David Bernhardt sworn in as Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department

David Bernhardt sworn in as Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department

On Tuesday, August 1st, David Bernhardt was sworn in as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior (Department) by Secretary Ryan Zinke. Bernhardt was confirmed by a Senate vote of 53 to 43 on July 24th. He previously served as Director of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs and later as Solicitor at the Department during the George W. Bush Administration. He also was a counselor and policy adviser to former Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Secretary Zinke said, “I’m excited to have David Bernhardt here to help me lead the Department of the Interior.” At the moment, Zinke and Bernhardt are the only two officials confirmed by the Senate at the Department. The Department is responsible for upholding trust responsibilities between the federal government and tribal nations.

White House Announces Department of the Interior Solicitor Nominee

White House Announces Department of the Interior Solicitor Nominee

On Monday, July 31st, the White House announced the President’s intent to nominate Idaho attorney Ryan Nelson to serve as the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior (DOI or Department). The DOI Solicitor plays a significant role in determining the Department’s legal positions on litigation and federal laws that impact the federal government’s treaty and trust obligations to Indian Country. The nomination will be referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which will likely schedule a hearing on the nomination in September.

A link to the White House press release is included here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/07/31/president-donald-j-trump-announces-intent-nominate-personnel-key.

Senate Rejects the “Skinny Repeal” of the Affordable Care Act by a Vote of 49-51

Senate Rejects the “Skinny Repeal” of the Affordable Care Act by a Vote of 49-51

In the early hours of Friday morning on July 28th, the Senate voted against the “Skinny Repeal” measure, which was a scaled down repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by a vote of 49-51 ending attempts to repeal the ACA for now. Three Republican Senators voted against the bill, which included: Senator Susan Collins (ME), Senator John McCain (AZ), and Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK). While Senators Collins and Murkowski were expected to vote against the bill, Senator McCain’s vote against the bill was not entirely expected. McCain made a dramatic return to the Senate to vote for the motion to proceed to debate on the bill earlier in that week. As the Senate held the vote open for more than an hour, both Vice President Pence and President Trump tried to convince Senator McCain to change his vote to yes, but he refused to vote for the measure. In response to questions about why he voted against the bill, Senator McCain simply said, “I thought it was the right vote, I do my job as a Senator.”

After failing to pass different versions of an ACA repeal including the BCRA (repeal and replace) and the ORRA (repeal and delay), Senate Republican Leadership had crafted what they called a “Skinny Repeal” that would have repealed the individual mandate, repealed the employer mandate for 8 years, provided additional flexibility to state’s on implementing ACA regulations, defund Planned Parenthood and provide that funding to community health centers, repeal the medical device tax for 3 years, increase contribution limits to Health Savings Accounts, and eliminate the Center for Disease Control’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The “Skinny Repeal” was an attempt to find a bill that would be able to pass the Senate and enable the Senate and House to set up a Conference Committee to write a new ACA repeal bill. Many Republican Senators only supported the bill after assurances from the Speaker of the House that they would engage in a Conference Committee and not just take up the Senate bill in the House.