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Legislative / Policy Update

House Floor. The House holds its first votes at 6:30 p.m. tonight, with no votes scheduled after 3 p.m. Thursday. In addition to voting this week on several bills under suspension of the rules, the House will consider a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be available to the public and to Congress.

Senate Floor. The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a disapproval resolution or possibly some other vehicle dealing with President Trump’s use of emergency authority to help fund the border wall. The House passed the disapproval resolution 245-182 on February 26, and it appears the resolution will easily garner more than the 51 votes needed for passage under special rules set out in the National Emergencies Act. However, Senate Republicans are looking at other options, including passing a separate measure or amending the House version. There’s no question that the disapproval resolution would be vetoed and the veto would be upheld, but Senate Republicans are hoping to avoid having a large number of their colleagues – perhaps as many as 15 – vote with the Democrats on the House-passed proposal rebuking the President’s actions.

Trump Budget. You’ll see a lot of stories today about the Trump budget proposal being “dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill. While it’s true that Congress is not going to embrace this proposal, every President’s budget proposal is essentially dead on arrival as these documents are aspirational blueprints that set forth a President’s priorities and don’t reflect realistic expectations of spending and revenue levels that will be approved by the House and Senate. That said, here are a few reasons this particular proposal, a summary of which was released this morning, is “dead on arrival:”

  • $165 billion in OCO money. In order to stay within the budget cap for defense spending, the President’s proposal adds $165 billion for FY 2020 in additional funds through the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is not subject to the budget caps. (There’s another $156 billion in OCO money proposed for FY 2021.) The OCO account was originally set up to provide emergency funding for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Proposing such a large amount of OCO money for non-war needs is viewed as a gimmick to get around the budget caps.
  • $8.6 billion to build hundreds of miles of border wall.
  • $54 billion reduction from 2019 levels for non-defense spending.
  • $2.7 trillion in spending reductions—“more proposed spending reductions than any previous administration in history,” according to the budget document.

Today’s summary document, titled “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First,” will be followed next week by the release of more detailed information, including agency-by-agency spending numbers.

Next Steps. Administration officials will appear before Congressional committees this week to make the case for the President’s budget proposal. The following week, both houses will be out of session. This takes us to the last week in March, when Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) plans to mark up an FY 2020 budget resolution. His House counterpart, Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), hopes his committee will mark up the first week in April. There will be many reasons why the House and Senate won’t agree to a final, compromise resolution, but one key difference will be a proposal in the House budget to increase the 21% corporate tax rate and possibly hike the top tax rate for high-income individuals.

Committee Action of Note.

  • March 12
    • House Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee hearing on tax extenders.
    • House Budget Committee hearing on "The President's 2020 Budget."
    • HHS Secretary Azar to testify before House Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee on the President's budget request for HHS.
    • Aviation Subcommittee of House Transportation Committee hearing on "Looking Forward: Aviation 2050."
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies hearing on "FY2020 Related Agencies Budget."
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation hearing on "Stakeholder Perspectives: Passenger Rail Development.”
    • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing on "USDA Office of the Inspector General.
  • March 13
    • House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways hearing on "Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs."
    • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on "Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs: Reducing Barriers to Market Competition.”
    • Senate Budget Committee hearing on "The President's FY2020 Budget Proposal."
    • House HHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on "Department of Health and Human Services Budget Request for FY2020."
  • March 14
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing on "The President's FY2020 Budget."
    • House Ways and Means Committee hearing on "The President's FY2020 Budget Proposal."

Political Update

2020 Conventions. Today the DNC announced that the 2020 Democratic Convention will be held in the battleground state of Wisconsin. Milwaukee will host the convention July 13-16, with the hopes of reigniting party power in a state President Trump won by just .7% in 2016. Republicans will host their convention in Charlotte, N.C. August 24-27.

Who’s Running. Last week Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all said they would not be seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2020, while former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden continue to ruminate over whether or not they are running. So far, 13 Democrats, one Independent (Sanders), and two Republicans have declared their candidacy for President.

Polls. The Des Moines Registers latest poll has former Vice President Joe Biden (27%) leading the polls in Iowa, with Senator Bernie Sanders (Vt.) (25%) a close second. Senators Elizabeth Warren (9%) and Kamala Harris (7%), and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (5%) follow in a distant second tier. Of note from this poll is that two progressive campaign ideas have drawn massive support from Iowa Democrats: 91% of Iowa Democrats want a candidate who supports the Green New Deal (either partially or in full) and 89% favor a wealth tax that Senator Warren proposed.

South by Southwest (SXSW) Notes. Senators Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Gov. Jay Inslee (Wash.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. John Delaney (Md.), and former Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) all took their campaigns down to the tech-focused SXSW festival in Texas over the weekend. The festival conveniently takes place approximately one year out from the 2020 Super Tuesday primaries when both Texas and California voters head to the polls.

Senator Warren caught headlines early in the weekend after calling for large tech companies to be busted up. While other presidential candidates echoed similar sentiments, other themes from this year’s SXSW were electoral reform, education finance reform, how to tackle climate change, and legalization of marijuana.

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