Recently in Washington
On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act, by a vote of 238 to 184. The bill protects taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse by verifying a person’s eligibility before they can receive financial support to purchase insurance, either through Obamacare’s subsidies or with the American Health Care Act’s monthly tax credits, when they take effect. The House also passed S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, by a vote of 368 to 55. The bill creates a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct with a concrete shortened timeline, while still protecting employees’ due process rights, and would provide them with the right to appeal the action.
On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 2372, the VETERAN Act, by voice vote. The bill codifies the Internal Revenue Service’s current practice of providing eligible veterans the choice to get financial support for a private plan in lieu of enrolling in health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House also passed H.R. 2579, the Broader Options for Americans Act, by a vote of 267 to 144. The bill expands access to the new tax credit under the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) to COBRA continuation coverage and similarly situated church plans for which an individual pays the entire premium. Finally, the House passed H. Res. 385, a resolution expressing gratitude for the heroic actions of the United States Capitol Police and other first responders in the attack on Members of Congress on June 14, 2017, and expressing hope for a full recovery for the injured, by voice vote.
At 1:00 p.m., Chairman Simpson will host a House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing regarding the Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request.
MONDAY, JUNE 19TH
On Monday, no votes are expected in the House.
TUESDAY, JUNE 20TH
On Tuesday, the House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 2847 - Improving Services for Older Youth in Foster Care Act (Sponsored by Rep. John Faso / Ways and Means Committee)
2) H.R. 2866 - Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Smucker / Ways and Means Committee)
3) H.R. 1551 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the credit for production from advanced nuclear power facilities (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Rice / Ways and Means Committee)
4) H.R. 2742 - Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jackie Walorski / Ways and Means Committee)
5) H.R. 2834 - Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Danny Davis / Ways and Means Committee)
6) H.R. 2857 - Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem / Ways and Means Committee)
7) H.R. 2484 - Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem / Foreign Affairs Committee)
8) H.R. 2132 - Traveler Redress Improvement Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)
9) H.R. 625 - REPORT Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Pete Aguilar / Homeland Security Committee)
10) H.R. 2131 - DHS FIRM Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins / Homeland Security Committee)
11) H.R. 2283 - DHS MORALE Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)
12) H.R. 1282 - DHS Acquisition Review Board Act of 2017, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Garrett / Homeland Security Committee)
13) H.R. 2190 - Streamlining DHS Overhead Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford / Homeland Security Committee)
14) H.R. 1393 - Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2017 (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Bishop / Judiciary Committee)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21ST
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
H.R. 1873 - Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa / Natural Resources Committee)
THURSDAY, JUNE 22ND
On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 2353 - Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Sponsored by Rep. Glenn Thompson / Education and the Workforce Committee)
H.R. 1654 - Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock / Natural Resources Committee)
FRIDAY, JUNE 23RD
On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.
H.R. 2842 - Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo / Ways and Means Committee)
In the News
In Our View: Put Out ‘Fire Borrowing’
Bill that mandates dedicated funds for fighting wildfires smart, badly needed
The Columbian, June 19, 2017
Predicting the severity of wildfire season in the Northwest is a lot like predicting the weather in March — you can make an educated guess using the best possible science, but you might be wrong.
So, while experts cross their fingers and forecast a relatively mild wildfire season for the upcoming summer, it is time to again examine the failure of the federal government to effectively approach the prevention and suppression of blazes that are ecologically and economically damaging. A bill recently re-introduced in Congress does exactly that.
Introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would put an end to federal policy that amounts to throwing good money after bad. The bill, which is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 16 representatives, targets the practice of “fire borrowing” in the suppression of wildfires.
In short, the approach forces federal agencies to redirect money from other areas — namely, forest management and fire prevention — when the cost of fighting fires exceeds expectations. This leaves less money for prevention, which exacerbates the fires in future years.
It is a foolish cycle. Failing to properly manage forests and reduce the fuel for fires leads to more intense fires and increased costs down the road. “It is time to acknowledge that catastrophic wildfires should be funded like natural disasters so we can ensure that land managers have the resources they need to properly manage our forests,” Simpson said.
In 1995, wildfire costs accounted for 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget; by 2016, those costs burned up 56 percent of the Forest Service budget. Part of the reason for that is the increased size and intensity of fires because of climate change and tinder-dry forests; but part of it is a lack of preventative measures because money to manage forests has been spent on fire suppression.
This problem is not a new one. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2015, where it attracted more than 150 co-sponsors but failed to make it out of committee. As The Columbian wrote editorially at the time: “The use of stop-gap, backfill measures to pay for wildfires after the fact is not sustainable — at either the state or the federal level. It is time for officials to embrace the reality of a changing climate and choose one of two courses of action: Stop fighting fires in wilderness areas, or provide permanent funding for fighting them.”
There is a school of thought that says the government should avoid suppressing fires until those fires endanger lives or buildings, that fires are part of nature. Many experts agree with these assertions, while others emphasize that allowing fires to burn would lead to costly destruction of ecosystems and habitat.
Either way, the costs are rising. In 2014, Washington experienced the most devastating wildfire season in its history — a record that lasted exactly one year. In 2015, more than 1 million acres in the state burned, more than 300 homes were destroyed, and three firefighters were killed. A total of $347 million in federal, state, and local money was spent fighting those blazes.
Such expenses call for dedicated funding rather than a system that moves money around and leads to greater costs down the road. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would be a wise step toward acknowledging an immutable fact of governance: We can pay for it now, or pay more for it later.