United States: Troutman Sanders Strategies • 2017 Federal Outlook


With the Obama administration coming to an end, January 2017 marks the beginning of a dramatic wholesale conservative shift in federal public policymaking. Starting with the swearing in of the 115th Congress on January 3rd, and followed by President Donald J. Trump's inauguration on January 20th, the legislative and executive branches promise a robust schedule of activity heading into the Trump administration's first 100 days. Republicans are optimistic about their prospects for a productive legislative year; the GOP has not had undivided control of the federal government since they lost both chambers of Congress in the 2006 election cycle. The current balance of power in the Senate stands at 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, with the House of Representatives at 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats. Since the election, Trump and GOP congressional leaders appear to have mended the hostilities that broke out during the campaign. This new found alignment bodes well, as Trump is likely to lean heavily on the policy expertise of congressional Republicans to carry out his anticipated public policy agenda. Leadership and members of congress have already set a bold and ambitious legislative plan for 2017. There will be a strong and targeted focus on rolling back dozens of regulations proposed and finalized toward the end of President Obama's term, as well as delivering top legislative agenda items. The policy areas discussed below are some of the top agenda items for the 115th Congress and the new Trump administration. Also included are issues and agenda items that have carried over from the previous Congress. Many of these issues, such as Trump's nominations, Obamacare repeal and replace, comprehensive tax reform and confirming a Supreme Court Justice are top GOP priorities and will be addressed within Trump's first 100 days in office. Other issues, like the debt ceiling and government funding, have hard deadlines and will have to be addressed early in the year. The remaining items may be considered later in 2017 or throughout the 115th Congress and Trump's first term.

Agriculture & Nutrition

Although the current farm bill doesn't expire until September 2018, lawmakers on the House and Senate agriculture committees will get an early start on the bill in the next Congress; passing the last bill proved to be a long and arduous process in 2014. During the last farm bill debate, lawmakers attempted to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and pass it as a standalone bill, while keeping traditional farm programs in another. The Senate rejected that method and the farm bill was ultimately passed as a single measure. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) has said he wants to move a farm bill through his committee next year in order to have it pass through Congress before the 2018 midterm elections.

The next farm bill will likely have to make changes to crop insurance programs as farmers and ranchers have been beset by record-low commodity prices over the last few years. SNAP funding levels will continue to be an issue for fiscal conservatives. Roberts has also indicated that the committee will renew efforts early in the 115th Congress to pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill that was not finished in the 114th Congress.

Other agriculture related policy includes the continued implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Although most of the regulations and rules from FSMA are expected to move forward as planned, there could potentially be a revived interest from congress and the new administration to review or revisit burdensome regulations on the agriculture industry.

Banking & Financial Services

Dodd-Frank and Regulatory Reform

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank, has been a target for reform by many in the financial community and by Republicans in both the House and the Senate. It will be a top priority in the 115th Congress. Since its passage more than six years ago, about 70% of the regulations of the Act required have been finalized; however, many are lagging and the promulgation of agencies that arose out of the Act such as the CFPB have been highly controversial. The Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 5983), introduced by Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and passed by the House Financial Services Committee, is the House Republican effort to replace many portions of Dodd-Frank but also strengthen other areas, such as financial fraud protections. Hensarling's bill is widely seen as a template for new regulation relief legislation in the 115th Congress. The Trump administration is largely expected to be supportive of any version of Hensarling's bill that makes it through Congress next year.

When drafting new legislation, Republicans may consider provisions like blocking or limiting the Department of Labor's fiduciary standard rule, raising the threshold for heightened banking supervision from $50 billion to $500 billion, repealing the Volcker rule, repealing the Financial Stability Oversight Council's authority to label non-bank financial institutions as systemically important financial institutions, and allowing banks that maintain a leverage ratio of 10% or more to be exempt from other capital and liquidity requirements.

Durbin Amendment

Another key target will be the Durbin amendment in the Dodd-Frank Act. The amendment capped the debit-card interchange fees retailers must pay to banks when a customer swipes a debit card. The Financial CHOICE Act would have repealed that portion of the bill. Although inclusion of a repeal of the Durbin amendment in a new regulatory relief bill next Congress is not guaranteed, there is enough demand for Republicans to possibly include it. While the Republican majority may help banking interests, the caps on fees will remain a contentious issue outside of partisan lines with retailers digging in to protect their 2010 victory. Durbin-style caps on credit card interchanges will also continue to be discussed among Democrats.

