No More Pencils, No More Books. Congress is out for summer. After confirming a slew of executive and judicial branch nominees yesterday, the Senate adjourned for August recess yesterday evening. Both the Senate and House (which was already on recess) will be out until September 5. Significantly, the Senate will gavel-in for pro forma sessions every few days, which, pursuant to the Supreme Court decision in Noel Canning, will prevent President Trump from making any recess appointments.
Bipartisanship in Health Care Reform? Now That’s a Novel Idea. Like aftershocks following an earthquake, there have been rumblings in the wake of last week’s dramatic failure of the Senate to pass Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal-and-replace legislation. Among such rumblings are apparent bipartisan attempts to address threatened ACA subsidies and to help shore up the current ACA insurance market. These efforts are largely being headed by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who announced that they intend to hold bipartisan hearings in September. It is expected that much of the debate will focus on cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), the funding of which is currently uncertain. Separately, Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) have also expressed a willingness to invite Democrats to join in a similar effort. Whether a true Kumbaya moment will materialize remains to be seen. Further complicating matters, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on Tuesday that state attorneys general can legally defend their states’ CSRs in court—a decision that could make it harder for the Trump administration to unilaterally put an end to current funding levels for such CSRs. In light of the president’s thinly-veiled threat to cut CSR funding and thereby allow the ACA to “implode,” the decision could be significant; although the presidential threat could nonetheless complicate implementation of any bipartisan bill that might emerge. In the meantime, there are other important matters in the works—nominations, tax reform, raising the debt ceiling, government funding—and the clock continues to tick, tick, tick. (Hat tip to Stephanie A. Smithey and Timothy G. Verrall.)
New NLRB Member. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Marvin Kaplan as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Kaplan, whose confirmation was on a strict party-line vote of 50 to 48, will join fellow Republican and Chair, Philip A. Miscimarra, as well as Democrats Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren M. McFerran. A vote on President Trump’s other NLRB nominee, William Emanuel, has yet to be scheduled (though some media outlets are reporting that a vote on Emanuel won’t occur until at least September). With Kaplan in place, the Board will be deadlocked 2–to–2, meaning that major reversals of Obama-era NLRB policies will likely have to await Emanuel’s arrival. Meanwhile, the Board continues to issue interesting decisions.
New EEOC Nominee. On Wednesday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Daniel M. Gade of North Dakota to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Gade was nominated for Commissioner Constance Barker’s seat—a term that will expire on July 1, 2021. Gade is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and holds an M.P.A. and Ph.D. in public administration and policy from the University of Georgia. Gade led platoons in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and was wounded twice—resulting in the loss of his right leg. Interestingly, Gade is an outspoken critic of the payment of disability benefits to wounded veterans, claiming that they create a disincentive for wounded veterans to achieve self-sufficiency. More on Gade here. You may recall that President Trump has also nominated Janet Dhillon to serve as Chair of the EEOC. At this time, neither Gade nor Dhillon have their confirmation hearings scheduled.
New OSHRC Commissioners. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Heather MacDougall (recently the acting chair of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC)) and James Sullivan (an attorney who recently co-chaired the Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s labor law section) to the OSHRC. They will join Cynthia L. Attwood on the Commission.
Immigration Legislation. Seven months into the administration, much of the discussion around immigration policy has focused on executive orders and potential regulations. That changed on Wednesday, when Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), alongside President Trump, introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act. Elizabeth Marie Henderson has the details. Sponsors of the RAISE Act claim that by attracting high-skilled immigrants and reducing the supply of lower-skilled immigrants, the bill will make the U.S. economy more competitive and raise the wages (get it?) of current U.S. workers. Opponents of the bill disagree, arguing that reducing immigration will not lead to economic prosperity. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate but could play a role in future policy debates on immigration.
Hot Air in the White House (Literally). Although President Trump recently described the White House as a “real dump,” he can’t complain about one amenity that more than half of his predecessors did not enjoy: air conditioning (even though it might not be top notch). These days, it’s hard to imagine living and working in Washington, D.C. without air conditioning. But with central A/C not appearing in the White House until 1930, many previous presidents were forced to come up with creative ways to beat the heat in D.C.