Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The Senate will continue consideration of nominations and may take up Senator Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) War Powers Resolution. The resolution calls for the President to terminate the use of U.S. forces “for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran” unless explicitly authorized “by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.”
House Floor. Among the bills to be considered under suspension is a Senate-passed measure providing for the issuance of $1 coins bearing the image of President George H.W. Bush and bullion coins with the image of Barbara Bush. On Wednesday or Thursday, the House is expected to vote on a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Impeachment. Following the House vote, the Senate will set a time for the House managers to enter the Senate and submit the articles. Once the articles are presented to the Senate, the Senate trial will begin at 1 p.m. every day except Sunday “until final judgment shall be rendered.”
USMCA. Even though the rules for consideration of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement provide that the implementing legislation cannot be changed at this point in the process, seven Senate committees are “marking up” the bill. The Senate Finance Committee went first, voting 25-3 on Jan. 7 to advance the measure. This week, five more panels are scheduled to hold votes, beginning Tuesday morning, when the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Budget Committee consider the legislation. On Wednesday, the Commerce Committee and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will take up the bill. On Thursday, the Foreign Relations panel is scheduled to vote.
However, there is speculation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may try to bring the USMCA bill to the floor on Thursday, which would necessitate moving the Foreign Relations markup to Wednesday and also scheduling action in the Appropriations Committee. Markup in the Appropriations Committee has not yet been announced, a move that gives McConnell more flexibility to bring the implementing bill to the floor when he is ready. Under the fast-track rules governing consideration of the USMCA bill, the full Senate must vote within 15 legislative days after the last committee of jurisdiction approves the implementing legislation. Once the legislation goes to the floor, 20 hours of debate will be allowed.
If the Senate does not begin debate Thursday, it may be that consideration will be delayed until after the impeachment trial. The new agreement cannot go into effect until all three participating countries approve it, and the Canadian Parliament will not be in session until Jan. 27 so a vote there is not expected until at least February. Mexico cleared the deal on Dec. 12. Once all three countries have approved the deal, President Trump will send a notice to Congress. The agreement cannot enter into force until at least 30 days after the President sends the notice to Congress. The notice will include the date that the USMCA will enter into force.
FY 2021 Budget. The President plans to submit his FY 2021 budget proposal on Feb. 10, so look for Administration officials to appear before Congressional committees that week to explain details of the proposal. However, don’t look for the House and Senate to agree on a budget resolution, especially since House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) thinks his committee won’t even consider a resolution. “I wouldn’t bet on doing it,” Yarmuth told The Hill newspaper. The top-line numbers for defense and non-defense bills were agreed to last year, so Yarmuth expects that appropriators “are probably going to do something that's pretty similar to what this year’s was.”
While appropriators know the top-line numbers, specific allocations for the 12 appropriations bills have not yet been agreed to by House and Senate leaders. An agreement on those numbers, known as the 302(b) allocations, would provide some certainty for appropriators, but a deal is not necessary for the process to begin. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said last week that he hopes the House will pass at least 10 of the 12 appropriations bills by the end of June. (In 2019, the House did not vote on the Homeland Security and Legislative Branch bills.) The Senate, which is expected to move more slowly, has not announced any proposed timetable.
Regardless of how quickly the House and Senate may move on the spending bills, there remains the possibility that none of the measures will be enacted before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year and a continuing resolution will be needed to keep the government open at least until a lame duck session after the elections and possibly into the new year.
Committee Action of Note:
Democratic Primary. Tomorrow night’s Democratic presidential debate will be the first debate of 2020 and the last before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. Former Vice President Joe Biden; Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar; former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and businessman Tom Steyer are the six candidates to make it onto the stage.
Polling in Iowa. Current polling in Iowa is mixed. The top four candidates in the latest CNN/Des Moines Register poll released Friday are Sanders, 20%; Warren, 17%; Buttigieg, 16%; and Biden, 15%, with 40% of voters still remaining undecided. The same four candidates top a Monmouth University poll released today, but in a different order – Biden, 24%; Sanders, 18%; Buttigieg, 17%; and Warren 15%.
Dropping Out. This morning New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential primary. Booker will turn his attention to retaining his Senate seat, which is on the ballot this year. On Friday, self-help author Marianne Williamson dropped out of the race after being unable to raise enough funds to keep her campaign staffed in the new year.
Trump Campaign. President Trump will have a busy 48 hours to start the week. Tonight he will fly to New Orleans to watch the NCAA National Championship football game between the LSU Tigers and the Clemson Tigers. Tomorrow the President will hold a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisc., the host city of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.