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Summary for week ending March 10, 2017

Maneuverings This Week -

Another week of mind-boggling tweets from the President but we finally see something going on between the White House and Congress regarding repeal of the Affordable Care Act but it too is a bit hard to nail down what that ‘something’ is.

Under pressure from the House Freedom Caucus to get the repeal and replace done, House committees are working on what they call the American Healthcare Act. The Act would replace the ACA over the next two and four years and perhaps beyond. The bad stuff comes after the mid-term elections and the 2020 presidential elections but the provisions were expected. Obamacare operated on $1.7 trillion from taxes and fees as well as funds from the individual mandate. All of those revenue provisions are to be ended immediately on enactment leaving the bill little revenues. But the idea is that by increasing competition between insurers the cost of premiums will drop and be affordable and due to regulation rollbacks and an increase in corporate hiring most Americans will be able to afford health insurance without the subsidies the ACA provided for the poor. The subsidies are to be replaced with tax credits and an expansion of the amount you can put into a health savings account. The tax credit amounts are to be determined in advance to help people pay their premiums. Medicaid increases already in effect will continue for current recipients but after the 2018 mid-term elections will decrease and eventually become a voucher system where states are given a set amount per Medicaid recipients.

This contradicts the president’s assertion that he wants to provide insurance for all along with lowering premiums and that he will not exclude that ‘25%’ of Americans who are extremely poor. While the president says he has no problem with the proposed law opposition groups have indicated he is willing to make changes.

The American Healthcare Act will face challenges in the Senate where at least four Republican Senators object to the bill because they believe it will reduce coverage in their states. Constituents will lose coverage because they cannot afford it. Other Senators and some House Members think the Medicaid claw back should happen sooner and the bill as written will be too expensive. We will follow the repeal action over the next weeks.

That aside the big effort in the House is to reign in, or better put, control the process of bringing a class action suit to court. Three bills took up the issue. HR 985 would make it so the party seeking to maintain a class action affirmatively demonstrates that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives. It is not clear if a claim that an unsafe car causing a head injury would allow being joined by a claimant with a knee injury due to the car’s flaw.

HR 720 requires courts to impose appropriate sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties who file frivolous lawsuits and prohibits the ‘safe harbor’ of withdrawing frivolous claims to avoid the problem.

HR 725 repeals a rule that allows trial lawyers to keep their cases in state court if they sue a defendant from another state, as long as they also sue a local defendant in the state of filing.

Senate

The Senate caught up with the House and approved of four resolutions nullifying several federal rules. HJR 37, regarding procurement contracts for goods and services, does not allow consideration of past Labor Department judgements against the contractor; HJR 44 nullifies  requiring developing land use plans in coordination with state, local, tribal governments, and the public as it relates to multiple uses; HJR 58 rolls back the requirement that schools use as indicators of quality that a State must use to assess the performance of its teacher preparation programs, including more meaningful indicators of program inputs and program outcomes; HJR 57 nullifies the rule requiring a State educational agency to hold schools accountable based solely on results on statewide assessments and one other academic indicator and have an accountability system.

Senators also agreed to S 496 to repeal the rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration entitled ``Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform.'

House

The House passed HR 1301 making appropriations for the Department of Defense to the tune of $582.9 billion and did not include the $54 billion increase or the $81 billion increase asked for by Trump and the Pentagon, respectively.

In other action the House agreed to HR 1117 and HR 1214 to provide consistent guidance to applicants on FEMA disaster funding procedures and requiring FEMA to begin a program of using simplified procedures for the issuance of public assistance, respectively. Along that line is HR 654 to carry out a plan to purchase and install an earthquake early warning system for the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work Monday, March 13th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening, March 16th.

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