Legislative / Policy Update
House Floor. The House this week plans to pass two financial regulation measures. One would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of materials that brokers and investment advisers provide to retail investors. The other would require publicly traded companies to disclose each year the number of workers they employ in each U.S. state and foreign country, as well as the percentage change from the previous year.
Senate Floor. The Senate will continue to consider nominations, including that of Barbara Barrett to be Secretary of the Air Force. Also, Democrats plan to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to force a floor vote on a resolution that would overturn certain environmental regulations issued by the Trump Administration. Under the CRA, which allows Congress to hold an up-or-down vote on a federal regulation within 60 days of it being finalized, only 30 Senators need to request a vote in order to get the resolution on the Senate calendar. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the vote this week would seek to reverse the Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule that replaced President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Only a simple majority is needed to pass the resolution, but that would mean at least four Republicans and all Democrats would have to vote aye. Schumer knows he doesn’t have the 51 votes and that even if he did, the resolution, which must also pass the House, would be vetoed by President Trump. Nevertheless, Democrats plan to force a Senate vote not only on the environmental resolution this week but also in the weeks to come on CRA resolutions addressing health care plans and regulations preventing workarounds to the limitation on the state and local tax deduction.
Impeachment Inquiry. It’s becoming hard to keep up with who has been asked to testify, who has declined to testify, and who has or will appear before closed-door sessions convened by the three House committees – Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight – conducting the Ukraine investigation.
This week, the schedule calls for closed-door testimony as follows: Today: George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the European and Eurasian Bureau; Wednesday: Michael McKinley, a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until last week when he resigned; Thursday: Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union; Friday: Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary.
Looking Ahead at Appropriations. With House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey’s announcement Oct. 10 that she would not run for re-election, the speculation immediately began as to who would take her place as the top Democrat on the committee. If Democrats went strictly by seniority, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) would be the next chair if Democrats maintain control of the House. However, that is not always the case, as demonstrated by the fact that Lowey beat out Kaptur in 2012 to be ranking member even though Kaptur had more seniority.
Following Lowey’s announcement, Kaptur expressed interest in leading the committee, while Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said she is definitely running for the position. Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), who has more seniority than DeLauro, said he is not interested in the chairmanship of the full committee and would prefer to remain as chairman of the Defense Subcommittee. Other appropriators who may decide later to throw their hats into the ring include Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and David Price (D-N.C.).
2020 Appropriations. Now that Congress is back in session, Lowey will be involved in negotiations with Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in trying to figure out how much money can be designated for each of the 12 spending bills for FY 2020. The top-line number for total 2020 spending was approved in the July budget deal, but Democrats and Republicans now need to agree how to allot that money through what are known as 302(b) allocations.
During the two-week recess, House Democrats reportedly made an offer to Senate Republicans, but obviously there has been no agreement yet on the numbers. Given what is seen as the slow pace of negotiations, there is a general expectation that the appropriations bills will not be finalized by Nov. 21, when the current continuing resolution expires, necessitating at least one, if not more, CRs to prevent a government shutdown.
U.S.-China Talks. President Trump announced Friday, Oct. 11, that the U.S. had reached a partial agreement with China on trade issues and that the U.S. would not increase tariffs from 25% to 30% on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. The tariffs were scheduled to be increased today. The agreement in principle, which is the first of two or three phases, will take three to five weeks to write. Trump hopes to sign the phase-one agreement with Chinese President Xi at the annual APEC leaders summit in Chile on Nov. 16-17.
Phase one covers agriculture purchases and market access barriers, financial services market openings, currency, and some safeguards against forced technology transfers and IP theft. Under the agreement, China will purchase $40 to $50 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods and lift its retaliatory duties on U.S. agricultural goods.
USMCA. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the House Working Group are expected to meet this week to continue their negotiations on outstanding U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement issues. Supporters of the pact are optimistic that a breakthrough is near and that a deal could be announced by the end of the month. The Working Group and USTR are reportedly close to resolving questions related to the major areas of concern for Democrats, including biologics, labor, environment, and enforcement, with Mexico’s labor reform implementation, spending, and enforcement being central to achieving a deal. If a deal is reached this month, optimists hope the agreement could be passed by Thanksgiving.
Committee Action of Note:
Canadian Election. Canadians head to the polls Oct. 21 in an election that seems deadlocked at the moment. Polling suggests that the Liberal Party led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not have enough strength to form a majority government, leaving him likely to partner with either the Green Party or New Democrats to form a coalition government. The opposition party, the Conservatives, behind their leader, Andrew Scheer, would likely have to form a coalition government with the Quebec separatists party (Bloc Quebecois) to form a government should they win enough seats. Sunday’s CBCNews poll predicts the Liberals will win in 141 districts, ahead of the Conservatives at 134, both still well short of the 170 needed to form a majority. The Bloc is projected to win 33 districts, versus 25 for the NDP. If you would like to know where each party stands on the issues, a thorough list of all issues and party stances can be found here.
Debate Night in America. The fourth Democratic debate is scheduled for tonight at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Twelve candidates have made the stage: Former Vice President Biden; Senators Warren, Sanders, Booker, Harris, and Klobuchar; Mayor Buttigieg; former HUD Secretary Castro; former Rep. O’Rourke; Rep. Gabbard; and businessmen Steyer and Yang. This will be Tom Steyer’s first appearance in a debate and the first debate since the House impeachment inquiry was announced. President Trump won Ohio’s 18 electoral votes in 2016 with 51.3% to Clinton’s 43.2%.
New Polling. Sen. Warren leads in the latest Quinnipiac University National Poll with 30% of the vote. Biden is a close second at 26%. Sen. Sanders earned 11% support, with Mayor Buttigieg at 8% and Sen. Harris at 4%. No other candidate tops 2%. Sen. Warren’s lead is growing in the category of best policy ideas, while Biden still leads heavily in the electability category.
Louisiana Election Update. Republicans successfully kept Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards from garnering 50% of the vote on Saturday, setting up a Nov. 16 general election with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Louisiana will also see a lot of new faces in the state legislature that will be elected Nov. 16. Because of term limits, 31 of 105 state representatives and 16 of 39 state senators couldn’t run for re-election. Despite the turnover, Republicans are expected to retain control of both chambers given that Democrats would need to flip six Senate seats and 11 House seats to gain control. Louisiana will be one of three states electing governors in November, with Kentucky and Mississippi also holding elections.