Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The Senate will continue consideration of nominations, including that of Chad Wolf to be Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans at the Department of Homeland Security. Upon confirmation, Wolf is expected to become DHS Acting Secretary, replacing Kevin McAleenan, the current Acting Secretary, who announced his resignation in October. A final confirmation vote is expected Wednesday morning.
House Floor. The House will take up various bills under suspension of the rules and will also consider legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for 10 years and rename it the U.S. Export Finance Agency. The House bill was opposed by all Republicans on the Financial Services Committee and is not supported by the Trump Administration, which favors a clean, 10-year bill without certain provisions included by House Democrats. Given that the bank’s charter expires Nov. 21, a short-term extension is expected to be included in the next continuing resolution that will be needed to keep the government funded beyond next Thursday.
Impeachment Hearings. The Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is one of the smallest panels in the House with 13 Democrats and nine Republicans, but tomorrow it will convene the first of several public impeachment hearings in one of the largest House committee rooms – 1100 Longworth, the home of the Ways and Means Committee. At 10 a.m., the Intelligence Committee will hear from Ambassador William Taylor, the Chargé D'affaires for the State Department in Ukraine, and George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the European and Eurasian Bureau. On Friday at 9 a.m., the committee will hear from former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine until May 2019.
Under the House-passed resolution setting out the rules for the impeachment inquiry, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will begin the hearing with up to 45 minutes each of questioning. Schiff and Nunes cannot yield time to other members during these extended questioning periods, but they may yield time to their committee counsels. Schiff says he expects to yield “extensive time” to his Democratic counsels (Daniel Goldman and Daniel Noble), while Nunes will yield time to Steve Castor, chief counsel for Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, who was named to the Intelligence Committee last week. After the extended questioning concludes, members of the committee will be recognized for the customary five minutes of questions.
FY 2020 Appropriations. The Washington vocabulary is full of initials and acronyms, but it’s unusual that so much attention is currently focused on what are known as the 302(b) allocations. These allocations set the maximum level of spending for each of the 12 appropriations bills, and they are a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. This afternoon, the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees – Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger (R-Tex.) and Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) – are meeting to begin serious efforts to hammer out a compromise.
With no resolution likely in the coming days on border wall funds and other controversial issues, the House next week will take up a continuing resolution that is expected to provide government funding until mid- to late-December, possibly Dec. 20, the Friday before Christmas. Action by both chambers, as well as the President’s signature, is needed by midnight on Nov. 21, when the current CR expires.
Committee Action of Note:
Democratic Primary. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took steps last week to join the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is also considering a run. Bloomberg submitted paperwork Friday to enter the presidential primary in Alabama, which has the first filing deadline. If he decides to run, Bloomberg will reportedly skip early voting states, including Iowa and New Hampshire, and instead focus on the 14 delegate-heavy states that vote on March 3, Super Tuesday. The delegate count in the first four states to vote next year totals 155, representing about 4% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. Super Tuesday, on the other hand, will choose 1,358 delegates or 35% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. Only one Democratic nominee (Bill Clinton in 1992) has ever earned the nomination without winning either New Hampshire or Iowa, making the gamble of skipping both states a huge risk.
Senate Update. On Thursday, Nov. 7, former Attorney General and Senator Jeff Sessions announced he would be running for his old Senate seat. Sessions will join a crowded Republican primary in which the endorsement of President Trump will be important but not the only factor as we saw with Luther Strange losing the 2017 special election. In Mississippi, former Agriculture Secretary and 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Espy announced today he would be challenging Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2020. Hyde-Smith won the 2018 battle 53.9% to 46%.
Kentucky Governor’s Race. On election night last Tuesday in Kentucky, the final tabulation showed Democratic candidate Andy Beshear beating out Governor Matt Bevin (R) by 5,189 votes. Bevin, however, has yet to concede and has called for a “recanvassing” of voters. The recanvass is a simple double-checking to ensure that county election boards across the state correctly added up the totals from voting machines before reporting them to the county clerk. The process can be completed in a day and will occur this Thursday.
Bevin has been laying the groundwork for formally contesting the result of the recanvass by stating numerous times there were irregularities, without specifically citing any incidents. The Kentucky Attorney General's office fielded 137 calls to its election fraud hotline this year but none were said to be out of the ordinary.