Legislative / Policy Update
FY 2020 Budget / Appropriations. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee will consider the FY 2020 budget resolution that Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) unveiled on Friday. While Enzi's resolution abides by the budget caps, he believes the steep cuts are unrealistic and it will be necessary to increase the caps.
On the House side, Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) had hoped his panel would mark up its resolution the first week in April, but no dates have been set for action, and there has been speculation that the House committee might not even take a vote on a budget resolution. Because Congress and the President have not yet negotiated an agreement on the spending caps for FY 2020 and there is no chance that the Senate will go along with the House budget resolution, many Democrats see no need to engage in an intra-party battle over spending and revenue priorities.
Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is said to be prioritizing bills for consideration, but it is unclear what the top-line spending numbers will be. Five bills are reported to be at the top of the list for action this spring – Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA, and Energy-Water. Mark up of the first three could begin in late April, and Democrats may opt to package the Defense and Labor-HHS-Ed measures into one bill for floor consideration.
U.S.-China Negotiations. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be in China March 28-29 for another round of trade talks, and China’s lead negotiator could be in Washington next week to continue the negotiations. The U.S. is hoping a deal can be reached by late April. Even after a deal is reached, President Trump said last week that the U.S. will leave tariffs on Chinese goods “for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal."
USMCA. President Trump has invited House Republicans to the White House Tuesday afternoon to drum up support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Many Republicans have conditioned their support for USMCA on the Trump Administration removing its 25% steel and 10% aluminum tariffs on Mexican and Canadian products. An Administration push to replace the tariffs with quotas on imported steel and aluminum is being met with resistance by Canada and Mexico.
Committee Action of Note.
The field. Over the weekend, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made her first campaign speech on the steps of the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan, touting her voting record as the most anti-Trump of anyone in the Senate.
A much lesser known candidate in the Democratic field is Wayne Messam, mayor of the Miami suburb of Miramar. The son of Jamaican immigrants who worked in the South Florida sugar cane fields, Messam played football at Florida State and then started his own construction business before entering politics. The new DNC debate rules may give Messam a shot at making it on stage for the first two debates in June and July.
On the campaign trail. During last week's congressional recess, candidates and potential candidates were crossing the country to promote their campaigns and ideas while looking to build inroads with key communities for the primaries that are less than a year away. South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada were all popular stops for most. Senator Kamala Harris focused on Texas, spending time in former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s backyard, before heading to Atlanta. O’Rourke focused on other states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina, and Ohio, before showing the same relentless energy he approached his 2018 Senate race with as he visited all 10 New Hampshire counties.
No-PAC pledge. As we near the end of 2019’s first quarter of campaign fundraising, a popular trend is emerging on the Democratic side as at least 53 members of Congress (36 of whom are freshmen) and all of the Democratic presidential candidates have rejected money from political action committees of corporations and business associations. It’s believed that the rise of small dollar donations has helped level the field for those rejecting corporate PAC money (while helping PAC money move towards party committees and party leaders who by and large still accept PAC money). The Democratic National Committee has embraced this platform of small-dollar donations by allowing candidates who receive donations from 65,000 people in at least 20 different states to be allowed on the Democratic primary debate stage.
President Trump. Polls are still being conducted following Friday's submission of the Mueller report, but so far, the President’s approval vs. disapproval numbers have stayed roughly the same – 795 days into his Presidency, Trump sits at 52.9% disapproval vs. 42.1% approval.