Here’s a summary of the quiet week in Washington from NCPA’s legislative director Brian Williams:
- President Obama reduced the sentences of 102 inmates, mostly drug dealers, bringing the total number of presidential clemencies up to 774 during the Obama presidency.
- President Obama praised the Paris climate deal this week, which takes effect in November in spite of no Senate ratification. This was the moment, apparently, “when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Congressional Republicans view the Paris climate deal as an “unlawful” and unconstitutional action.
- Although Congress is in recess, that doesn’t prevent some jockeying for leadership positions. Overall leadership elections (Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, and so forth) will happen in November. Committee chairmanships and membership decisions will probably happen after the lame duck session.
- House and Senate leaders are already planning a budget reconciliation package for next year. If the GOP retains the majority in Congress, the budget reconciliation process will allow Republicans to pass all sorts of legislation (health reform, tax reform, entitlement reform) without worrying about the Senate filibuster. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election, he would presumably sign the legislation.
- There is a “distinct possibility” that the Senate will end up in a 50/50 split after the November election. If that’s the case, the President of the Senate will occupy a much more important position as the tie-breaking vote. Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “The Vice President of the United States shall be the President of the Senate, but shall have not Vote, unless they be equally divided.”
- Breaking news: Only 156,000 jobs were added to the economy in September. The unemployment rate rose to 5%. As job growth continues to flounder, the case for an interest rate hike weakens.
- In a moment of candor, former President Bill Clinton characterized Obamacare as the “craziest thing in the world,” which was his way of describing increasing premiums increase and decreasing health insurance coverage. The former president is right: With fewer insurance options to choose from, and not enough millennials participating, the health insurance industry is flirting with a death spiral. This is why your premiums are rising and your insurance coverage is decreasing. NCPA experts predicted this in 2013. Meanwhile, President Obama granted a special exemption in 2013 that allows Congress to receive health insurance subsidies that normally aren’t available for comparable private sector businesses. At the time, even the liberal media was outraged.
- Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Florida and elsewhere in Hurricane Matthew’s path.