CFPB Reform

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created by Dodd-Frank and any effort by congressional Republicans to substantially reform Dodd-Frank will likely include significant changes to the CFPB. Republicans, and a number of Democrats, want to change the CFPB's leadership from a single director to a five-member bipartisan board or commission, and to bring it under the congressional appropriations process rather than funded directly through the Federal Reserve. The House's Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Services Appropriations bill, for example, contained both of these modifications.

Moreover, the CFPB is facing legal challenges. In October, a federal appeals court ruled that the CFPB's structure is unconstitutional because it gives too much independence to the director. This case is now pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; and the ruling may determine whether President-elect Trump can remove the CFPB's director, Richard Cordray, once he takes office.

Community Banks & Credit Unions

As Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) assumes the Chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee from Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), one potential place of bipartisan agreement lies in regulatory relief for smaller community banks and credit unions. Should the Democrats have won control of the Senate, Ranking Member Sherrod Brown likely would have used this agenda item that he has openly supported as a way to strike a bipartisan tone within the committee. Shelby introduced reforms supported by each party during his chairmanship; however, they were attached to his larger Dodd-Frank Act repeal bill that could not pass through the Senate. Hensarling's Financial CHOICE Act included many of the community bank and credit union regulatory relief measures that the industry is requesting and would likely be included in a new bill in the next Congress.

The reforms requested and proposed cover regulations affecting the areas of safety and soundness, mortgages, as well as onerous supervision and enforcement requirements. Numerous proposals have been made over the course of the 114th Congress seeking to adjust different thresholds for regulations, dependent upon the assets that those banks hold and the activities they perform. For smaller banks with less than $10 billion in assets, numerous exemptions are sought, including from the Volcker Rule. Regional banks have also been pushing for a change to Dodd

Frank that requires banks that have more than $50 billion in assets to be subject to enhanced prudential standards. Other proposals for the easing of regulations on smaller banks range from exemptions from reducing executive bonus payments to expanding safe harbor for qualified mortgage liability protection.

Housing Finance

Housing policy will continue to be a topic of discussion in the new Congress, including the role of government sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Chairman Hensarling signaled in the 113th and 114th Congresses his desire to see overhaul occur through the drafting and introduction of the PATH Act. However, the reform measures still need to gain broader support from the GOP before they can be advanced again to the House floor. The addition of a Trump administration and the continuing control of the Senate by Republicans, however, have increased the odds that housing finance reform will occur. It is unlikely, though, that this will be one of the immediate topics undertaken by the Trump administration and the 115th Congress, as Republicans face more pressing regulatory reforms in the areas of healthcare, taxes, trade and banking. The Trump administration will likely pursue administrative actions, seeking to lower regulatory burdens for real estate markets, developers, and rental housing.

Cabinet Nominations

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the Senate will begin to hold confirmation hearings for Trump's cabinet nominees soon after the start of the new session on January 3rd. Confirmation votes on cabinet members could come immediately after Trump's swearing-in ceremony. Early action on a large number of nominees will ensure a smooth and quick transition and will better help the new president start his first 100 day agenda. The table below lists the Cabinet and Cabinet-rank positions the Trump administration has announced as of Wednesday, December 21st.

Congressional Review Act

Congressional Republicans and President-elect Trump foresee the rollback of dozens of Obama's "midnight regulations" in the coming year. The regulations they will likely target impact a wide array of industries from banking and financials, to consumer products, labor, healthcare and education.

Congress may utilize the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn major agency rules and regulations issued in the final months of President Obama's tenure. The rarely used oversight tool, which was successfully used only once to repeal a rule from President Clinton's term, allows Congress to submit a resolution of disapproval to overturn any final rule issued by a federal agency as long as the final rule has been received by Congress within a period of 60 "days-of continuous- session". In the new Congress, this 60 day period is reset after the 15th day of session in the Senate or House. By the start of the 115th Congress, this period stretches back to regulations issued on or after June 13, 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A clear plan for using the CRA has not yet been defined. House and Senate parliamentarians will have to determine whether resolutions of disapproval must be submitted for each rule or if multiple rules can be combined into a package for a single vote. The House Freedom Caucus issued a list of over 200 regulations they want overturned. The Senate Republican Policy Committee released a list as well. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service put out a memorandum listing the major rules that Congress may consider using the CRA. However, even if a certain regulation is not addressed in a CRA, Republicans may still use the normal legislative process or appropriations riders to overturn a rule or block agencies from using funds to implement regulations.

