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Congressional Outlook

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in recess until Monday, April 29. Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) outlined the House’s upcoming agenda for May, saying that the House will be voting on: the Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9), which would keep the United States in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change; the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at work and in public facilities; immigration measures, including those addressing migrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and undocumented immigrants that came to the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers; healthcare legislation aimed at shoring up the Affordable Care Act and tackling rising drug prices; the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 2157), an expanded disaster relief funding package which includes an additional $3 billion to address urgent needs following flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South; and another short-term authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which expires on May 31. Hoyer also stated that the House will focus on passing individual FY 2020 Appropriations bills in June and indicated that Congress must raise the federal debt ceiling by September or October in order to avoid a default.

When the Senate returns, it will consider eight executive and judicial nominations, including: William Cooper to be General Counsel of the Department of Energy; R. Clarke Cooper to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; Gordon Hartogensis to be Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; J. Campbell Barker to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas; Andrew Brasher to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama; Rodolfo Ruiz II to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida; Raul Arias-Marxuach to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico; and Joshua Wolson to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told Congress last Tuesday that he will be releasing a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly 400-page report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, likely on Thursday, April 18. Barr would not discuss the substance of the Special Counsel’s investigation into possible connections between Russia and President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, but he did explain some of what to expect when the report is released: he said the redactions will be color-coded and accompanied by notes explaining any decisions to withhold information.

On Monday, President Trump will travel to Nuss Truck and Equipment in Burnsville, Minnesota to promote the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and hold a roundtable discussion on the economy and tax reform. On Tuesday, Trump will speak at an Opportunity Zone Conference with state, local, tribal and community leaders. On Thursday, he will participate in the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride with First Lady Melania Trump.

 

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 8 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Local Water Protection Act (H.R. 1331), which reauthorizes, at $200 million annually for FYs 2020—2024, the EPA’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program which mitigates water pollution originating from diffuse sources; and the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act (H.R. 2030), which implements drought contingency plans for the Colorado River basin negotiated by seven states and other stakeholders. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Save the Internet Act of 2019 (H.R. 1644), which would restore Obama-era net neutrality rules approved by the FCC in February 2015 which bans Internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic. The House may also consider the Investing for the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 2021), a two-year budget caps bill which increases federal discretionary spending caps by about $358 billion over FYs 2020 and 2021 compared with current law, setting the non-defense discretionary (NDD) cap for 2020 at $631 billion – a 5.7 percent increase over the 2019 cap – and $646 billion in 2021, and the defense cap for 2020 at $664 billion – a 2.6 percent increase over the 2019 cap – and $680 billion in 2021. On Wednesday, House Democrats head to Leesburg, Virginia for their annual 2019 Issues Conference to discuss policy plans leading up to the 2020 election, including health care and infrastructure.

The Senate will consider six nominations this week: Daniel Domenico to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Colorado; Patrick Wyrick to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma; Cheryl Stanton to be Administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division; John Abizaid to be U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Holly Brady to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Indiana; and David Morales to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas. Talks will also continue this week on reviving a disaster aid package (H.R. 268) for states and territories recovering from natural disasters experienced in 2018 and 2019, including the recent devastating floods that hit the Midwest.

A packed committee schedule highlights another busy week for FY 2020 budget and appropriations. The budget hearings for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees include: Departments of Agriculture, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation; National Institutes of Health; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and the Internal Revenue Service.

On Tuesday, President Trump will host a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. On Wednesday, Trump will travel to San Antonio and Houston, Texas for fundraisers and to announce, at the International Union of Operating Engineers’ International Training and Education Center, two new executive orders that aim to streamline the permitting of oil and gas projects for pipeline construction and incentivize private investment in energy infrastructure. On Thursday, the President and First Lady Melania Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook to discuss the latest developments regarding North Korea as well as bilateral matters. He will also meet with WWII veterans.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 7 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Coordinating and Leveraging Activities for School Security (CLASS) Act of 2019 (H.R. 1593), which would create a new council within the Department of Homeland Security to enhance school security against terrorism. The House will vote on a non-binding resolution (H. Res. 271) “Condemning the Trump Administration’s Legal Campaign to Take Away Americans’ Health Care,” which expresses the sense of the House that the Administration’s actions in court to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act “are an unacceptable assault on the health care of the American people” and that the Justice Department should reverse its position in Texas v. United States. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), which reauthorizes and expands the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 through FY 2024 at more than $1 billion annually for federal grant programs to prevent and respond to victims of sexual and domestic violence; and a Senate-passed joint resolution (S.J. Res. 7) “To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”

The Senate will resume consideration of the disaster relief bill, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 268), which would provide about $13.4 billion in aid for communities and federal agencies affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. The Senate will also vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to a resolution (S. Res. 50), which would enact a proposed rules change to cut to two hours from 30 the maximum debate for lower court nominees and other executive branch nominees; Supreme Court and Cabinet nominees would be exempt from the proposed change. On Wednesday morning, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will address a Joint Meeting of Congress in the House chamber in a reaffirmation of congressional support for the alliance on its 70th anniversary, even as President Trump questions its usefulness and relevance.

