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Congressional Outlook

Congressional Outlook

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.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 10 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Federal Information Resource to Strengthen Ties with (FIRST) State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 495), which would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide Congress with annual reports on the department’s coordination with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies; and the Pathways to Improving Homeland Security at the Local Level Act (H.R. 449), which would require DHS to produce an annual catalog with training opportunities and other services available to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. The House will also vote on the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019 (H.R. 790), which would provide an across-the-board 2.6 percent pay raise in 2019 for most executive branch employees and would match a pay raise for military personnel supported by the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and appropriations measure.

The Senate will vote, for the fourth time this month, on the motion to proceed to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S. 1), which would authorize at least $3.3 billion annually through FY 2028 for security assistance for Israel; reauthorize expedited U.S. defense sales to Jordan and direct the president to impose new sanctions against those doing business with or supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; and 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.

With the 35-day partial federal government shutdown over, negotiations begin in earnest as lawmakers return to work with the clock ticking as the February 15 deadline to keep the government funded quickly approaches. Additionally, the conference committee of lawmakers crafting a plan for the southern U.S. border, which was created on January 25 after a deal was struck to end the shutdown, will formally meet on Wednesday. Both chambers named conferees for negotiations on H. J. Res. 31, the continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security that will serve as the vehicle for talks on a FY 2019 DHS spending bill. The conferees include: Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Jon Tester (D-MT), and Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), David Price (D-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Tom Graves (R-GA), and Steve Palazzo (R-MS).

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 15 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Federal Information Resource to Strengthen Ties with (FIRST) State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 495), which would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide Congress with annual reports on the department’s coordination with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies; and the Pathways to Improving Homeland Security at the Local Level Act (H.R. 449), which would require DHS to produce an annual catalog with training opportunities and other services available to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.

The House will vote on a continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 28) which would fund, through February 28, 2019, all federal departments and agencies currently shutdown (at enacted FY 2018 levels); President Trump has threatened to veto this CR. The House will also vote on the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 648), a six-bill appropriations package based on spending measures previously negotiated by House and Senate appropriators which would provide full FY 2019 funding for all federal departments and agencies covered by the Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills. The House will also vote on a continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 31) funding the Department of Homeland Security through February 28. House Democrats may also release a plan next week to illustrate their vision of securing the border without a wall as part of a revised FY 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

The Senate will vote on its own appropriations package, the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, which contains full FY 2019 funding for the remaining seven appropriations bills (including Homeland Security); $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster funding; and $5.7 billion for physical barriers at the southern border in exchange for delaying, for three years, the deportation of 700,000 undocumented immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 300,000 undocumented immigrants for three years. The package is directly modeled off a plan outlined by President Trump on January 19. The package will need the support of at least seven Senate Democrats in order to receive the 60 votes necessary to advance consideration of the bill, a number that seems unlikely to be achieved as of Tuesday. However, the measure could put in motion the steps necessary to eventually reach a compromise between Congressional leaders and President Trump and reopen the government after 32 days of the partial government shutdown.

The Senate will also vote on Thursday to consider a House-passed continuing resolution (H.R. 268) funding all impacted federal departments and agencies through Friday, February 8, in addition to $14.2 billion in emergency disaster appropriations. At least 13 Senate Republicans would need to join all 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus in voting for the CR in order to get the 60 needed votes for passage. If President Trump were to veto the CR, two-thirds of the House and Senate (i.e., 290 Representatives and 67 Senators) would be needed to successfully override the veto and enact the bill into law, temporarily ending the partial government shutdown.

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will vote on 15 bills under suspension of the rules, including: the TANF Extension Act of 2019 (H.R. 430), which would extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program through June 30, 2019; the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act (H.R. 359), which directs the Energy Department to facilitate and encourage public-private partnerships in order to improve the cybersecurity of electric utilities; and the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act of 2019 (H.R. 150), which would standardize and publish federal grants data on a single online portal and require the development of standards for the information that grant and other award recipients must report to the government. The House will also vote on the Disaster Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 268), which would appropriate $12.1 billion to communities and federal agencies affected by natural disasters in 2018. The House will also vote on two continuing resolutions which would fund (at enacted FY 2018 levels) all federal departments and agencies currently shut down, one through Friday, February 1, 2019 (H.J. Res. 27) and the other through Thursday, February 28, 2019 (H.J. Res. 28).

 

 The Senate will vote for the third time on whether to invoke cloture, or limit debate, on the motion to proceed to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S. 1) that would authorize the appropriation of funds to Israel and reauthorize the U.S.—Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2015. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will force a vote this week on a measure to block the Treasury Department’s plans to lift sanctions on three Russian companies linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is reported to be under scrutiny by Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may also file for cloture on the motion to proceed to a public lands package, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) that would reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund; however, the measure may run into opposition from Senate Democrats, who do not want to consider other legislation until the partial government shutdown ends. Two major Trump Administration nominees will face confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary and Environment and Public Works Committees, respectively, this week: William Barr to serve as U.S. Attorney General and Andrew Wheeler to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On January 14, the partial federal government shutdown entered its 24th day, setting a new record for the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The impasse shows no signs of abating: Congressional leaders and the White House have scheduled no meetings this week as roughly 800,000 federal workers either continue to work without pay or are furloughed. After spending much of last week openly pondering a declaration of national emergency in order to fund his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall as a way to circumvent Congress and potentially provide an exit ramp from the shutdown, President Trump said it was not in his imminent plans. The Trump Administration also took steps last week to mitigate the fallout from the shutdown, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development sending landlords letters as part of a last-minute effort to prevent the eviction of thousands of tenants and the National Park Service authorizing the use of entrance fees to pay for trash pickup and other operations.

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.

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