This might be the only update this week too, just because there's nothing really going on in Congress at the moment.
The president keeps threatening to change the ACA through executive order "soon", so here's some insight on what that could do. It'll mostly be a series of rule-lifting, but could be very harmful to states.
1. The order will instruct the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury to take steps to "make it easier for people to band together and buy insurance through 'association health plans'"
These plans would be largely similar to the large employer's health plans offered in the ACA, and they would include a ban on lifetime limits, but they will be absent other regulations, including the requirement that health plans cover certain benefits.
2. The order will also instruct agencies to start winding back the Obama-era rule curbing "short-term medical insurance", and will allow people to buy those plans for up to a year.
3. The order will also instruct agencies to expand health reimbursement accounts, which are the employer-funded arrangements that employees can use to pay out-of-pocket medical costs and premiums.
4. Part of his instructions to the Labor Department will include a directive to encourage the sale of insurance across state lines using something called "association health plans". This order in particular could face legal challenges.
In addition to all of this, the president signaled over the weekend that he was in talks with Democrats about market-stabilization efforts. Not sure what this means yet, and it could have just been said to rile up the GOP caucus.
Here is a good WSJ article detailing the order: https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/trump-to-sign-order-to-expand-health-insurance-options-for-self-insured-1507410483
And a Vox article providing a more left-leaning bias: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/8/16439492/trump-obamacare-association-health-plans
We are expected to take the Senate Budget Resolution that passed committee to the floor next week for vote-a-rama. This is expected to happen Thursday, but there's nothing set in stone yet. We'll know more next Monday when we go back into session.
The House will vote next week on another Puerto Rico aid package, which may end up creeping its way into the Senate sooner rather than later, but I rather expect it will end up in the larger funding package that we have to pass before December 8. Just as an FYI: the Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, and it doesn't appear that the Administration has any inclination to re-waive it. This is making commodities in Puerto Rico very expensive. It might, however, spur legislative action to pass the McCain bill to repeal the Jones Act entirely.
More emergency aid money will be needed for Puerto Rico, and now also northern California.
This is bad...
McConnell has taken a couple of seemingly minor steps to make sure this conservative Administration gets its picks for judicial slots all over the country. Keep in mind, McConnell was instrumental during the Obama Administration in preventing judicial nominees from making the bench. There was a backlog of hundreds of nominees, whose nominations just fizzled into history with the changing of Administrations. Here's what he's doing:
- Judicial nominations and confirmation have been elevated to a top priority in the Senate. This means that judges will be brought to the floor faster than other nominees in other departments and agencies.
- He has eliminated blue slips, which had previously been respected as the minority party's channel to express concern with any given nominee. The GOP abused this tactic during the Obama Administration when they were in the minority, but Senator Leahy, who was at the time chairman of the Judiciary Committee, allowed the slips to be used.
- The 30-hour rule, which allows for 30 hours of debate on nominees, will be "set aside" for debate on judicial nominees. He's not going to repeal the rule, but he's going to more or less disregard it.
There are 166 judicial vacancies across the country, and with fears that the GOP might lose the Senate majority in 2018 (still very, very unlikely), they want to jam through nominees this Congress.
My suggestion is to read up on the pending nominees (http://judicialnominations.org/pending-nominees) and call your Senators if you find any that you find particularly unsavory. I will try to keep you posted on the EXTRA bad ones.