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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate Floor. The Senate is once again focused on nominations but is also expected to vote Thursday on whether to override the President’s veto of a joint resolution ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The override attempt will fall short of the 67 votes needed.

House Floor. This week, the House will vote on the Climate Action Now Act (H.R. 9), which would bar the Trump Administration from using funds to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Because the 2015 agreement among countries to limit global warming didn’t pass the Senate as a treaty, the President has unilateral authority to withdraw the U.S., and in June 2017 President Trump said he would do so. However, countries that signed the agreement cannot withdraw until four years after it went into effect, meaning the process of withdrawal can only begin on Nov. 4, 2020, which happens to be the day after the U.S. presidential elections. The House is expected to pass H.R. 9 along mostly party lines, and the bill has no chance of winning approval in the Senate.

FY 2020 Appropriations. Subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee will mark up three bills this week. The Labor-HHS-Education bill will be marked up Tuesday at 4 p.m., the Legislative Branch measure is set for Wednesday at 1 p.m., and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs will be marked up on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Full committee markups of the three measures are penciled in for next week, at which time the committee plans to approve the 302(b) allocations, which show how discretionary spending for FY 2020 will be split among the 12 subcommittees. In other action, the Defense Subcommittee will meet on Wednesday to hear from Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and other officials on the Defense Department’s budget request.

NDAA. Speaking of defense, the Senate Armed Services Committee has announced plans to mark up the annual National Defense Authorization Act on May 22 and 23, in anticipation of possible floor consideration the week of June 3. The markups are closed sessions, and the legislative language is classified until it is released by the committee.

White House Infrastructure Meeting. Ahead of Tuesday morning’s meeting with President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today sent a letter to the President laying out Democratic priorities for an infrastructure package. The Democratic leaders say that a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure package must include “new and real” revenue; initiatives that go beyond transportation and include broadband, clean energy, water, schools, and housing; and strong labor protections.

As for what those “new and real” revenue measures will be, Reuters reported today that a source close to Schumer said, "Unless President Trump considers undoing some of the 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy, Schumer won't even consider a proposal from the president to raise the gas tax, of which the poor and working people would bear the brunt."

Schumer will be joined at the White House meeting by a number of his Senate colleagues, including Minority Whip Dick Durbin, Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray, Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Debbie Stabenow, Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden, and Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper. House Democrats who will join Pelosi include Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, and Reps. James Clyburn and Ben Ray Lujan, who are members of the House leadership team.

In other infrastructure-related action, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will have a “Members’ Day” hearing Wednesday to hear from any Member who wants to weigh in on infrastructure or any other issue on the committee’s agenda.

U.S.-China Trade. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be in Beijing Tuesday to continue trade negotiations. In turn, Chinese officials will be in Washington May 8 for further discussions. There’s speculation that a framework for agreement could be announced during the May talks, with a deal possibly being finalized in June.

Committee Action of Note:

April 30

  • House Rules Committee hearing on Medicare for All.
  • House Select Committee on Climate Crisis hearing on “Drawing Down Carbon and Building Up the American Economy.”
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on “Prescription Drug Coverage in the Medicare Program.”
  • House Judiciary Committee markup of legislation on competition in the prescription drug market.
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications hearing on “"Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls.”
  • Senate Energy Committee hearing on the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act.
  • Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee hearing on the Veterans Affairs Department's FY 2020 budget.

May 1

  • House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on FY 2020 Defense Department budget request.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing – “Members’ Day.”
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on nuclear waste policy.
  • Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Oversight of Federal Infrastructure Permitting and FAST-41."

May 3

  • House Science Subcommittee on Energy field hearing in Shippingport, Penn. on “How the Domestic Nuclear Industry Boosts Local Economies, Curbs Emissions, and Strengthens National Security.”

Political Update

2020 Presidential Primaries. Last Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. This marks the third time in 30 years that Biden has run for President (1988 and 2008). The former Vice President leads in many of the early polls, though polling has been scarce since his announcement. Biden is the 21st well-known Democrat to enter the primary. PSW’s tracker of where the candidates stand after the first quarter of fundraising can be found here.

2020 Democratic Debates. As of last Friday, 16 Democratic candidates have met the DNC’s first two primary debate qualifications, according to the fivethirtyeight tracker. Candidates can qualify for the first two debates by earning at least 1% of the vote in three national or early-primary-state polls conducted by qualifying pollsters, or by receiving donations from at least 65,000 unique donors, including at least 200 individual donors in at least 20 states. The first two debates will allow up to 20 candidates to be on stage over two nights, meaning there is still time and room for others to earn their way in.

Michigan Gerrymandering Case. Last Thursday, a federal court in Michigan ruled that the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 unfairly drew portions of Michigan’s state and federal district lines. The court said the legislature must pass and the Democratic governor must sign into law new maps by Aug. 1, 2019; otherwise the court will draw the new maps itself. The court ordered new 2020 maps for at least nine congressional districts, 10 state Senate seats, and 15 state House seats. Many neighboring districts with shared boundaries would likely need to be redrawn as well.

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