Legislative / Policy Update
House Floor. The House this week will take up the Corporate Transparency Act and the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act. The transparency bill would require persons who form corporations or limited liability companies to disclose their beneficial owners in order to prevent criminals, terrorists, and money launderers from using shell companies to hide illicit proceeds and support illegal activities. Under the SHIELD Act, candidates and campaigns would have to report improper offers of assistance by foreign officials or their lobbyists.
Also on the schedule is a resolution opposing the President’s decision to hold the G7 Summit in June at the Trump National Doral golf resort. It’s unclear whether the resolution will still be brought up for a vote given the President’s reversal of that decision Saturday night. No votes are planned for Thursday or Friday. On Thursday, Members of Congress will attend a memorial service in the Capitol for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who died last week and will lie in state in Statuary Hall. A wake and funeral for Cummings will be held in Baltimore on Friday.
Senate Floor. The Senate this week may pass its first FY 2020 appropriations bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week took the first step toward taking up two House-passed bills. One (H.R. 3055) provides appropriations for Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Transportation-HUD, and Military Construction-VA. If Senators vote to begin debate on H.R. 3055, Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will then substitute the spending measures approved by his committee. Four of the five spending bills are relatively non-controversial. However, the committee has not passed the Military Construction bill, which is tied up in a larger debate about border wall funding, so that measure may be omitted when the Senate takes up the House-passed bill.
The second bill that McConnell proposes to bring to the floor is the House-passed measure providing funding for Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development. Senate Democrats will not agree to moving this measure forward until there is an agreement between the two parties on how much money can be designated for each of the 12 FY 2020 spending bills. The disagreement basically boils down to how much money can be designated for a border wall and for domestic priorities in the Labor-HHS-Education bill.
Drug Pricing. Democrats are moving quickly toward House passage of a drug pricing bill (H.R. 3) put forward by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On Thursday, October 17, two committees – Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor – approved the measure, while the third committee with jurisdiction, Ways and Means, will mark up the bill tomorrow, Oct. 22. House leadership is eyeing a floor vote by the end of the month on the measure, which is likely to be named after Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who died early Thursday.
Oversight Committee. With the death of Oversight Chairman Cummings, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will serve as acting chairwoman of the committee. Maloney, who was elected to Congress in 1992, actually had seniority over Cummings, who won his seat in 1996, but Democrats chose Cummings over Maloney to serve as ranking member in December 2010, and Cummings then became chairman when Democrats took control of the House after the 2018 elections. The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee will meet soon with potential candidates to recommend a replacement, and the full House Democratic Caucus will then vote on who should chair the committee.
Impeachment Inquiry. Rep. Cummings was one of three committee chairmen leading the House impeachment inquiry, along with Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). This week the three panels will continue their closed-door sessions. On Tuesday, the panels will hear from Bill Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and on Wednesday, Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense (whose testimony was postponed from last week) is scheduled to appear. Because of memorial services for Rep. Cummings, the three panels have postponed the testimony of other officials who were set to testify this week.
USMCA. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the House Democratic Working Group on the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement are expected to meet again on Tuesday or Wednesday, following three meetings last week. Democrats are reported to be waiting for the Administration to respond to their latest set of proposals.
Energy Department. President Trump said on Friday that he intends to nominate Dan Brouillette to succeed Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. Brouillette, who has served as Deputy Secretary since August 2017, also worked for DOE during the George W. Bush administration as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs. Perry’s office says he will step down on Dec. 1.
Committee Action of Note:
Senate 2020. Three Republican Senators [Martha McSally (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Joni Ernst (Iowa)] were outraised by their Democratic challengers in the third fundraising quarter of 2019. McSally and Collins are both rated as “Toss Up” seats, and Ernst is in a “Likely R” seat. Each of the three Republicans is also facing dipping favorability numbers both for themselves and for President Trump in their states, according to a new Morning Consult poll, signaling a tough year ahead on the campaign trail. On the Democratic side, vulnerable Senator Gary Peters (Mich.) was out raised by GOP challenger John James.
Wisconsin Special Election. With Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-Wisc.) resignation from Congress on Sept. 23, a special election to fill his seat will be held May 12, preceded by a primary Feb. 18. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had originally called for a primary on Dec. 30 and the special election on Jan. 27, but that schedule ran afoul of a federal law that requires at least 45 days between a primary and general election to accommodate military and overseas absentee ballots. Duffy announced in August that he would leave Congress after learning that his ninth child, who is due in October, has a heart condition. Duffy has joined CNN as a contributor.