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Daily Policy Note for July 31, 2014

RPC News

H.R. 3230 – Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act: The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, is a result of a conference committee reconciling the differences between the House and Senate bills on this matter. It came out of conference committee without objection. The House passed it by a vote of 420-5.


GOP Committee News

Environment: REPORT: The Chain of Environmental Command: U.S Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans released a report today highlighting the collusion between environmental activists, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and billionaires using large sums of money to influence environmental public policy.

Finance: Timeline of IRS Communications with Congress: IRS sends Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch a letter which states that Lois Lerner’s computer crashed in mid-2011 and that emails and other information stored on the computer hard drive was lost and is not recoverable.   The letter does not mention that any other IRS employees may have lost data relevant to the Committee’s investigation.

Finance: Hatch Statement on CBO Part D Report: U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, issued the following statement on CBO’s Part D Report entitled, Competition and the Cost of Medicare’s Prescription Drug Program, which outlines the reasons why the program has cost less than expected


Today’s Headlines

Wall Street journal; House, Senate Scramble to End Impasse Over Highway Bill: House Republican leaders pushed ahead with their preferred plan on federal highway spending, setting up a Thursday vote designed to force the Senate to accept a $10.8 billion measure funding highway projects through May 2015.

New York Times: Senate Opens Debate on Bill to Halt Surge of Migrants: Senate Democrats opened debate Wednesday on an emergency measure to help stem the flood of young migrants from Central America, though they still face two uphill votes — another procedural, and one of final passage — before they can head home for the five-week August recess having passed legislation to address the crisis at the southern border.

Politico: Mark Begich blasts Harry Reid on amendments: Democratic Sen. Mark Begich publicly blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday afternoon for limiting the Senate’s amendment consideration. The Alaskan on Wednesday voted against advancing a Reid-backed bill aimed at cracking down on companies that exploit tax loopholes to outsource jobs. Begich supports that bill, but he expressed frustration with Reid for maneuvering to stymie amendment votes — the type of disagreement that’s usually kept private between members of the same party.

Roll Call: Hatch: Restore the Senate: Something has gone terribly wrong when the American people have a less favorable impression of Congress than Brussels sprouts, root canals, and used car salesmen. Most people today believe the Senate in particular has become completely dysfunctional. And in many ways it has. I’ve served in the Senate for nearly 38 years, and I have never seen it this bad.

USA Today: Sen. Coburn: Don't reward VA for failing: Too many men and women who bravely fought for our freedom are losing their lives, not at the hands of enemy combatants, but from neglect by the very government agency established to take care of them.


Second Opinion

Reuters: Federal Obamacare market still faces cost overruns, delays: watchdog: Ten months after the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, Obamacare's federal health insurance exchange is still dogged by cost overruns and technology delays that could hamper enrollment when it resumes in November, a U.S. watchdog said.

CNN: Healthcare.gov cost $840 million, study finds:  The cost of developing the initially-troubled website Healthcare.Gov ballooned to $840 million due to poor planning and management by the federal government, a government audit found.


New Polling Numbers

Washington Post: Immigration is now President Obama’s worst issue: Immigration has emerged as perhaps President Obama's worst issue -- definitely for today, and maybe of his entire presidency -- when it comes to public perception.


Economic News

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Jobless Claims Rise by 23,000:  The number of U.S. workers claiming unemployment aid rose last week after sinking to a 14-year low earlier in the month. Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 302,000 in the week ended July 26, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Wall Street Journal: Growth Rebound Stokes Fed Debate: U.S. gross domestic product, a broad measure of the nation's output of goods and services, advanced at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.0% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, a significant rebound from a wintry 2.1% contraction during the first three months of the year.


Red Tape Review

The Hill: Obama overhauls federal contracting rules: President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday aimed at improving workplace conditions for employees of federal contractors by pushing companies with shoddy records out of the government procurement process.


Tweets

@SenTedCruz: The Export-Import Bank wasn't a good idea in 1934, and it isn't a good idea in 2014, either: http://www.cruz.senate.gov/?p=blog&id=1637

@SenJohnMcCain: Must-read Wash Post: "A wounded Putin - The West should be prepared for #Russian leader to further escalate tensions" http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-w


Floor Schedule for Thursday July 31, 2014

Today, the Senate is in session.

The Senate will next convene at 9:30 a.m., following the Leaders’ remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 2648, the Border Supplemental Appropriations bill, post-cloture.  The time until 10:00 a.m. will be equally divided between the Leaders or their designees.  The time from 10:00-11:00 a.m. will be under the control of Senator Sessions.  The time from 11:00 a.m.-noon will be under Majority control.

Senators will be notified when VOTES are scheduled.


Key House Action

Today, the House is in session.

VA Access & Accountability Bill One Step Closer to the President’s Desk: “Allowing the lives of our nation’s veterans to slip through the cracks of a broken bureaucracy is not just unacceptable, it’s immoral.  Making sure veterans have timely access to care is one of the first things we must do to address the crisis at the VA.  We also need real accountability, and making it easier to fire or demote the senior managers who are not doing their jobs is a positive step forward.  But, this agreement is just the beginning.  Much more work needs to be done to fix the widespread problems at the VA, and it’s going to require the president to outline a long-term plan for systemic VA reform.”