Washington Update for the Week Ending June 16, 2017

scaliseNCPA’s legislative director Brian Williams updates us from Washington, D.C.

Rep. Steve Scalise. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remains hospitalized in critical condition after suffering from a gunshot wound during an attack at a congressional baseball practice this week. Rep. Scalise and several other Republican members of Congress were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game, a tradition going back to 1909. NCPA Executive Director Allen West expressed our support for Rep. Scalise and we wish him and the other victims a speedy and complete recovery. We also denounce the violent political rhetoric and vitriol that is increasingly invading the public square.  Think tanks like NCPA play an important part in the debate about public policy.  We participate in a civil discourse that allows an open expression of opposing ideas and we encourage everyone to do the same.  Debate about ideas, even fierce debate about public policy, should dominate in Washington, D.C., and in the Halls of Congress.  Violence only serves to destroy the public discourse.  And if you’re wondering, the Democrats won last night’s baseball game.

Health reform. As you might guess, work in the House of Representatives stalled because of the attack on Rep. Scalise.  In spite of the tumultuous week, the House voted 238-184 to ensure the verification of eligibility for people on Obamacare. The White House has expressed support for the legislation. It is unclear when the Senate will consider the Verify First Act.

International sanctions. The Senate voted 98-2 to impose new sanctions against Russia and Iran.

Russia investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, denying allegations that he was involved in the increasingly empty accusations of collusion with the Russians to influence the recent presidential election. The assistant attorney general was also on the Hill this week, but didn’t answer any questions about the investigation and said he doesn’t plan to fire the special counsel hired to investigate the matter. Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting the Justice Department investigation outside the public spotlight.  The general consensus among Republicans is to “let Robert Mueller do his job.”

Emoluments Clause. In a dream come true for dozens of Constitutional law professors scattered around the nation, the Emoluments Clause captured some attention in the media this week. The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit claiming that Trump Hotel profits “flagrantly violate” the Emoluments Clause. Almost 200 Congressional Democrats filed a similar lawsuit against the President. Stay tuned for some riveting courtroom drama on that issue!

Interest rates. The Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate to between 1.0% and 1.25%, demonstrating some confidence in the growing economy.

Travel ban. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the President’s executive order that bans travel from six countries that cannot guarantee the prevention of terrorists coming to the United States. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a similar ruling last month.  The judges claim that the President doesn’t have a genuine rationale for banning the travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

 

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