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Legislative / Policy Update

House Floor. As lawmakers look to adjourn for the year by Friday, the House has a full plate of legislation on its agenda, including:

  • FY 2020 Appropriations. On Tuesday, the House is tentatively scheduled to take up all 12 appropriations bills, which have been divided into two packages. The first has four measures – Defense, Homeland Security, Financial Services, and Commerce-Justice Science. The second is a package of the remaining eight bills. The second bill also repeals three Obamacare taxes – the 40% Cadillac tax on certain employer-provided health plans (Congress has previously delayed the tax until 2022); the 2.3% tax on medical devices set to take effect Jan. 1; and a tax imposed on the health insurance industry. In addition, the bill also contains provisions to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program for seven years; to extend the National Flood Insurance Program through Sept. 30, 2020; to shore up retirement funds for coal miners; and to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21. Other bills hitching a ride on the appropriations measure are the SECURE Act that includes incentives to help workers save for retirement and encourage small businesses to offer retirement plans and the CREATES Act that will help manufacturers of generic drugs. Supporters of legislation to extend various expired tax breaks would also like to see an extenders package added to the spending bill, but negotiators have yet to reach an agreement. Talks are ongoing, with the hope that a deal can be reached tonight.
  • Impeachment Resolution. On Wednesday, the House plans to vote on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This morning, the Judiciary Committee released a 658-page report to accompany the impeachment resolution, which is expected to pass the House along mostly party lines.
  • USMCA. On Thursday, the House is expected to approve legislation implementing the terms of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The House vote will follow a Tuesday markup by the Ways and Means Committee, which at this point cannot make any changes to the legislation under fast-track rules set by the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate is likely to consider the USMCA legislation after the impeachment trial is concluded.
  • SALT Cap Rollback. Also this week, the House will consider legislation to eliminate for two years a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act placing a $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). The bill, which cleared the Ways and Means Committee Dec. 11, will pass the House but will not be taken up in the Senate.

Senate Floor. The Senate this week plans to give final approval to the National Defense Authorization (Act), which passed the House 377-48 on Dec. 12, and the two FY 2020 appropriations packages that the House hopes to pass tomorrow. The Senate will also continue to consider nominations.

Committee Action of Note:

December 17

  • House Ways and Means Committee markup of H. Res. 746, to support and reform the WTO, and H.R. 5430, the USMCA implementing bill.
  • House Rules Committee meeting on the impeachment resolution.

December 19

  • Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to Examine the Impacts of Wildfire on Electric Grid Reliability.
  • House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Environment hearing: "Climate Change, Part IV: Current Economic Effects of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction."

Political Update

Upcoming Democratic Debate. Former Vice President Biden; Senators Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar; Mayor Buttigieg; and entrepreneurs Yang and Steyer will participate in the final Democratic presidential debate of 2019 on Dec. 19 in Los Angeles. According to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Monday morning, Biden leads the field with 24% support, followed by Sanders at 22%. Warren is at 17%; Buttigieg, 13%; Yang, 5%; and Bloomberg, Klobuchar, and Cory Booker, 4%. Three-quarters of Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents say they could change their minds about the contender they favor. The same survey tested impeachment and found opinions have not changed over the past month with 48% of Americans opposing impeachment, while 47% support it.

Next Round of Democratic Debates. The Democratic National Committee announced last week that it will hold four debates in the first two months of 2020. The debates will take place in each of the four early voting states: Iowa (Jan. 14), New Hampshire (Feb. 7), Nevada (Feb. 19), and South Carolina (Feb. 25). Qualification conditions for the debates were not announced, but the first debate could be upended by possible Senate impeachment hearings. Currently, five Democratic Senators are running for president.

Rep. Van Drew To Switch Teams. Congressman Jeff Van Drew, a first-term Democrat from New Jersey who opposes impeachment, is expected to become a Republican later this week after numerous polls showed him lagging with Democratic voters of the New Jersey district that elected him one year ago. Rep. Van Drew met with President Trump on Friday and will run in the Republican primary.

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