Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The Senate is voting this evening to confirm Dan Brouillette as the new Secretary of Energy, replacing Rick Perry, whose last day at the Department was Sunday. On Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who will retire at the end of the year because of health concerns, will deliver his farewell address.
House Floor. The House will convene Tuesday at 2 p.m. with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. In addition to bills considered under suspension, the House this week will vote on the Insider Trading Prohibition Act, which would make it easier for the government to prosecute cases against company insiders and recipients of confidential tips.
FY 2020 Appropriations. The chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees – Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) – reached an agreement Nov. 23 on the 302(b) allocations that set the spending levels for each of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2020. The House and Senate subcommittees are now negotiating details of the individual bills, and staff say the allocations will not be made public until agreements are finalized. According to Congressional staff, if the subcommittees reach an impasse on certain issues, those outstanding matters will be moved up to the full committee for negotiations on Friday. Leadership would then weigh in the week of Dec. 9 in the hope that the House can take up legislation as soon as Dec. 12.
That is an ambitious schedule, but appropriators remain optimistic that Congress can approve the FY 2020 spending bills before Dec. 20, when the latest continuing resolution expires. However, there are some significant differences that must be resolved, including spending for the border wall, whether to restrict the Administration’s ability to move money between accounts to fund the wall, and issues associated with grants for family planning.
Impeachment Hearings. The impeachment inquiry will move this week from one of the smallest House committees (Intelligence, with 13 Democrats and 9 Republicans) to one of the largest (Judiciary, with 24 Ds and 17 Rs). At a 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, the Intelligence Committee will vote along party lines to approve its impeachment report and send it to the Judiciary Committee.
The next day, the Judiciary Committee will hear from four legal experts at a hearing “to discuss the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment.” Under the House-passed rules governing the inquiry, the President and his counsel are able to participate in the impeachment hearings in the Judiciary Committee, but White House Counsel Pat Cipollone notified the committee Sunday night that the White House would not be participating in Wednesday’s hearing. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked Cipollone to respond by Friday whether the White House would participate in subsequent hearings, which are expected to continue into next week.
There’s no timeline as to how this will play out in the House, but one possible scenario envisions the House Judiciary Committee voting next week on articles of impeachment. If the committee approves the articles, the full House could then vote the week of Dec. 16 on whether to impeach the President. If a simple majority votes for impeachment, the next step would be a Senate trial starting in January presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi feels that a USMCA trade deal is “within range.” Pelosi and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) have provided U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer with the House Democrats’ latest proposal, with details reportedly still to be hammered out on enforcement. There are very few days left in this legislative session, but key players believe it is still possible for Congress to pass USMCA implementing legislation this year.
National Defense Authorization Act. Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have been working for weeks to hammer out a compromise between their two versions of the NDAA. With time running out on the 2019 calendar, Congressional staff hope an agreement can be nailed down this week so that the final bill can be taken up in the House next week.
Committee Action of Note:
Georgia Senate Seat. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) this week plans to pick financial executive Kelly Loeffler to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend. Isakson is leaving the Senate at the end of 2019 due to health issues. Many expected the Governor to appoint President Trump’s pick, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga). Collins has said he is considering waging a primary fight in 2020 if he is not chosen. The 2020 election will determine who will complete the remaining two years of Isakson’s term.
Democratic Presidential Primary. With 63 days remaining until the first votes are cast in the 2020 primary, there is a robust field of 16 Democrats vying for the nomination. The next Democratic debate, on Dec. 19, is the last scheduled debate for 2019 and potentially the last debate before the Iowa caucuses. Six candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — have qualified for the debate. Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard both need to poll at least 4% in one more qualifying poll, while Tom Steyer needs to add more donors to qualify.