Remember School House Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill on Capitol Hill”? Well, it wasn’t quite that simple for the EVV delay bill that President Trump just signed into law. Because legislation can take many routes on the way to becoming law, we thought we’d give you an insider’s look at the winding road EVV took en route to being signed into law last week.
Step 1: Staff from the offices of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) got together to introduce a delay bill that included notice and comment.
Step 2: Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) thought Murkowski and Brown were on to something! His office worked with staff from the offices of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to introduce a companion bill in the House.
Step 3: Here’s where things start to get a bit complicated. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), author of the original EVV legislation, decided to introduce H.R. 6042, his own EVV delay bill, because he felt a sense of responsibility to lead the fix. After many back-room negotiations (imagine closed doors and cigar smoking), House members finally coalesced around this version of the delay bill. Unfortunately for the Senate, this version was slightly different than Murkowski and Brown’s original bill.
Step 4: Since nothing passes as a standalone bill like School House Rock promised, a legislative vehicle was identified. It just so happened that “The Opioid Package” was moving in the House. This means a series of bills that were tangentially related to opioids were being voted on in quick succession. It wasn’t actually one big mega-bill. EVV was tangential enough to opioids to count! It was voted on under suspension rules, which limits debate and prohibits amendments so that bills can get through fast. H.R. 6042 passed unanimously!
Step 5: Senate ho! There seemed to be consensus that the Senate could pass the delay through unanimous consent (UC). UC basically eliminates the need for the Senate to take an actual vote on a bill. But wait, choppy waters ahead – the Senate bill was different than the bill that passed the House! More back-room wailing and gnashing of teeth but Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Brown finally decided to take up H.R. 6042 instead of their original bill.
Step 6: There were no legislative vehicles moving in the Senate. But like the House, the Senate also has their own quirky rules that allow them to get things passed. Senate Leadership agreed to hotline the EVV delay and then attempt to pass it under UC. When hotlining, the Senate Cloakroom lets all Senators know that a bill is going to be put up for UC and gives them a final opportunity to object. Once that time is over and if there are no objections, the bill is passed via UC. Finally, something with EVV was implemented perfectly! The hotline process went smoothly, no objections were made, Senate passed the EVV delay quietly on UC!
Step 7: Then it was wait, wait, wait for President Trump to sign the bill into law. And after all the hurry-up-and-wait, there was no signing ceremony, nor did ANCOR receive a framed Sharpie used by the President to sign the bill. Sad! President Trump quietly signed H.R. 6042 into law on July 30, 2018!
Sarah Meek is ANCOR's Director of Legislative Affairs. She can be reached at [email protected].