacy will certainly be tied to the rocky implementation of the Affordable Care Act. After months of issues with the website, Sebelius’ announcement comes soon after a positive milestone with the enrollment period coming to an end and 7.5 million people signed up.

The President is nominating Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius. Burwell has significant experience, having held several positions in the Clinton administration. Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to head the OMB a year ago but it can only be assumed that the confirmation hearings this time around will be more contentious and may be more about the Affordable Care Act than Burwell herself.

According to Politico, “Burwell will undergo hearings in both the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, though the confirmation vote will be held in Finance. A committee aide said the panel’s chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), plans to schedule a hearing soon after it receives Burwell’s nomination materials. A committee vote seems likely in early May.  Her nomination will probably face a full floor confirmation vote in late May or early June, since the Senate isn’t likely to shuffle its immediate schedule for her confirmation. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday he is anticipating a “May transition” for Burwell to HHS.”  http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/sylvia-mathews-burwell-democrats-obamacare-affordable-care-act-105641.html#ixzz2yrbqCwv1

For more on Sebelius’ retirement from HHS and Burwell’s nomination see below:

Burwell Bio: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/organization_office

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/us/politics/obama-burwell-health-nomination.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=1&gwh=C7B635C56815C18258AC766106F0D155&gwt=regi&assetType=nyt_now

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/kathleen-sebelius-department-of-health-and-human-services-obamacare-affordable-care-act-105647.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-13/burwell-hhs-hearings-give-republicans-obamacare-opening.html

What’s in Store on the Floor – Appropriations Update

After demonstrating hope, resolve, and bipartisanship with the passage of a 12 bill omnibus for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers have set a positive tone for the FY 2015 process. As the budget deal decided upon in December set an allocation level for FY 2015 ($1.014 trillion), there is momentum for action.

Deadlines for programmatic and report language requests have come and gone for the most part and the parade of interest groups making the rounds for staff meetings are filling security lines. While it remains too soon to tell how it will all play out, bipartisan hope that bills will move forward is appreciated by most of those who frequent the halls of Congress to lobby.

The House Full Appropriations Committee took a significant step forward in the Fiscal Year 2015 process by passing both the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Legislative Branch bills on Wednesday, April 9th.

Draft Text of the Mil Con Bill: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-113HR-SC-AP-FY2015-MilCon-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf

Draft Mil Con Report Language: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-113-hr-fy2015-milcon.pdf

Draft Text of Leg Branch Bill: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-113hr-fc-ap-fy2015-ap00-legbranch.pdf

Draft Leg Branch Report Language: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-113-fy2015legbranch.pdf

What We Are Hearing:
The House is expected to keep moving through Subcommittee and full Committee markups and Senate should get started soon. The House and Senate both head out for two weeks of recess over Easter/Passover and then will be back for a month before the Memorial Day break.

It is rumored that there is a lot of support for Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (retiring) to be able to take the Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) bill to the floor for a vote. Given that this bill is notoriously controversial, it remains to be seen if that will actually happen.

State of The Union

Yesterday evening, the President of the United States delivered his yearly State of The Union address to both chambers of the 113th Congress. He discussed the importance of strengthening the American economy, ensuring that we care for our troops, and his forthcoming approach to working with Congress on large legislative issues. The President also noted the vital need for robust, federally-funded initiatives which are very important to the nations’ health and economy. The text from that portion of the President’s speech is below:

“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery. (Cheers, applause.)

There are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation. (Applause.)”

Full text of the President’s remarks to Congress are available on the Washington Post’s website:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/full-text-of-obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address/2014/01/28/e0c93358-887f-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html

New House GOP Appropriations Subcommittee Rosters Announced

House Appropriations Chairman Rogers announced new GOP Appropriations Subcommittee Rosters today.

