The weekly round-up is taking next week off. We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday!
Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The Senate will continue to consider nominations this week and before adjourning for Thanksgiving will pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open after Nov. 21.
House Floor. The House this evening will consider six bills under suspension of the rules, including legislation to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) program for seven years and require the Government Accountability Office to provide a report on cyber terrorism risks. [The Senate Banking Committee will mark up its TRIA bill on Wednesday.] Also under suspension today is consideration of the Investor Protection and Capital Markets Fairness Act that would allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to “obtain disgorgement in the amount of any unjust enrichment obtained by securities law violators for up to 14 years after the unlawful action took place.”
On Tuesday, the House will take the first step to keeping the government open after Nov. 21 by passing a continuing resolution that provides government funding through Dec. 20. The measure will also provide the military with a 3.1% pay increase, prevent an automatic cut next year to highway funding, allow the Census Bureau to spend money at a higher rate to prepare for the 2020 census, extend through Dec. 20 certain expiring health care programs, and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for another month.
The last votes of the week will be held no later than 3 p.m. Thursday, and lawmakers will then begin a week-long Thanksgiving recess, returning Dec. 3. While the 2019 House schedule anticipated an adjournment date of Dec. 12, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said last week that lawmakers should plan to stay in Washington the week of Dec. 16.
FY 2020 Appropriations. Whether that extra week will be enough to enact all 12 appropriations bills is subject to debate. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said last week that she and other key negotiators hope to reach an agreement by this Wednesday on the 302(b) allocations that set the spending levels for each of the 12 bills. It’s unclear whether such a deal can be announced on Wednesday, but assuming there is agreement at some point, House and Senate appropriators would then begin negotiations to work out differences between the individual bills. If those differences between Republicans and Democrats cannot be resolved by Dec. 20, lawmakers are expected to pass a third CR that will provide government funding into early 2020.
Export-Import Bank. The CR that Congress is on track to pass this week will not only fund the government through Dec. 20, it will also extend the operations of the Export-Import Bank, whose authorization would otherwise expire Nov. 21. The House on Friday, Nov. 15, voted mostly along party lines, 235-184, to reauthorize the Bank for 10 years and rename it the U.S. Export Finance Agency. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not plan to take up the House bill and, instead, intends to use this week’s CR to extend the Bank’s operations beyond Nov. 21.
Impeachment Hearings. The Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence continues its hearings this week with testimony on Tuesday from Jennifer Williams, special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Europe and Russia; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs for the National Security Council; Kurt Volker, former U.S. special representative for Ukraine; and Tim Morrison, Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council.
On Wednesday, the witness list includes Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs; and David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
On Thursday, Fiona Hill, former Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs for the National Security Council, will testify. This afternoon another witness was added to Thursday’s schedule – David Holmes, Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, who overheard a phone call between Sondland and President Trump on July 26.
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. There is speculation that the House could take up USMCA implementing legislation the week of Dec. 9 after voting the previous week on H.R. 3, the Democratic leadership’s bill to reduce drug prices.
U.S.-China Trade Negotiations. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that he expects the U.S. and China will reach a trade deal before Dec. 15, when the President plans to impose new tariffs on $156 billion-worth of consumer goods imported from China. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly spoke with their Chinese counterparts on Saturday as disagreements continue over, among other things, whether the U.S. will lift tariffs on Chinese imports and whether China will agree to a set dollar amount of agricultural imports from the U.S. President Trump has said that China has agreed to buy up to $50 billion of soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the U.S. annually.
Committee Action of Note:
North Carolina Congressional Map. The Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina gave final approval on Friday to a new 2020 congressional district map after a three-judge panel decided Oct. 28 that the map in place since 2016 couldn’t be used. The new map is expected to cost Republicans two of the 10 seats they hold in the 13-member delegation (likely the seats now held by GOP Reps. George Holding and Mark Walker). Democrats argued that the new map still unfairly favors the GOP, and they have filed suit to contest the redrawn map.
Southern Governors. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards narrowly won his re-election campaign in Louisiana on Sunday over Trump-backed Eddie Rispone. Gov. Edwards continues to be the only statewide-elected Democrat in Louisiana. In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin officially conceded on Friday to Democrat Andy Beshear after a statewide recanvassing of votes showed no evidence of voter fraud or miscalculations. President Trump won Louisiana by 20 points and Kentucky by 30 points in 2016.
Iowa Caucuses. With 77 days to go until the first votes are counted in the Democratic presidential nomination race, we are no closer to knowing who the Democratic nominee will be. A new CNN/Des Moines Register poll has South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leading the field with 25% support. Trailing Buttigieg are Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 16% and former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders each at 15%. Since September, Warren has dropped six percentage points and Biden has slipped five points, while Sanders gained four points. No other candidate has cracked double digits.