House Republican leaders, looking to jump-start Donald Trump’s presidency, have already begun to map out an ambitious agenda for early next year. On the early to do-list, according to leadership insiders: repealing a host of late-issued Obama administration regulations, muscling through tax reform and dismantling Obamacare.
House members and staffers can say goodbye to their three-day weekends and lengthy recesses — at least for a while. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s currently devising the 2017 House schedule, is likely to keep lawmakers in D.C. on Mondays and Fridays, a stark departure from the three-day weeks that have become routine in the chamber.
McCarthy compared his draft calendar to the intense legislative schedule House Republicans kept in 1994, when they took the majority and passed a slate of bills to make good on the GOP’s “Contract With America” campaign manifesto.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the pace as we’ve known it — at least for the six years I’ve been here — is about to change pretty dramatically,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a whip for leadership. “There is a lot of pent-up desire on the part of House Republicans to get things done. Our sleeves are rolled up.”
Weeks before the 115th Congress even begins, House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a major push to repeal President Barack Obama’s most recent regulations, using the Congressional Review Act. The 1996 law allows the House to reverse regulations enacted within the previous 60 legislative days — and the Senate to pass a repeal by simple majority instead of the upper chamber’s typical 60-vote threshold.
While Obama is still president, the Republican controlled-Congress has no chance of repealing his regulations. But once Trump is inaugurated, that all changes.
Another boon for the right: The 1996 law is written such that the 60-legislative-day clock resets at the beginning of each Congress for all rules enacted in the 60 legislative days prior to the final day of congressional adjournment. That will give Congress months longer to tear up regulations issued late this year.
That’s why leaders are already seeking to leave town early in December, essentially stopping the clock and enabling themselves to repeal as many 2016 rules and regulations as possible. Many believe the chamber will be gone no later than Dec. 9.
House Republicans are currently in the process of making lists of regulations that fall within their time frame and could potentially be repealed early next year. One of the major ones they’re eyeing is Obama’s overtime rule that requires companies to pay time-and-a-half to employees who make under roughly $47,000.
The rule is set to go into effect Dec. 1 and will be a top priority for Republicans to reverse, multiple sources said.
“We have heard over the past year that it would have truly dramatically bad effects, not just on employers but on employees across the country,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), a former labor lawyer. He said the University of Alabama expects the rule will cost the institution $14 million a year, which will likely be passed on to students via higher tuition.
And “I can give you the names of a ton of private-sector businesses who will either have to eat that cost or pass that cost on to their customers,” Byrne said.
Leadership has also embraced a proposal by Rep. Darrell Issa to allow Congress to repeal a host of regulations at once, rather than one at a time, as under current law. The House passed the California Republican’s bill on Thursday, and Issa, in an interview Friday, said lawmakers will approve it again once Trump is president.
Some rank-and-file members, including Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and select members of the House Freedom Caucus, have already started compiling lists of 100 rules they’d like to ax in the first 100 days. That’s likely to be an uphill battle, however. Many of their priorities fall outside of the 60-day-window in the CRA, meaning Senate Democrats would need to sign off.
A GOP wish list shared with POLITICO includes a repeal of Obama’s order to stay deportation of undocumented immigrant parents whose children were born in the U.S., and Labor Department fiduciary rules that expand conflict-of-interest requirements to financial professionals.
House Republicans are also sketching out a plan to possibly pass two budgets in the first half of the year — though some leadership sources cautioned that nothing has been set in stone. Doing so would allow GOP lawmakers to unlock a fast-pass procedure called reconciliation, which in turn would enable them to dismantle Obamacare and potentially even pass tax reform on likely party-line votes.
Conservatives last year blocked Speaker Paul Ryan from passing a fiscal 2017 budget because they wanted to cut additional spending. But that holdup is now allowing Republicans to have two bites at the apple on reconciliation next year.
While they’ll already be three months into fiscal 2017, congressional Republicans are looking to pass a fiscal 2017 budget, potentially right away in January. That’s likely to include instructions to repeal Obamacare, a top priority for the right.
Republicans are intent on having a health care law replacement ready to avoid the chaos that could be caused by leaving millions of Americans without insurance or the means to pay for it.
Later in the spring, Republicans will craft a fiscal 2018 budget for the following year. And sources say that blueprint could include tax reform instructions.
The Trump administration has signaled that tax reform will be among its first priorities. Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, in fact, is already in touch with Trump’s transition team to sync up the president-elect’s tax proposal with one the Texas Republican has crafted.
There are still questions, however, about how to do it. Brady has said he prefers a tax package that could pass with bipartisan support, eliminating the need to use reconciliation. That would be an advantage, sources say, because the fast-track procedure restricts which tax policies can be reformed.
But should Democrats block their tax plan, Republicans say they could fall back on reconciliation to jam it through Congress.
Marianne Levine contributed to this report.
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