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=368089

The subcommittee Chairs and Members are as follows:

Agriculture Subcommittee:
Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Vice-Chairman
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Tom Rooney (R-FL)
David Valadao (R-CA)

Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee:
Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA)
John Culberson (R-TX)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Vice-Chairman
Andy Harris (R-MD)
John Carter (R-TX)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Defense Subcommittee:
Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Kay Granger (R-TX), Vice-Chairman
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Tom Cole (R-OK)
Steve Womack (R-AR)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
John Carter (R-TX)

Energy and Water Subcommittee:
Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Vice-Chairman
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

Financial Services Subcommittee:
Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Vice-Chairman
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Steve Womack (R-AR)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Homeland Security Subcommittee:
Chairman John Carter (R-TX)
John Culberson (R-TX), Vice-Chairman
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Tom Latham (R-IA)
Charles Dent (R-PA)
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)

Interior Subcommittee:
Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Mike Simpson (R-ID), Vice-Chairman
Tom Cole (R-OK)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
David Joyce (R-OH)
David Valadao (R-CA)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee:
Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Steve Womack (R-AR), Vice-Chairman
Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)
David Joyce (R-OH)
Andy Harris (R-MD)
Martha Roby (R-AL)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Legislative Branch Subcommittee:
Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK)
Andy Harris (R-MD), Vice-Chairman
Martha Roby (R-AL)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee:
Chairman John Culberson (R-TX)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Vice-Chairman
Tom Rooney (R-FL)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
David Valadao (R-CA)
Martha Roby (R-AL)

State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee:
Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Charles Dent (R-PA), Vice-Chairman
Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
Tom Rooney (R-FL)

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee:
Chairman Tom Latham (R-IA)
Frank Wolf (R-VA), Vice-Chairman
Charles Dent (R-PA)
Kay Granger (R-TX)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
David Joyce (R-OH)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)

FY 2014 Comes to a Close – All Eyes Turn to FY 2015

On January 17th, President Obama signed an omnibus bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 that includes all 12 appropriations bills. The legislation is more than 1,500 pages long and is a tribute to a bipartisan commitment between Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski and House Appropriations Chairman Rogers to fund the government through legislation rather than Continuing Resolutions. For details about the bills you can visit the links below:

Bill Text and Explanatory Statements

Summaries by Subcommittee

Information Graphs

Summary Released by Senate Chairwoman Mikulski

Now that FY 2014 comes to a close, we turn to preparing for the FY 2015 season. The President’s budget is supposed to be sent to Congress in early February after the State of the Union (January 28th). The new normal tends to see that date slip by a few weeks/months.

While FY 2015 pass backs from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were delayed while FY 2014 was being resolved, the process is now underway. According to CQ, the President’s budget is now expected to arrive on March 4th. This will then kick off appropriations season. It is expected (knock on wood) to be a bit more predictable this year as FY 2015 allocations were included in the budget deal passed in December.

Budget Deal Passed: Next Steps

As the year winds to a close, the House and Senate have both approved a bipartisan budget deal, which sets allocations for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and for FY 2015. The President is expected to sign the deal.

The agreement provides $1.012 trillion for FY 2014 and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.  While it does not completely address sequestration, the budget deal provides some relief from the sequester for discretionary spending; $63 billion for both years.  For more information on the specifics of the deal click here: http://www.budget.senate.gov

So what happens next?

The House is now home for the holidays and the Senate will follow shortly. Appropriations Committee staff will be working overtime to try to draft language for the remainder of FY 2014 that Congress will consider when they return in the New Year. The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on January 15th.

There are a number of different scenarios as to how FY 2014 will play out:

  1. An omnibus of all 12 bills
  2. Large package including some bills and CR for others where there is not consensus
  3. A CR with just a date change to carry the federal government to September 30, 2014 (least likely)

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. The current CR expires on January 15th, which does not allow for much time to draft language and get consensus. We could see another short term (possibly just a few days) CR to buy Congress some more time to work on the funding bills.
  2. Even though there has been agreement on FY 2014 and FY 2015 top line numbers and some sequestration relief, the debt ceiling will be another fight early in the New Year.
  3. The budget deal included a three month fix to the SGR (or doc fix), however, discussions around finding a permanent fix to this expensive issue will continue in the early part of the New Year.
  4. While the budget deal did provide some sequestration relief, the issue is certainly not resolved and will continue to plaque Congress going forward.
  5. The sequestration relief that was provided only addresses the discretionary side of spending and in fact extended the sequester for mandatory spending—meaning that Medicare providers will see another 2 percent cut to their reimbursement in 2014.
  6. The President’s budget for FY 2015 is usually delivered to Congress in mid-February but could be delayed until after the FY 2014  spending is resolved.
  7. Elections – wild card. While the general feeling is that most lawmakers want to get FY 2014 resolved, it is hard to tell how primaries and elections will influence the playing field. This will be something to watch.

