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Legislative / Policy Update

Senate Floor. Since 2015, Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and a handful of other Senators have blocked efforts to confirm nominees to the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans, guarantees, and other financial assistance to facilitate foreign purchases of U.S. exports. Without a quorum of board members, the bank has not been able to process loans of more than $10 million. That situation is apparently about to end. On Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the nominations of three board members, clearing the way for a Senate vote this week. Once confirmed, the three nominees will give the board a quorum and allow it to resume full lending operations.

The vote will be on the nominations of Kimberly Reed to serve as president of the bank and Spencer Bachus and Judith Pryor to serve as board members. A fourth nominee, Claudia Slacik, will likely to be voted on later, when the full Senate considers Paul Shmotolokha, who was nominated on April 29 to serve as Ex-Im vice president.

House Floor. Topping the list of House votes this week are a disaster relief bill and legislation “to preserve pre-existing condition protections.” The $17.2 billion-disaster aid bill adds about $3 billion to a package the House passed in January, taking into account floods this year in the Midwest and tornadoes in Alabama. The bill also extends through Sept. 30 the National Flood Insurance Program, which is scheduled to expire May 31. The bill’s assistance for Puerto Rico is opposed by President Trump, and the issue is also a sticking point in the negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democrats as they work to craft their own disaster relief bill.

On the healthcare front, the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act will pass mostly along party lines but will not advance in the Senate, while two non-controversial drug pricing bills making changes to what are known as FDA’s Orange and Purple Books on drug and patent exclusivity will be considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage.

FY 2020 Appropriations. On Wednesday, May 8, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for FY 2020. The following day, the committee will mark up bills funding the Legislative Branch and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs. On Wednesday, the full committee will also approve the spending allocations for all 12 appropriations bills. The Defense Subcommittee is expected to mark up its bill on May 15.

NDAA. The six subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee will mark up the National Defense Authorization Act the week of June 3, and the full committee will take up the legislation on June 12. Meanwhile, on the Senate side, the Senate Armed Services Committee plans to mark up its version of the NDAA on May 22 and 23, with possible floor consideration the week of June 3.

U.S.-China Trade. President Trump tweeted on Sunday that trade talks between the U.S. and China were moving “too slowly” and that he would raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25%, starting this Friday. He also said he would impose 25% tariffs “shortly” on an additional $325 billion in Chinese goods. This afternoon, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said a Federal Register notice will be issued Tuesday confirming the higher tariffs, effective “the first minute of Friday.”

Lighthizer, who charged that the Chinese were “retreating from commitments that have already been made,” said he still expected to continue talks with the Chinese negotiating team in Washington on Thursday and Friday. The talks had originally been set to resume on Wednesday.

Committee Action of Note:

May 7

  • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Intellectual Property and the Price of Prescription Drugs: Balancing Innovation and Competition."

May 8

  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Defense hearing to review the DOD budget request for FY 2020.
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of legislation, including HR 2440, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act.

May 9

  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing on "Lowering Prescription Drug Prices: Deconstructing the Drug Supply Chain."
  • House Ways and Means Committee hearing on “Understanding the Tax Gap and Taxpayer Noncompliance.”

Political Update

Democratic Primary Polling. Former Vice President Joe Biden has seen his lead atop the Democratic primary polls expand since declaring he would seek the nomination on April 25. Biden, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages of all national polls, maintains a +20.4 point lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt). Biden and Sanders maintain sizable leads over the rest of the crowded primary field, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) all polling over 1% but well behind the two leaders.

In the early primary state polling, Biden has performed best in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, seeing his lead grow in each state since announcing he was going to run for President for a third time.

North Carolina Update. The GOP is heading for a runoff in the North Carolina 3rd, a special election race to replace the late Walter Jones. State Rep. Greg Murphy and Joan Perry will face off in a July 9 primary. Former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas won the Democratic nomination outright over five other candidates, with more than half the vote in a district where Democrats face remote but not impossible odds in the Sept. 10 general election.

In the North Carolina 9th, 10 Republicans will face off next Tuesday to see who will get the chance to run against Democrat Dan McCready in a special election to fill the seat after Mark Harris’ 2018 victory was ruled fraudulent by North Carolina election officials. If none of the Republicans garner more than 30% of the primary vote, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held Sept. 10. If a runoff is needed, the general election will be Nov. 5; if not, it will be held Sept. 10.

Ohio Redistricting. On Friday, May 3, a three-judge panel ruled that Ohio’s congressional districts were unconstitutionally drawn for Republican political advantage. Republican State Attorney General Dave Yost said the state will seek a stay of the ruling that orders Ohio to draw a new congressional map for the 2020 elections. The district court judges ruled that Ohio’s state legislature must redraw the congressional map by June 14. Republicans have won 12 of the 16 congressional seats in each election since the map was drawn in 2010.

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