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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate Floor. The Senate is in session and will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 1, which would impose new sanctions on the Syrian government and enhance security cooperation with Israel and Jordan. Democrats have objected to taking up the bill until the Senate voted on legislation to reopen the government. Now that the government has reopened, the measure is likely to be approved by the Senate, but its fate in the House is unclear.

House Floor. The House is in session Monday through Wednesday, with no votes on Thursday or Friday. On Monday and Tuesday, the House will consider a number of bills under suspension and on Wednesday members will vote on legislation to provide a 2.6% pay raise in 2019 for most federal government employees. The bill is in response to President Trump’s Dec. 28 executive order that froze salaries for federal civilian employees.

Government Funding. Since the beginning of January, the House has passed numerous bills to provide short- and long-term funding for those parts of the government that have been shut down, while the Senate had taken no votes on government funding until last Thursday when Senators rejected both a Republican and Democratic proposal. Then, on Friday, Jan. 18, there was a breakthrough. Both chambers passed and the President signed a continuing resolution that reopened the government through Feb. 15.

Between now and then, a conference committee of House and Senate appropriators will try to craft an FY 2019 Homeland Security appropriations bill that satisfies all sides on the issue of border security. The first formal meeting of the panel will be at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The negotiations will be led by the top Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committees – Senators Shelby (R-Ala.) and Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Granger (R-Tex.) – as well as the leaders of the Homeland Security Subcommittees – Senators Capito (R-W.Va.) and Tester (D-Mont.) and Reps. Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and Fleischmann (R-Tenn.). They will be joined by others who serve on their chambers’ full Appropriations Committee and, in some cases, the Homeland Security Subcommittee – Senators Hoeven (R-N.D.), Blunt (R-Mo.), and Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. Price (D-N.C.), Lee (D-Calif,), Cuellar (D-Tex.), Aguilar (D-Calif.), Graves (R-Ga.), and Palazzo (R-Miss.). While House and Senate leaders are not formally part of the negotiations, they will, of course, continue to be involved and have a critical say in the outcome.

President Trump continues to threaten that he will declare a national emergency in order to build the wall if there is no agreement with Congress. Such a move will face pushback from not only Democrats but also Republican lawmakers, who have a number of concerns, including (a) it will be immediately challenged in the courts, (b) it sets a precedent that could allow Democratic presidents to go around Congress, and (c) it could end up taking money away from Pentagon projects that Republicans want funded. “It’ll be a terrible idea. I hope he doesn’t do it,” Senator Marco Rubio (R- Fla.) said Sunday. Given the likelihood of a court challenge, “you could very well wind up in sort of a theatric victory at the front end and then not getting it done.”

Politics / Process

DATES TO NOTE:

  • Jan. 30-31 – Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will be in Washington for trade talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and other officials. If the two countries do not reach a deal by March 1, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods imported from China are scheduled to increase from 10% to 25%.
  • Jan. 30-31 – Senate Democrats’ retreat. The retreat was originally scheduled to be held out of town, but it was relocated to Washington because of the shutdown.
  • Feb. 5 – House Speaker Pelosi on Monday invited President Trump to deliver his State of the Union message on Feb. 5.
  • Feb. 13-15 – House Democrats’ retreat. Location TBA. Whether the retreat goes forward as planned could be affected by deliberations on resolving the border security issue and the threat of another shutdown on Feb. 16.

DATES NOT TO NOTE:

  • Jan. 30-Feb. 1 – House Republicans’ retreat scheduled for the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Postponed due to the shutdown.
  • Feb. 7 – The President’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, planned to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Postponed by Cohen; however, the panel may subpoena Cohen to appear on a date to be determined prior to his prison sentence that begins March 6. Meanwhile, Cohen was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee and will reportedly testify in a closed-door session on Feb. 12.
  • March 15 – Deadline for International Trade Commission report on the economic impact of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Likely delayed because of the shutdown.

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