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
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Federal agencies are working to get money to individuals and businesses as soon as possible to provide assistance in coping with the coronavirus crisis. Lawmakers won’t return to Washington until at least April 20, but discussions are already underway on provisions that should be included in the next coronavirus bill.Read More
The House is hoping to make technical corrections to the coronavirus bill it just passed; the Senate is waiting to get the corrected bill; and everyone agrees that still another legislative package is needed in order to provide assistance to hard-hit industries.Read More