A packed committee schedule highlights another busy week for FY 2020 budget and appropriations. The budget hearings for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees include: the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services; Environmental Protection Agency; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Federal Communications Commission; and National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. Additionally, House Democrats will decide this week whether they will mark up a FY 2020 budget resolution, the non-binding fiscal blueprint that serves as a guide for appropriators as they write the 12 annual spending bills. House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said late last week that it’s unlikely his panel will produce a resolution this year given divisions within the caucus over spending priorities. Yarmuth said he is working on numbers right now that would call for increasing non-defense spending at a higher rate than defense spending. He acknowledged those figures would amount to an opening bid in what are likely to be arduous negotiations with the Senate over final spending.

On Monday, President Trump will participate in the White House’s 2019 Prison Reform Summit and FIRST STEP Act celebration. On Tuesday, Trump will meet with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and on Wednesday he will meet and have dinner with senior military leaders. On Thursday, Trump will meet with the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which is tasked with carrying out the Trump Administration’s plan to encourage public and private investment in urban and economically distressed areas, including qualified opportunity zones. On Friday, Trump is traveling to Calexico, California for a border visit, in addition to Los Angeles for a fundraiser.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 7 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Medicaid Services Investment and Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 1839), which would penalize drugmakers that misclassify products to avoid paying higher Medicaid rebates and would also allow states to provide coordinated care through Medicaid for youth with complex medical conditions, among other changes to Medicaid programs and payments. The House will vote on whether to override President Trump’s March 15 veto of the joint resolution of termination (H.J. Res. 46), which would terminate his February 15 national emergency declaration relating to the border wall; two-thirds of those present and voting would have to agree for the override to succeed and then be considered by the Senate. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which would mandate tougher standards and larger penalties against employers for claims of pay discrimination; and a non-binding resolution (H. Res. 124), which would express the House’s opposition to President Trump’s ban on transgender members serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The Senate will consider the nomination of Bridget Bade to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. The chamber will vote on the motion to proceed to the non-binding resolution “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” (S. J. Res. 8). The resolution was introduced by Democrats, but Republicans believe forcing Democrats to vote on the measure could hurt them politically, in particular the presidential nominees that have supported it. The resolution is drawn from a Democratic-authored Green New Deal resolution (S. Res. 59) that outlines a 10-year plan with trillions in estimated government funding to help shift the U.S. to 100 percent renewable and zero-emission energy sources. The Senate will also consider the motion to proceed to a House-passed disaster aid package, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 268). Senators could attach their own disaster measure to the bill, which has been delayed over disagreements about relief to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

A packed committee schedule highlights the busy week for budget and appropriations, as Trump Administration representatives travel to Capitol Hill to discuss the President’s FY 2020 budget request. The House Appropriations Committee is holding 25 budget hearings, including for the Departments of Energy, Education, the Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; White House Office of Management and Budget; NASA; and the U.S. Forest Service. The Senate Appropriations Committee is holding eight budget hearings, including for the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Education; the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and the Food and Drug Administration.

On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee will vote on Republicans’ draft budget resolution for FY 2020. Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) last week released his opening bid in negotiations over budget caps that will be key in determining whether there is another federal government shutdown on October 1, 2019. Enzi’s measure would let automatic cuts to defense and non-defense spending kick in on schedule while maintaining current levels of war funding that are not subject to the budget caps.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 13 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act of 2019 (H.R. 1122), which would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a demonstration program under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to encourage participants to move to areas with lower rates of poverty. The House will also vote on the nonbinding H. Con. Res. 24, which expresses the sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress.

The Senate will vote on three nominations this week: Paul Matey to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit; Neomi Rao to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit; and William Beach to be Commissioner of Labor Statistics for a term of four years. The Senate will also vote this week to terminate President Trump’s February 15 national emergency declaration to build more fencing along the southern border. Only a simple majority of 51 votes is required to pass the joint resolution. If the chamber passes the House-passed resolution (H.J. Res. 46) without amendment, it would be cleared for the President, who has said he would use his first veto on it. Senators do not expect to have a veto-proof majority of 67 votes behind the measure, but an eventual measure to curb the President’s powers may garner more support.

