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Week Ahead Includes Trump Address, Cabinet Confirmations

Zinke’s departure will mark fourth House GOP vacancy

Zinke is expected to resign from his seat after he is confirmed as Interior secretary, creating a fourth House GOP vacancy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Zinke is expected to resign from his seat after he is confirmed as Interior secretary, creating a fourth House GOP vacancy. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)


President Donald Trump will dominate the attention on Capitol Hill with his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, but lawmakers will also keep moving on confirming his Cabinet nominees and rolling back the previous administration’s regulations.

On Monday, the Senate votes to confirm Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary. Ross, a billionaire investor, was on Trump’s economic advisory council during the presidential campaign. Senators will also vote Monday evening to end debate on Rep. Ryan Zinke’s nomination to be Interior secretary.

The Montana Republican is expected to be confirmed. If Democrats do not agree to move up his confirmation vote, it would occur on Wednesday.

Zinke’s confirmation and subsequent resignation from the House will trigger a special election to fill his at-large seat. According to Montana election law, the election would be held in approximately three months, or between 85 and 100 days after the vacancy occurs.

Zinke is the last of Trump’s Cabinet picks to come from the House. Those selections are leading to a quartet of House GOP vacancies, triggering special elections.

An election to replace Kansas’ Mike Pompeo, the new CIA director, is scheduled for April 11. Georgia voters will vote in an jungle primary on April 18 to replace Tom Price, now Health and Human Services secretary, with the top two vote-getters moving on to a June runoff if no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote. In South Carolina, a special election is scheduled for June 20 to replace Rep. Mick Mulvaney, now director of the Office of Management and Budget. Primaries take place May 2. 

With Zinke’s eventual departure, the GOP will only be down a net of three seats. That’s because Democrats have a vacancy in California’s 34th District, the seat of Xavier Becerra, who resigned last month to become the Golden State’s attorney general; the special election to fill his seat is June 6, with the primary election on April 4.

Still, being short any Republicans is not ideal for House leaders looking to advance legislation through their often-divided conference. Mulvaney, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, did not always vote with leadership, so his departure isn’t as big of a loss as a leadership ally like Price.

After the Senate confirms Zinke, senators will keep making Cabinet moves. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell teed up two more nominees after Zinke: Ben Carson to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run the Energy Department.

Senators are also expected to continue consideration of House-passed measures rolling back, through the Congressional Review Act, regulations instituted during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Among legislation the House will vote on this week is a bill requiring agencies to release specific public information on draft regulations and a CRA measure to repeal a Labor Department rule.

The House is not expected to have a busy legislative floor schedule as most heavy lifting on policy is still occurring behind the scenes.

Republican committee chairs are working with leadership to prepare a budget, legislation to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, and a tax overhaul.

The text of the reconciliation measure to repeal the health care law combined with some elements of a replacement plan GOP leaders recently outlined  — refundable tax credits to help the uninsured purchase coverage, health savings account expansions, and a Medicaid component — could be released soon.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the text would come after the recess but would not commit to a time, noting that lawmakers were waiting for cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

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