Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. Once again the Senate will be voting on various executive and judicial nominations. There is one new item on the agenda though – at 2:15 on Tuesday, Senators will gather for their official class photo. No votes will be scheduled from about noon on Tuesday until Wednesday evening to allow Senators to travel to Wednesday’s funeral services in Indianapolis for former Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who served as mayor of Indianapolis from 1968 to 1975 and as a U.S. Senator for 36 years, from 1977 to 2013.
House Floor. Among the 13 noncontroversial bills that the House will consider under suspension of the rules is legislation to extend the National Flood Insurance Program through Sept. 30. Without Congressional action, key portions of the program will expire after May 31. The bill is identical to language that was included in the disaster relief bill that the House passed May 10, but further action on disaster relief is currently stalled in the Senate.
This week the House will also consider a package of seven bills dealing with drug pricing and the Affordable Care Act. The drug pricing bills have bipartisan support, but Republicans oppose the proposals that would bolster Obamacare. By packaging the measures together, Democrats aren’t giving Republicans a chance to have separate votes on the various proposals.
Disaster Relief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the Senate to pass a disaster aid package before the Memorial Day recess, and he’ll get no argument on that front from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Negotiations between the parties, however, are still continuing, with Senate Republicans now waiting to get a Democratic response to their latest offer that would reportedly provide more money than earlier offers for Puerto Rico. Money for Puerto Rico is the main difference between the two parties given President Trump’s opposition to additional funds for the island. The President also wants the bill to include billions in emergency aid to handle the influx of immigrants at the Southern border, but Republicans are said to still be considering that request from the White House.
The House, meanwhile, on May 10 passed a $19 billion package that added more funding to the disaster bill that the House originally approved in January. The vote of 257-150 included support from 34 Republicans, primarily those from districts hit by natural disasters.
FY 2020 Appropriations. The House Appropriations Committee is moving ahead on its plan to clear all 12 appropriations bills in time for floor action before the Fourth of July recess. On Wednesday of this week, there will be subcommittee markups of three FY 2020 bills – Defense (closed session), Energy and Water Development, and Interior/Environment. Last week, the full committee cleared three bills – Labor/HHS/Ed, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction/Veterans’ Affairs, which included language barring the Administration from using military construction funds for a border wall. One other measure, the State/Foreign Operations bill, was approved in subcommittee last week and is awaiting full committee action.
Committee Action of Note:
Democratic Convention Rule Changes. The 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee will bring about rule changes that could make a contested convention more likely. Democratic party elites known as “superdelegates” played an outsized role in securing the 2016 nomination for Secretary of State Clinton, even though the contest over pledged delegates (which are awarded during the primary elections) was closely contested between Clinton and Senator Sanders. After much debate, party leaders approved rule changes last August that will prevent superdelegates (who will make up roughly 17% of voting delegates) from voting on the first ballot unless one candidate has already secured a majority of the convention using only pledged delegates.
Candidate Coverage. This morning Montana Governor Steve Bullock became the 22nd candidate to declare for the Democratic presidential nomination. In a survey conducted for Politico from January 1 through April 30, four candidates – former Vice President Biden and Senators Sanders, Harris, and Warren – accounted for more than half of the field’s traditional news media mentions. Sanders and Harris alone account for over half of the social media impressions in the first four months of the year.