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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate Floor. The Senate convened at 3 p.m. today, and at 5 p.m. Kelly Loeffler (R) was sworn in as the new Senator from Georgia, replacing Senator Johnny Isakson (R), who stepped down Dec. 31. A special election will be held in November to fill the remainder of Isakson’s term, and Loeffler will be one of the candidates. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not laid out an agenda for January but says the Senate will continue with “ordinary business” while it waits for the House to transmit its articles of impeachment. At 2:30 on Wednesday, Senators will be briefed on developments in Iraq and Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.

House Floor. In addition to bills being considered under suspension of the rules, the House this week will take up two major pieces of legislation:

  • PFAS. The House will consider a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set drinking water standards for two types of PFAS and designate those two types as hazardous substances. PFAS is a class of nearly 5,000 chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. While the chemicals are non-stick agents used in firefighting foam and various consumer products such as cookware, food wrapping and waterproof clothes, they have been found in groundwater near facilities using them and have been linked to multiple health problems. While the PFAS bill is expected to pass the House, the Senate has no plans to take it up.
  • War Powers Resolution. The House will vote on a War Powers Resolution providing that if Congress doesn’t take action to declare war or authorize military force, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran will cease within 30 days. A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate Jan. 3 by Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.). Because the resolution is privileged, Senator Kaine can force a vote on the Senate floor, where a simple majority of 51 is needed for passage. However, the resolution would still be subject to a presidential veto.

USMCA. Congress will take another step toward final approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on Tuesday, when the Senate Finance Committee meets to mark up the bill. Under the rules for consideration of the agreement, the legislation cannot be changed at this point so the markup is little more than a formality. Following Finance Committee action, the expectation was that the bill would move quickly to the Senate floor to begin 20 hours of debate. However, the Senate Parliamentarian has surprisingly decided the measure should also be referred to six more committees – Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Appropriations; Environment and Public Works; Foreign Relations; Commerce; and Budget. Given these joint referrals, it is unclear what the timing will be for floor consideration. The legislation was approved by the House Dec. 19 on a vote of 385-41.

U.S.-China Trade Deal. On Dec. 31, President Trump tweeted that he would be signing “our very large and comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China on January 15” at the White House. “High level representatives of China will be present.” The text of the deal has not yet been released, but officials from both countries said China has pledged to increase purchases of U.S. farm goods, energy, manufactured products, and services.

In exchange, the U.S. canceled plans to impose a 15% tariff on an additional $160 billion worth of Chinese goods, including laptops and smartphones, that was scheduled to take effect Dec. 15, and will reduce the Sept. 1 tariffs on $120 billion worth of goods from 15% to 7.5%. However, the 25% tariff on another $250 billion worth of Chinese goods will remain in place.

Committee Action of Note:

January 7

  • Senate Finance Committee markup of H.R. 5430, the USMCA implementing bill.

January 8

  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Hearing: "Legislation to Improve Americans’ Health Care Coverage and Outcomes."

January 9

  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Hearing: "Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2020."

Political Update

Another House Retirement. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), 74, has decided not to run for a seventh term. Roe, the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is the 26th House Republican and the fifth GOP committee leader to announce his or her retirement.

Endorsements. Former Vice President Joe Biden landed endorsements over the weekend from several House Democrats in battleground states. Reps. Conor Lamb and Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa all announced their support for Biden. This morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren picked up the endorsement of Julian Castro, who last week halted his own bid for the Democratic nomination.

Trump Campaign. President Trump is starting the new year with rallies in key Midwest states – Thursday in Toledo, Ohio, and next Tuesday in Milwaukee, Wisc. Next month, the traditional presidential interview will air during the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, and the President has been invited to give his State of the Union address on Feb. 4.

Fundraising. President Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $463 million in 2019 for the President’s re-election bid. This compares with $480 million for the Democratic National Committee and the 11 Democrats who are not self-funding their campaigns. For the 4th quarter, Sen. Bernie Sanders led the way in Democratic fundraising, bringing in $34.5 million, for a 2019 total of $96 million raised from over 5 million contributions. Mayor Pete Buttigieg brought in $24.7 million in the final quarter of the year, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden’s $22.7 million, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s $21.2 million, Andrew Yang’s $16.5 million, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s $11.4 million.

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