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Legislative Update

House. On Tuesday, the House is scheduled to vote on the conference agreements for both the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). On Wednesday, members will vote on a short-term continuing resolution to continue funding through Dec. 18.

Senate. The Senate this week is looking to vote on the NDAA conference report and the House’s short-term CR. House and Senate passage of the NDAA is expected even though President Trump has said he would veto the measure if it did not contain language to repeal liability protection for social media companies. The Senate vote on the one-week CR could come as late as Friday, the day the current CR expires.

Also expected to receive votes this week are joint resolutions of disapproval to block the Administration’s proposal to sell F-35 fighter jets, drones, and munitions to the United Arab Emirates. Among the nominations that may be considered is that of Nathan Simington to take a seat on the Federal Communications Commission.

FY 2021 Appropriations. House and Senate appropriators are continuing their efforts to reach a deal on all 12 appropriations measures. Among the remaining sticking points are disagreements over spending for veterans healthcare and the border wall. If the outstanding issues can’t be resolved in time for an omnibus to pass both chambers before Dec. 18, there is talk that the Military Construction/VA and Homeland Security bills could be funded through a continuing resolution that runs until early next year.

Covid Package. Negotiations are ongoing to pull together a Covid-relief package that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Attention right now is focused on talks being held by a bipartisan group of Senators, who are working on a $908-billion bill. Not surprisingly, there is still disagreement over liability protection language supported by Republicans and aid for state and local governments supported by Democrats. If a deal can be reached, it will be considered as part of the FY 2021 appropriations package. A deal could also clear the way for lawmakers to add a tax extenders bill to the package.

House Committee Leadership. Last week, House Democrats chose three new committee chairs – Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) for Appropriations, David Scott (Ga.) for Agriculture, and Gregory Meeks (N.Y.) for Foreign Affairs. Republicans will have seven new ranking members in the next Congress – Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (Pa.), Agriculture; Mike Rogers (Ala.), Armed Services; Jason Smith (Mo.), Budget; Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Energy and Commerce; Bruce Westerman (Ark.), Natural Resources; Blaine Luetkemeyer (Mo.), Small Business; and Mike Bost (Ill.), Veterans’ Affairs.

In the race to head the Democratic Congressional Committee, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) last week bested Rep. Tony Cardenas (Calif.). His counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee is Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.).

While the leadership is now set for the committees, decisions on subcommittee chairs will not be made until next year. The first step in this process involves party leaders negotiating what the committee margins will be. Once that is decided, members will get their committee assignments. In general, subcommittee chairmanships are based on seniority, but the process also involves a vote by committee members and in certain cases the Steering and Policy Committee. These decisions on subcommittee chairs are likely to be made in January. For example, in 2019, Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal announced subcommittee members and subcommittee chairs on Jan. 16. Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio announced subcommittee chairs on Jan. 24.

Committee Action of Note:

  • Tuesday, December 8:
    • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing: "Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution, Part II."
  • Wednesday, December 9:
    • Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Hearing: "Investigating Challenges to American Retirement Security."
    • House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Hearing: "1890 Land Grant Institutions – 130 Years of Building Equity in Agriculture."
    • House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Hearing: "Pipelines Over People: How FERC Tramples Landowner Rights in Natural Gas Projects."
  • Thursday, December 10:
    • Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety (Hybrid) Hearing: "The Logistics of Transporting a COVID-19 Vaccine."
    • Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Hearing: "Small Business in Crisis: The 2020 Paycheck Protection Program and its Future."
    • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee Hearing: "Combatting the Opioid Crisis: Oversight of the Implementation of the STOP Act."
    • House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations Hearing: "The Elements of Presidential Transitions."

Political Update

House Elections. Republican Luke Letlow will replace his boss, retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham, after winning the runoff in LA-05 this weekend. Only two House races, in New York and Iowa, remain undecided, making the current breakdown for 2021 at 222 Democrats and 211 Republicans.

In New York, lawyers for Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi and Republican Claudia Tenney continued oral arguments today in the court case before the New York State Supreme Court to help decide the outcome of the NY-22 race. Tenney leads by 12 votes and is asking Justice Scott DelConte to order election officials to certify the election. Brindisi’s team is asking the court to order election officials to fix record-keeping errors on roughly 1,500 uncounted ballots and then let the court determine if they should be opened.

Included in that pool are more than 400 affidavit ballots that were invalidated by Oneida County’s election commissioners because officials made notations on sticky notes rather than directly on the envelope the ballot was in and the notes fell off, as well as 67 unopened ballots that were discovered in a drawer in Chenango County. DelConte adjourned court for the day and said he would upload his ruling shortly.

In IA-02, Democrat Rita Hart announced she would forgo a legal battle in the Iowa State Supreme Court and is instead contesting the election directly with the House Administration Committee, after falling six votes short against Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks. Hart’s team said that Iowa state law would not have allowed for sufficient time to review all the ballots since they are required to certify the election by Dec. 8.

Under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969, the case will be referred to the House Administration Committee, which would conduct an investigation of its own and could allow for a full recount of all ballots, including 35 military ballots that were not scanned. The committee then makes a recommendation to the full House, which decides by a simple majority who to seat. The last time the congressional process was used to settle an election was in 1985 when the Democratic-controlled House refused to seat Republican Richard McIntyre over incumbent Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.). After auditors from the General Accounting Office conducted a recount that dragged on for four months, the House in May voted mainly along party lines that McCloskey was the winner by four votes, 116,645-116,641.

Georgia Senate. Last night Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic challenger, Rev. Raphael Warnock, faced off in a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club. In the other Senate runoff, Republican Senator David Perdue declined to participate so Jon Ossoff (D) faced an empty podium. The deadline for new voter registration is today, and in-person early voting begins next week.

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