Next week: Gutting the individual mandate, round two

House Republicans will try again to undermine ObamaCare's individual mandate, just weeks before most Americans will be required by law to have health insurance.

This week, the House approved a bill to zero out the penalties for failing to comply with the mandate. They got 27 Democrats to agree, but the bill is dead in the Senate.

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Next week, the GOP will increase the pressure on Democrats by passing a multi-year delay in the individual mandate, as part of a bill that would also fix the payment rate to Medicare doctors.

The so-called "doc fix" is an annual ritual of Congress — an attempt to avoid scheduled cuts in physician payment rates. It's usually seen as "must-do" legislation — passing it with language delaying the individual mandate is an attempt by Republicans to gain leverage in the ObamaCare debate that has so far eluded them.

Republicans will also pass two bills that attack what they say are President Obama's frequent decisions to flout the will of Congress. The GOP has cited Obama's several unilateral decisions to delay ObamaCare, and his decision to prioritize the deportation of illegal immigrants as prime examples.

One of the bills would let the House or Senate authorize legal action against an administration decision to ignore the will of Congress. The other would require federal agencies to report to Congress whenever a decision is made to ignore U.S. law.

The Senate also returns, and will finish work on a bill boosting protections for victims of sexual assault in the military.

This week, the Senate rejected a tougher version of a bill that would have moved assault cases outside the chain of command in the military. That set up a Monday vote on a less controversial bill that would make eliminate the ability to cite a soldier's good record while defending against assault charges, and lets people challenge their discharges from the military.

After that, the Senate will spend more time slogging through Executive Branch nominations. Democrats' use of the "nuclear option" lets them end debate on each nomination with a simple majority vote, which means Republicans are powerless to stop nominations on which Democrats agree.

But Republicans still have the ability to slow down the process. To protest the nuclear option, they've refused to yield back debate time, and have forced the Senate to wait several hours before holding final confirmation votes.

Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:

MONDAY

The Senate starts at 4 p.m., and at 5:30 p.m., senators will hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Carolyn McHugh to be a Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit. Her confirmation will come later in the week.

After that vote, the Senate will vote to pass the Victims Protection Act, S. 1917. That's Sen. McCaskill's bill to boost protections for people who are sexually assaulted in the military.

The House is out.

TUESDAY

The House starts in the afternoon, and will consider up to eight suspension bills. Any required roll call votes will happen at 6:30 p.m.

H.R. 311, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act,

H.R. 1814, the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act,

H.R. 3474, the Hire More Heroes Act,

H.R. 3979, the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act,

H.R. 4160, the Keep the Promise to Seniors Act,

H.R. 3675, the Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act,

H.Res. 499, condemning Russia's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, and

H.Res. 506, directing the House to display a bust of former Czech Republic President Va'clav Havel in the Capitol.

The Senate is likely to use Tuesday to work on four district judge nominations, all of whom would serve in the Eastern District of Michigan. Cloture and confirmation votes are expected on Matt Leitman, Judith Levy, Laurie Michelson and Linda Parker.

WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY

The House starts work on two bills aimed at fighting back against what Republicans say is President Obama's willful non-compliance with federal law.

H.R. 3973, the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, which requires agencies to report to Congress on laws they are not enforcing.

H.R. 4138, the ENFORCE the Law Act, which lets Congress authorize legal action against the administration for failing to implement the law.

The House will also take up:

H.R. 3189, the Water Rights Protection Act. This bill would prohibit federal agencies from confiscating water rights through the use of permits, leases and other land management arrangements.

The Senate is in, and may use this day to resume work on S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. The Senate had to delay work on this bill because of this week's snowstorm.

The Senate may also use the mid-week to consider House-passed bills aimed at reworking the 2012 flood insurance reform bill, or providing aid to Ukraine.

FRIDAY

The Senate will likely be out, but the House will take up a bill to repeal the doc fix and delay the individual mandate:

H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act. The text provided here is not final: Republicans are expected to propose an amendment that adds language delaying the individual mandate, which will act as the spending offset for the bill as well.

 

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