Government Shutdown Looms
January 19, 2018
Senate approaches showdown vote on Friday with government shutdown at stake; Trump administration creates new protections for health workers who have religious and moral objections to certain procedures; Consumer sentiment decreases in January, while tax reform viewed with optimism.
- Senate approaches showdown vote on Friday with government shutdown at stake. The Senate will be conducting a showdown vote on Friday on legislation to keep the government open past midnight. Democrats appear ready to block it to force President Trump to have to offer concessions in the face of a looming government crisis. After the House cleared stopgap spending legislation on Thursday that would keep the government funded through Feb. 16, Senate Republicans are set to test whether Democrats will keep their promise to secure concessions including protecting young immigrants from deportation brought illegally to the United States as children (known as Dreamers), increase domestic spending, aid Puerto Rico and bolster the government’s response to the opioid epidemic. Republicans are emphasizing what Democrats were voting against: continued funding for the military and rewed funding for children’s health care. The bill, which passed the House, 230 to 197, would keep the government open for a month and provide funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years and delay or suspend a handful of taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act. [NYTimes]
- Trump administration creates new protections for health workers who have religious and moral objections to certain procedures. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Thursday that it will create a new division under the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) responsible for investing complaints filed by workers who claim that their employers have violated their religious rights. The changes represent a major shift for the OCR, which has focused more on enforcing patient safety and privacy concerns in the past. The new division, called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, will enforce “laws and regulations that protect conscience and prohibit coercion on issues such as abortion and assisted suicide” in HHS-funded or conducted programs,” according to OCR’s updated website. Workers who say they experienced discrimination due to refusing to participate in specific medical procedures or were coerced into doing so can now file a complaint with the office. [The Hill]
Economic Indicators & News
- Consumer sentiment decreases in January, while tax reform viewed with optimism. U.S. consumer sentiment decreased in the January mid-month reading after a decade high reading in October. The University of Michigan’s survey of consumer attitudes for January slipped to 94.9, after falling to 95.9 in December. Economists polled by Reuters had anticipated the reading to increase to 97. In the preliminary January reading, consumers had a less favorable view of the current economic conditions than in December. The survey’s chief economist Richard Curtin noted that 34 percent of consumers spontaneously mentioned tax reform. Of these consumers, 70 percent said the impact from the new tax reform law would be positive, while 18 percent said it would be negative. Consumer sentiment soared to 101.1 on Oct. 13 – the highest level since 2004 – but has decreased steadily since then. The index measures 500 consumers’ attitudes on future economic prospects, in personal finances, inflation, unemployment, government policies and interest rates. [CNBC]