Trump, on the other hand, will have three primary methods at his disposal to halt or eliminate Obama-era policies. First, using executive orders, Trump can immediately revoke, modify, or suspend other executive orders by his predecessor. Second, Trump can utilize discretionary agency directives and guidance documents to implement new policies or to withdraw old ones. One example of an agency directive under President Obama is the Department of Justice's non enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug for medicinal or recreational purposes. Executive orders and agency directives, however, do not require complex procedures and are thus easily changed from administration to administration. Third, an executive agency may issue a repealing rule or regulation. This method is often time consuming because it requires agencies to comply with the proper notice and comment process. Additionally, agency repeals are subject to the same standards of review as new rules. As such, an agency must demonstrate repeal of a rule is not "arbitrary and capricious," and must provide a reasoned analysis for the repeal if the repealing regulation is challenged by an injured party and brought to court.

Debt Ceiling

Addressing the nation's debt ceiling will be the first hard deadline that Congress and the Trump administration face next year. The current debt limit expires on March 16, but the Treasury can use "extraordinary measures" to keep the government afloat until next summer as it did in 2015. The current borrowing authority is capped at $20.1 trillion.

The last time Congress reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling was in October of 2015, just before former House Speaker John Boehner resigned from office. Congress will undoubtedly have to raise the limit again to fend off a crisis. Republicans will likely use the opportunity to speak out against unsustainable government spending and the need for immediate budgetary and spending reductions. Intense spending debates preceded the 2011 and 2013 debt limit showdowns as well.


On the campaign trail, Trump stated that he would drastically reduce the size of the Department of Education and return elementary and secondary education policy control back to the state and local levels. He has also said he would roll back several of the Department's regulations, such as the gainful employment requirement. Additionally, Trump and Republicans lawmakers will do want they can to roll back the Department of Labor's overtime rule, which universities and colleges across the country have said is burdensome and will increase costs for students seeking a higher education.

Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Department of Education who currently serves as the Chairwoman for the American Federation for Children, is expected to support that agenda. That national advocacy group works to promote school choice along with the use of school vouchers. While it's clear from her background what DeVos' priorities for primary and secondary education are, it remains to be seen where she stands on higher education issues and if she will completely back Trump's promises of regulatory rollback.

Additionally, lawmakers and institutions of higher education are awaiting a long overdue reauthorization of higher education policy. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had hoped to complete a reauthorization of higher education legislation in the 114th Congress, but that effort was side-tracked by other legislative priorities. The House and Senate education committees held dozens of hearings throughout the last Congress related to higher education policy. The Senate HELP Committee also released a series of white papers focusing on accreditation, consumer information, and university involvement in lowering student loan burdens. Higher education legislation was last authorized in 2008. Additionally, Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will be the new Chairwoman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee. In the past she has supported amendments to ban the Department of Education from collecting data on individual students. She may support this ban as well as other conservative educational priorities in the future.

Energy & Environmental Policy

Although there was hope for a compromised energy policy bill to pass through in the 114th Congress in the lame-duck session, the issue will now be pushed to 2017. House and Senate energy policy negotiators worked on their respective packages for two years. Both chambers finally passed bills in the 114th Congress, but conference negotiators were unable to reach an agreement with enough time to get the bill through Congress this year. Although the conference report may be used as a starting block next year, Republicans will likely rewrite portions of the bill to boost support for fossil fuels and limit bill sections dealing with climate change. LNG export language, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and forest management provisions were also major sticking points according to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Trump is expected to vigorously oppose the energy and environmental policies and regulations put in place by the Obama administration, especially the Clean Power Plan, the EPA's Waters of the U.S. rule, and ozone standards. On the campaign trail, Trump criticized the Paris climate agreement, though he has since softened his stance and may allow the agreement to stay in place. A Trump administration will also likely put an end to the EPA's work on methane regulations for oil and gas companies. Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become Environmental Protection Agency Administrator. In this post, Pruitt is tapped to oversee the regulatory overhaul of the EPA. Pruitt's Senate confirmation promises to face vocal challenges from environmental organizations, left-leaning groups and Senate Democrats. Pruitt has been a vocal and legal opponent to the Obama administration's environmental agenda. His arguments against the agency's aggressive administrative actions were an underpinning of the Trump-Pence energy platform as Pruitt often referred to EPA regulations implemented during the Obama years as "unconstitutional, job-killing and costly." Additionally, Trump's pick to lead the Department of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, highlights an "all-of-the-above" approach to the nation's economic and energy issues, a mantra Trump has echoed in the past.

To read the full article click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions