115th Congress – Federal Update

August Recess Begins
Summer vacation began in Washington on Friday. President Donald Trump left for two weeks in Bedminster, New Jersey, joining the just-departed Senate and House of Representatives for an August recess.

Before leaving, the Senate moved to block President Trump from making key appointments during its summer recess, then wrapped up action until September by confirming dozens of presidential nominees.  The Senate will hold nine “pro forma” sessions during its August recess, which would prevent the president from replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and officials in other positions without confirmation.

The confirmation of nominees -- particularly a series of deputy secretaries -- clears the deck for lawmakers to tend to other matters when they return Sept. 5, including work on critical bills to cover federal spending, flood insurance programs and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as a plan to avoid defaulting on federal debt. Current federal government funds expire Sept. 30. 

ABC Priority Issues
POTUS ACTIVITY
• On Aug. 1, President Trump Welcomed ABC Small Business Leaders to a White House event highlighting small businesses titled, “The Engine of the American Dream.”

• June 15, President Trump issued an executive order on apprenticeships. If fully implemented, the order will allow industries to build innovative workforce development systems that address glaring skills gaps in our workforce.  

• On April 26, the White House rolled out its tax proposal, which aides have billed as “the biggest individual and business tax cut in American history.” 

• On April 4, H.J. Res 83  – Legislation to block implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “Volks” final rule – was signed into law. 

• On March 27, H.J. Res 37  – Legislation that blocks the Obama administration’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order 13673, commonly referred to as “blacklisting” – was signed into law.

• On Feb. 28, President Trump issued an executive order requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and accordingly revise or rescind it through public comment. 

• President Trump signed an executive order that cuts through red tape, requiring every agency to eliminate costly and unnecessary regulations. The executive order establishes mechanisms intended to reduce regulations, including implementing the president’s Jan. 30 Executive Order 13771, which calls for agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new regulation they create.

• On Jan. 30, President Trump signed an executive order that requires regulatory agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new regulation. Specifically, the savings from any two eliminated regulations must offset the cost of each new regulation in order to bring the “total incremental cost of all new regulations” to zero for FY2017.

• On Jan. 23, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum regarding withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement.

• On Jan. 20, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum ordering a regulatory freeze. The memorandum requires agencies to withdraw unpublished regulations and to delay the effective dates of published regulations not yet in effect. 

DOL ACTIVITY
•        On July 26, DOL announced the issuance of a Request for Information for the overtime rule.

•        On July 24, Secretary Acosta formally opened nominations for the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.

• On July 21, Secretary Acosta addressed the need for occupational licensing reform. Also see the Washington Examiner.

• On June 27, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it was proposing to delay the electronic reporting portion of the final rule, “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” from July 1, 2017 to Dec. 1, 2017.

• On June 27, OSHA issued a proposed rule to revoke the ancillary provisions of the Beryllium final rule for the construction and shipyard sectors that OSHA finalized on Jan. 9, 2017.

• On June 12, DOL issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to rescind the “persuader” rule, officially named the “Interpretation of the ‘Advice’ Exemption in Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.” Comments on rescinding the persuader rule, which ABC and its members have opposed since it was first proposed in 2011, are due August 11.

• On April 25, OSHA issued a memorandum withdrawing a letter of interpretation that stated nonunion employees can authorize an individual “affiliated with a union or a community organization” to act as their representative during agency-sanctioned inspections and other enforcement situations. Since the 2013 letter of interpretation has been withdrawn, the policy reverts to the statutory language expressed in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.  

• On April 6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) delayed enforcement of silica rule as it applies to the construction industry until September 23, 2017.

• On Jan. 9, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule on beryllium exposure. The construction industry is included in the final rule; this was expanded from the proposed rule, which focused on general industry. 

SENATE ACTIVITY
• On Aug. 2, the Senate confirmed Marvin Kaplan to be a Member of the NLRB. ABC counted this vote as a KEY VOTE for our 115th Congressional Scorecard.

• On Aug. 2, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions reported out the nominations of Heather MacDougall and James Sullivan to be members of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 

• On July 19, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) approved the nominations of Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). 

• On April 27, the U.S. Senate confirmed R. Alexander Acosta as secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

• On April 10, Judge Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after being confirmed by a vote of 54 – 45 in the U.S. Senate. ABC counted this vote as a KEY VOTE for our 115th Congressional Scorecard.

• On Feb. 7 the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. 


HOUSE ACTIVITY
•       On July 26, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held the hearing “Expanding Options for Employers and Workers Through Earn-and-Learn Opportunities,” with ABC witness Michael Bennett, vice president of the Cianbro Cos., Pittsfield, Maine.

•        On July 12, the House Education and Workforce Committee held the hearing “Redefining Joint Employer Standards: Barriers to Job Creation and Entrepreneurship.”

•        On July 12, the House Committee on Appropriations released the FY2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill. 
• On June 22, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, H.R.2353, passed the House. 

• The House of Representatives voted down Rep. Paul Gosar’s amendment, reforming Davis-Bacon calculations, to  the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 183-242.  (H. Amdt. 180 H.R. 2810 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

• On June 15, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held the hearing “Helping Americans Get Back to Work: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”

• On June 14, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held the hearing “Legislative Reforms to the National Labor Relations Act: H.R. 2776, Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act; H.R. 2775, Employee Privacy Protection Act; and, H.R. 2723, Employee Rights Act.”

• On May 4, the American Health Care Act of 2017, H.R. 1628, a bill to partially repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, passed the House.

• On May 2, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, H.R.1180, passed the House.

• On Feb. 16, the Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017, H.R.1101, a bill that amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to provide for the establishment and governance of association health plans (AHPs), passed the House.