Legislative / Policy Update
Senate. Eighty-four Senators made their way to the Senate chamber for a procedural vote at 1 a.m. Friday on the Great American Outdoors Act. The vote in the wee hours of the morning was necessitated because of a disagreement between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). Lee wanted the Senate to be able to vote on a number of amendments; McConnell and the bill’s sponsors didn’t agree with that plan. "There is literally nothing else happening on the Senate floor," Lee said. "The Senate right now would simply rather do nothing than vote on amendments."
McConnell, however, held the upper hand and scheduled the 1 a.m. vote after the Senate started a new legislative day at midnight. By a vote of 65-19, Senators voted to invoke cloture, and therefore limit debate, on a substitute amendment, thereby facilitating passage of the legislation this week.
House. The House will not be in formal session until it meets on June 25 and 26, when it will consider the Justice in Policing Act. The following week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will vote on legislation to improve the affordability of health insurance provided by the Affordable Care Act, followed by consideration of “a major, major infrastructure bill.” First votes of that week are expected on Monday, June 29, with the last vote on Thursday, July 2.
Infrastructure. The “major, major infrastructure bill” will be marked up on Wednesday, June 17, by the largest committee in the House – the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. But is there a meeting room in the Capitol complex large enough to accommodate its 66 members and meet social distancing guidelines? The committee checked, and found out that the answer is no. Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) would prefer that the markup be conducted with all members participating remotely, but Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) wanted members to have the option of participating in person.
The compromise: a hybrid session where members can participate either remotely or in person. A maximum of 15 Democrats and 13 Republicans can be in the committee room (2167 Rayburn) at one time, and there will be very few staff members present. The chairman plans to participate remotely to allow other Democrats to attend the markup session, which is expected to be quite lengthy. When the committee marked up the previous highway bill, the FAST Act, in 2015, more than 100 amendments were offered.
Floor consideration is also expected to be lengthy, taking up three days, according to Majority Leader Hoyer, who has scheduled June 30 through July 2 for debate and votes on amendments.
Liability Protection. With the Senate not planning to take up the next coronavirus bill until July, a Republican proposal addressing liability protection likely won’t be released until next month. Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) who is crafting the legislation with Majority Leader McConnell, indicated last week that the proposal would let employers choose which government safety guidelines to follow in order to be shielded from lawsuits if their customers or employees contract Covid-19.
Committee Action of Note:
Tuesday, June 16
Wednesday, June 17
Thursday, June 18
Convention Planning. The Republican National Committee last week officially moved their convention from Charlotte, N.C. to Jacksonville, Fla. Charlotte will still be the site of RNC meetings between Aug. 21 and 24, with 336 delegates out of 2,500 meeting Aug. 24 to formally nominate President Trump and Vice President Pence in a combination of in-person and proxy votes. The party will not vote on a new platform and has instead decided to carry over the 2016 platform through 2024 to avoid the logistical challenges of drafting and approving a new platform by proxy vote.
Speeches and typical convention celebrations will take place Aug. 25-27 in Jacksonville, culminating in a speech from the President on Aug. 27. The Jacksonville mayor expects that the President will deliver his speech to a full VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which has a capacity of 15,000.
As for the Democratic convention, the DNC is in talks with state party chairs to discuss the feasibility of a scaled-back convention. One plan being floated is to host an in-person event with only 20% of each state’s delegates, while simultaneously hosting satellite conventions around the country. Speeches and entertainment would be pre-recorded or broadcast from a remote location. DNC Chair Tom Perez remains committed to hosting whatever physical event they can in Milwaukee.
Campaign Rallies. President Trump will host his first rally since March this Saturday in Tulsa, Okla. According to a disclaimer on the registration, attendees agree not to sue the Trump campaign or the BOK Center if they contract Covid-19. The campaign also said it will provide temperature checks, masks, and hand sanitizer to all attendees.