On Monday, the Trump Administration released its FY 2020 budget request to Congress, which would not balance for 15 years, calls for slashing funding for most federal government agencies, boosts defense spending, and sets aside $8.6 billion for a wall along the U.S.—Mexico border. The plan faces certain rejection by Democrats now in control of the House and will kick off a new political battle over spending priorities. Meanwhile, Cabinet officials and other Trump Administration officials will begin heading to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to defend the request, led by Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought. Additional details on the FY 2020 budget request for specific departments and agencies will be released on March 18.

On Tuesday, President Trump will receive the Boy Scouts’ report to the nation. On Thursday, Trump will meet with Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and attend the “Friends of Ireland” luncheon in the Capitol. He and First Lady Melania Trump will attend the Shamrock Bowl Presentation by Varadkar. Trump is also expected to sign the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S. 47) into law this week, which permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider seven bills under suspension of the rules, including the Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act of 2019 (H.R. 762), which would create a clearinghouse at the Energy Department for schools to find information on federal programs for energy efficiency, small-scale energy generation, and retrofitting projects. The House will also vote on the For the People Act of 2019 (H.R. 1), a large legislative package designed to expand voting times, registration, campaign finance disclosures, and government ethics rules. Key provisions include: requiring presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns from the past ten years; directing states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district boundaries; establishing online and automatic voting registration; restoring felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences; authorizing federal grants for strengthening state election systems; and expanding donor and spending disclosure requirements for independent groups.

The Senate will vote on four nominations: Allison Rushing to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit; Chad Readler to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit; Eric Murphy to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit; and former Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. The Senate will also vote, either this week or the week of March 11, on the House-passed joint resolution (H.J. Res. 46) terminating President Trump’s February 15 national emergency declaration “concerning the southern border of the United States.” With Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Rand Paul (R-KY) supporting the resolution, along with all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, the measure is expected to pass with at least 51 votes. Trump is then anticipated to issue his first ever veto, at which point the House would vote on overriding his veto with at least a two-thirds vote required.

On Monday, President Trump will sign an executive order on “Supporting the Transition of Active Duty Service Members and Military Veterans into the Merchant Marine.” He will also deliver remarks to the National Association of Attorneys General. On Wednesday, Trump will attend the inaugural meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, which advises the National Council for the American Worker on how the federal government can encourage the private sector and educational institutions to combat the skills crisis by investing in and increasing demand-driven education, training, and re-training for American workers. On Thursday, he will meet with the Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. On Friday, he will meet with officials at the Pentagon.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider eight bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a broad package of public lands, natural resources, and water provisions, including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The House will vote on a joint resolution of termination (H.J. Res. 46) which would terminate the national emergency “concerning the southern border of the United States” declared by President Trump on February 15; upon House passage, the Senate is required to vote on the resolution within the next 18 days (i.e., by March 16) and only 51 votes are needed for passage. The House will also consider the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8), which would require any firearm transfer between unrelated, unlicensed individuals — such as participants at a gun show — to be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required to perform a background check; and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 1112), which would prevent a gun sale from proceeding if a background check is not completed within three days.

The Senate will consider a motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311), which would allow doctors to be criminally charged and subject to civil liability if they do not provide medical care to a child that survives an abortion procedure. The Senate will also vote to consider the nominations of Eric Miller to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Michael Desmond to be Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and an Assistant General Counsel in the Department of the Treasury; Andrew Wheeler to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and John Ryder to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

President Trump will attend a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam on Wednesday and Thursday. Among the potential outcomes in Hanoi, according to experts briefed by the Trump Administration, is an agreement that would trade a peace declaration for a North Korean commitment to open up and dismantle a handful of nuclear or missile facilities. Vice President Pence will travel to Bogota, Colombia on Monday on behalf of President Trump “to voice the United States’ unwavering support for interim President Juan Guaido and highlight the Venezuelan people’s fight for democracy over dictatorship.”

The House and Senate are in recess this week. When the House returns the week of February 25, it will consider the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8), which would require any firearm transfer between unrelated, unlicensed individuals — such as participants at a gun show — to be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required to perform a background check; and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 1112), which would prevent a gun sale from proceeding if a background check is not completed within three days.

