Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By | January 12, 2017

115th Congress Convenes; Senate Introduces Budget Resolution Preserving 2017 Spending Cap; Trump Budget Expected in the Spring; House and Senate Committees Welcome New Members

On January 3, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) presided over the opening of the 115th Congress, welcoming more than 60 new legislators to Capitol Hill. Reflecting their desire to ensure a smooth transition, Senate leaders immediately scheduled confirmation hearings for a half-dozen of President Elect Trump’s cabinet nominees and attempted to pave the way to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Of particular interest to the research community, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee  is scheduled to meet on January 18 to consider Representative Tom Price’s (R-GA) nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). As head of HHS, Price would oversee the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The HELP session will be a “courtesy hearing” as the Senate Finance Committee is designated to vote on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate Finance Committee has not announced a hearing date yet.

In legislative news, Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY) released a fiscal year (FY) 2017 Budget Resolution (S Con Resolution 3). The Senate passed the Budget Resolution by a vote of 51-48 on January 12. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the House could vote on the Budget Resolution shortly as well.

Although the primary purpose of the budget resolution is to expedite repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it will also impact decisions on 2017 spending. The Senate’s Budget Resolution maintains the existing 2017 spending cap over the objections of fiscal conservatives who wanted to lower it to force additional cuts. Reducing the spending cap would jeopardize a $2 billion increase for NIH and additional funding for agriculture research that were proposed in the appropriations bills this past summer.

Because Congress did not pass these spending measures, federal agencies are currently operating under a “continuing resolution” (CR) until April 28.  Sometime before that date, legislators will have to pass another CR or complete work on an omnibus package finalizing the pending 2017 appropriations measures. Congressional leaders have yet to determine which option to pursue, and additional discussions are unlikely to take place until March.

During the next few months, Congress will also have to focus on the FY 2018 budget. House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) told reporters that, based on a recent conversation he had with Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who has been nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget, the incoming Trump administration will submit a formal budget request to Capitol Hill later this spring.

Announcements about the organization of the House and Senate Committees were also made during the first week of the new Congress. Committee rosters for Republicans and  Democrats in the Senate are available online. Several Senate committees with jurisdiction over priority issues for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology welcomed new members including:

Senate Agriculture

  • Jeff Sessions* (R-AL)
  • Steve Daines (R-MT)
  • Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Senate Appropriations

  • John Kennedy (R-LA)
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL)
  • Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

 Senate Budget

  • Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • John Kennedy (R-LA)
  • John Boozman (R-AR)
  • Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
  • Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation

  • James Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • Todd Young (R-IN)
  • Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
  • Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
  • Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

  • Todd Young (IN)
  • Tim Kaine (D-VA)
  • Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

*Pending confirmation as Attorney General
Italic text denotes freshmen senators

Fresh faces on related House committees include:

House Agriculture

  • Jodey Arrington (R-TX)
  • Don Bacon (R-NE)
  • James Comer (R-KY)
  • Neal Dunn (R-FL)
  • John Faso (R-NY)
  • Roger Marshall (R-KY)
  • Dwight Evans (D-PA)
  • Al Lawson (D-FL)
  • Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ)
  • Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)
  • Darren Soto (D-FL)

 House Appropriations

  • John Moolenaar (R-MI)
  • Dan Newhouse (R-WA)
  • Scott Taylor (R-VA)
  • Peter Aguilar (D-CA)
  • Katherine Clark (D-MA)
  • Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Mark Pocan (D-WI)

House Budget

  • Jason Lewis (R-MN)
  • Jack Bergman (R-MI)
  • John Faso (R-NY)
  • Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)
  • Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
  • Jodey Arrington (R-TX)
  • Drew Ferguson (R-GA)
  • Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
  • Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
  • Brian Higgins (D-NY)

 House Energy and Commerce

  • Mimi Walters (R-CA)
  • Ryan Costello (R-PA)
  • Tim Walberg (R-MI)
  • Buddy Carter (R-GA)
  • Raul Ruiz (D-CA)
  • Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
  • Scott Peters (D-CA)

Italic text denotes freshmen representatives