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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate Floor. The Senate this week will continue to consider a number of judicial nominations. Next week, the Senate is expected to take up the joint resolution disapproving President Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to help construct a border wall. The resolution needs a simple majority to pass, and four Republicans have already said they will support the measure, putting the vote count at 51 in favor if all 47 Democrats vote aye. However, President Trump will veto the measure, and there is not two-thirds support in either the Senate or the House, which passed the resolution 245-182 on Feb. 26, to override a veto. Both the Senate and the House will be in recess the week of March 18.

House Floor. The House on Wednesday will begin consideration of legislation Democrats have designated as H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019. The legislation would expand voting rights, limit gerrymandering, strengthen ethics rules, and limit the influence of money in politics. Among other things, the package of proposals would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, direct states to use independent commissions to draw congressional district boundaries, and expand donor and spending disclosure requirements for independent groups. The bill is estimated to cost $2.4 billion from 2019 to 2024. It has no chance of passing the Senate.

Appropriations. House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to her colleagues on Feb. 28 saying there’s not enough bipartisan support to reinstate the use of earmarks…at least not for FY 2020. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) had been meeting with House and Senate Republicans to discuss the revival of earmarks, which House Republicans had banned, but a deal did not materialize.

Research Funds. In his remarks Saturday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Trump said he will soon be signing “an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research grants.” He did not describe how the executive order would work, or who would judge whether a college or university was not protecting free speech. The federal government distributes more than $26 billion a year to colleges and universities for research purposes, according to the National Science Foundation. The vast majority of that money is assigned to projects for the Pentagon, NASA, and the departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Health and Human Services.

China Negotiations. The Administration last week formally delayed “until further notice” a March 2 tariff increase from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The 10% tariffs remain in place as do the 25% tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports. News reports today indicate that the U.S. and China are close to wrapping up their trade talks, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that “a formal agreement could be reached at a summit between President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China, probably around March 27 in Florida.” One of the sticking points is whether the tariffs would be lifted immediately or phased out, an option that would allow the U.S. to make sure China implements whatever is agreed to.

Committee Action of Note.

  • March 5
    • Senate Energy Committee hearing to examine the electricity sector in a changing climate.
    • Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on “Does America Have a Monopoly Problem?”
  • March 6
    • House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “Our Nation’s Crumbling Infrastructure.”
    • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on “The Economic Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investment.”
    • Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on drug prices and patients.
  • March 7
    • Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on drug prices and the path forward.
    • House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on competition in health care markets.
    • House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing on “Promoting Competition to Lower Medicare Drug Prices.”

Political Update

Another Democratic Candidate. This morning former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper filed to run for President, making him the 14th big name candidate to announce he was running for the Democratic nomination. On the flip side, former Attorney General Eric Holder announced this morning that he would not be running for President.

Hopefuls et al. in Austin. This coming weekend candidates and politicians alike will turn their focus away from the early primary states and to the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Tex. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Gov. Bill Weld, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Gov. Hickenlooper, former Gov. John Kasich, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Stacey Abrams, Rep. Will Hurd, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Mazie Hirono have all announced they will be on panels relating to the future of America.

North Carolina Update. There will be two different primary dates in North Carolina for open seats. The state Board of Elections has announced that there will be May 14 primaries and a Sept. 10 general election in the 9th Congressional District. If either of the primaries requires a runoff, it would take place Sept. 10 and the general election would be Nov. 4. A new election was necessitated after the Board ruled that there was fraud in the 2018 election.

As for filling the vacancy in the 3rd Congressional District after the death of Republican Rep. Walter Jones, Gov. Roy Cooper announced primaries will take place April 30 and the general election will be July 9. However, if a runoff is needed to determine a primary winner, the runoff would be July 9 and the general election would be Sept. 10.

432 House Members. The House will not be operating at its full 435 members until these two special elections occur and a special election is held on May 21 to replace retired Republican Rep. Tom Marino in the Pennsylvania 12th District. On Saturday, a Republican convention picked state Rep. Fred Keller as the party’s nominee in what is considered a safe GOP district.

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