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Congressional Outlook - Week of January 2, 2019

Posted @ Wednesday, January 02, 2019    By Zach Israel
Posted in [ Clients Only, Congressional Outlook ] | 0 Comments

The new 116th Congress convenes at noon on Thursday with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives (235 out of 435 seats) and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate (53 out of 100 seats). The new Congress begins with a parliamentary ceremony where lawmakers swear their oath of office and ratify rules changes for the 116th Congress. Following her expected election as Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will preside over the opening of a new Congress and administer the oath of office - en masse - to all new and returning House members. In the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence will swear in newly elected senators.

On December 31, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman-designate Nita Lowey (D-NY) released a legislative package that would reopen the federal government and end the partial government shutdown that has now entered its 12th day. The House will vote on the package on Thursday evening which consists of six FY 2019 appropriations bills providing funding through September 30, 2019 (Agriculture-Rural Development; Commerce-Justice-Science; Financial Services; Interior-Environment; State-Foreign Operations; and Transportation-HUD) and modeled primarily on measures that have previously passed the Senate or were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan support earlier this year.

The House will then take a second vote on a continuing resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security through Friday, February 8, 2019 at enacted FY 2018 levels in order to allow time for President Trump to reach agreement with Congress on border security. The legislation includes no new funding for Trump's proposed border wall and the legislation will likely not be considered in the GOP-controlled Senate, charting an uncertain path to ending the shutdown. President Trump has invited congressional leaders from both parties to a White House briefing Wednesday afternoon on border security, in the first face-to-face meeting between the President and leadership since the shutdown began on December 22. The meeting comes after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the Democratic proposal "a non-starter."

The House on Thursday will also be voting on H. Res. 6, which makes several rules changes, including: reviving the so-called "Gephardt Rule" that automatically raises the debt ceiling once the House passes a budget; changing the rules regarding motions "to vacate the chair," a procedural tool that could be used to force out a sitting House speaker; creating a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis; creating a bipartisan select committee tasked with coming up with proposals to "modernize and improve" the way Congress operates; removing the dynamic scoring requirement for major legislation; setting new ethics rules for current and former members of Congress; and reviving a rule that requires 72 hours before major legislation can get a vote in the House.

Several items were not able to be completed by the outgoing 115th Congress during the two-month lame-duck period, including: confirmation of dozens of executive and judicial Trump Administration nominees; a package of public lands bills; a tax extenders and technical corrections package; a disaster relief package; Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform legislation; long-term National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization; long-term Violence Against Women Act reauthorization; immigration reform; JOBS Act 3.0 legislation; election security legislation; and autonomous vehicle legislation. Some or all of these legislative items will likely be back on the agenda in the new Congress and President Trump will need to formally re-nominate any nominees who are not confirmed by January 3. 

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