When the Senate returns next week, it will consider a motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311), which would allow doctors to be criminally charged and subject to civil liability if they do not provide medical care to a child that survives an abortion procedure. The Senate will also vote to consider the nominations of Eric Miller to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Michael Desmond to be Chief Counsel for the Internal Revenue Service and an Assistant General Counsel in the Department of the Treasury; Andrew Wheeler to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and John Ryder to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

On Tuesday, President Trump will sign a directive to establish a new branch of the military dedicated to space but instead of being a fully independent department it will remain part of the U.S. Air Force to assuage concerns in Congress. The presidential directive, formally called Space Policy Directive 4, will set the groundwork for a subsequent legislative proposal for Congress, which will have the final say over what has been a signature military objective since Trump announced his intentions nearly a year ago. President Trump will also welcome an official delegation from China for a series of meetings starting on Tuesday to discuss the trade relationship between the two countries.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 5 bills under suspension of the rules, including a bill (H.R. 1064) that would entitle federal employees to anti-retaliation protections if they blow the whistle to any supervisor in their direct chain of command and the Settlement Agreement Information Database Act of 2019 (H.R. 995), which would require the text of settlement agreements involving federal agencies to be posted online, including any agency settlements (i.e., consent decrees), that relate to alleged violations of federal law. The House will also vote on a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 37) that would direct President Trump to withdraw U.S. armed forces from the conflict in Yemen, under the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

The Senate will complete its consideration of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), which would combine a long-sought permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—which expired September 30, 2018—with 600-pages-plus of authorizations that include various public lands measures. The Senate will also likely consider several additional amendments to the bill before final passage. The House is expected to take up the measure once it passes the Senate, as long as major changes are not made to the previously agreed to legislation. The Senate will also vote on the nomination of William Barr to serve as the 85th United States Attorney General, a position he previously served in from 1991—1993.

Lawmakers could act this week on legislation to keep large swaths of the federal government open past Friday, February 15, including a conference report on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding measure if House and Senate negotiators reach a compromise. House Democrats have begun preparing a stopgap spending bill for DHS that could last all the way until September 30, 2019. Democrats discussed the idea on a conference call on Sunday afternoon, though no final decisions have been made, according to two aides briefed on the discussion. The sticking point among the 17 House—Senate conferees is over the number and purpose of immigration detention beds. Democrats are seeking a cap to force U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain criminals rather than undocumented immigrants with no criminal history. Republicans are resisting a limit on grounds that criminals should not count toward it and ICE should have discretion.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 9 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Tiffany Joslyn Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 494), which would reauthorize the Justice Department’s Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program at $30 million per year through FY 2023. The House will also vote on the Veterans’ Access to Child Care Act (H.R. 840), which would require the VA Department to provide child care assistance to eligible veterans while they receive mental health care at a VA facility.

The Senate will vote on several amendments, and on invoking cloture, to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S. 1), a package of measures on the Middle East, including authorizing at least $3.3 billion annually through FY 2028 for assistance to Israel and provisions that would allow U.S. state and local governments to adopt and enforce measures against entities or contractors that engage in a boycott, divestment, or sanctions (BDS) activity targeting Israel. The Senate will then vote on a motion to proceed to a broad package of 100 public lands, natural resources, and water bills, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). The bill, which Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced on January 8, has strong backing from members of both parties. The bill could face a lengthy debate due to concerns from some conservative Senators regarding the inclusion of the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which expired on September 30, 2018. The Democratic-controlled House is likely to take up the Senate-passed measure and pass it quickly, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said last week.

President Trump will deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at 9pm ET/6pm PT. He is expected to offer an “aspirational” and “visionary” path for the nation even as his relations with lawmakers have soured over his threats to use executive power to bypass them. Trump will call on Congress to work with him on initiatives around infrastructure and health care, while also reaffirming his strategy to toughen immigration enforcement, confront China on trade and actively intervene in the political upheaval in Venezuela. He is also expected to make appeals for bipartisan support and to “heal old wounds.” Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the race for Georgia governor in November 2018 but is considered one of the Democratic Party’s brightest stars, will deliver the Democrats’ official response to the address.

Lawmakers face a self-imposed Friday deadline this week to reach an agreement on the latest round of government funding negotiations ahead of another looming partial government shutdown after Friday, February 15. President Trump could expedite or hinder those talks when he delivers the State of the Union address. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said the 17 Republicans and Democrats on a House—Senate conference committee on Homeland Security appropriations need to wrap up their work by Friday, Feb. 8 to allow time to vote on any plan to resolve the stalemate. While staff members talked over the weekend, real progress is not expected until after party meetings on Tuesday. Trump has declared the current negotiations a waste of time and said last week that his State of the Union address would reveal more of his own plans, including potentially declaring a politically and legally fraught national emergency to circumvent Congress to begin building a border wall.

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