Budget deal reached

Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement yesterday, December 10, 2013, on top line numbers for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and FY 2015 spending and partial replacement of the sequester cuts.

It is being reported that the “bipartisan package includes $63 billion of ‘sequester relief,’ $85 billion of total savings, and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. The agreement would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.”  Click here to view the Politico article.

A summary, section by section, and legislative text of the budget deal can be found here.

The House is expected to consider the proposal as early as tomorrow, Thursday December 12th.  While there are rumblings in the press that some conservatives and some Democrats are not happy with the deal it is too soon to know if that is the sign of a true compromise or trouble brewing in the wings.

Dewonkify – Hastert Rule

Term: Hastert Rule

Definition: An informal governing principle used by Republican Speakers of the House of Representatives since the 1990s to only allow bills to come up for a vote on the House floor that have support from the “the majority of the majority” of Members of Congress. In practice, if Speaker Boehner follows the Hastert Rule it would mean that he would not bring legislation for a vote unless it would have the support of the majority of the current House majority party, the Republicans.

Used In a Sentence:  “That’s what the Hastert rule is really about, Feehery, now a lobbyist and consultant, told me recently — political survival. It’s just common sense: The speaker is elected by a majority vote of his caucus; if he does things a majority of his caucus doesn’t like, they can vote him out.” From “Even the Aide Who Coined the Hastert Rule Says the Hastert Rule Isn’t Working,” by Molly Ball, The Atlantic, July 21, 2013

History: According to John Feehery, the staffer who coined the phrase, former Speaker Dennis Hastert is often credited with inventing the rule but Newt Gingrich, who preceded him as Speaker, followed it as well.

Why It’s Relevant: Following the Hastert Rule makes it is very difficult to have legislative successes if the majority caucus is divided. Speaker Boehner has invoked the Hastert Rule during the recent fiscal debates leading up to the current government shutdown.  Some suggest that the House of Representatives could pass clean (no added legislative language or provisions) legislation to reopen the government or raise the debt ceiling because most of the Democrats and 20 or so of the Republicans would vote for it, giving it enough votes to pass.  However, bringing that legislation up would violate the Hastert Rule since at this point it would not have the support of the majority of the Republicans (the majority party).

Dewonkify – Filibuster

The Word: Filibuster

Definition: A filibuster is a procedural tactic that is used to extend debate, delay a vote, or prevent legislative action. It is used in the U.S. Senate to require 60% of members to vote in favor of “cloture” to bring legislation up for consideration.  The House can cut off debate with a simple majority vote.

Used in a Sentence: “Senate leaders reached a deal on Tuesday morning to preserve the filibuster in exchange for Senate confirmation of President Obama’s long-sought first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as other stalled nominees.” from “Senators Reach Agreement to Avert Fight Over Filibuster,” by Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, July 16, 2013

History:  The word “filibuster” is derived from the Spanish term filibustero which means “freebooting” and the Dutch word vrijbuiter meaning “pirate.”

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post walks through history of the filibuster and the increasing frequency with which it has been used in his May 15, 2012 article, “The History of the Filibuster in One Graph.”

Senate Advances LHHS Appropriations

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee met on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 to mark up their fiscal year (FY) 2014 legislation (S. 1284). The bill passed by voice vote.

On Thursday, July 11th, the full Senate Appropriations Committee took up the FY 2014 LHHS bill for consideration. S. 1284 passed the full Committee with a vote of 16-14. The bill and accompanying report are included below.

Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Bill by DrinkerBiddle

Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Committe… by DrinkerBiddle

It is unclear what will happen next. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) made it clear that she would like to see this bill, and the others that have been approved by the Committee, considered on the Senate Floor. She stated in her introductory statement:  “I was dismayed to hear comments recently that we should not even consider Appropriation bills on the Senate Floor until there is a Conference Agreement on the Budget Resolution. But at the same time, six Senators have objected to a conference on the budget resolution, where this problem should be resolved.” Her full statement is available on the Appropriations website.

To date, the House has been silent on the LHHS bill. The most likely scenario is a Continuing Resolution (CR) before September 30th.

While the Senate bill may never become law, it will be used to negotiate the CR. The report is also a clear message to agencies and in many cases, agency responses to the report language are included in President’s budget the following year.