Legislative / Policy Update
Senate Floor. The Senate will continue to process various nominations and will also begin consideration of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The exact schedule hasn’t been announced, but there could be a cloture vote Wednesday on the motion to proceed to the bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to block most individual amendments, but a manager’s amendment to incorporate various changes to the bill is being developed by the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Jim Inhofe and Jack Reed, respectively.
House Floor. Last week, the House began consideration of its first package of FY 2020 appropriations bills. Originally a five-bill package, the measure became a four-bill minibus after House leadership dropped the Legislative Branch spending proposal. Because the Legislative Branch measure did not include specific language to block a cost-of-living pay increase for members of Congress, it came under attack on two fronts: (1) the National Republican Congressional Committee blasted Democrats for the increase even though House Republican leadership had reportedly agreed to support the increase, and (2) vulnerable House Democrats, concerned about the political risks, pushed back against voting on the measure.
While it’s unclear when the Legislative Branch appropriations bill will be considered, the House this week is continuing to debate the remaining four parts of the package – Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water. Once that bill is wrapped up, the House is expected to turn to a five-bill minibus that contains spending for Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Transportation-HUD, and Military Construction-VA.
FY 2019 Supplemental. In other spending news, the Senate Appropriations Committee plans to mark up a bill Wednesday that largely tracks the President’s request for $4.5 billion in supplemental spending to address the crisis at the southern border. Senate Majority Leader McConnell plans to move the bill next week to the floor, where it will need 60 votes to pass. While Democrats support the funding targeted for humanitarian aid, they have raised objections to additional funding being used to increase the number of detention beds. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes legislation can be passed by the end of June, and there has been speculation that the House and Senate could work together to forge a single bill for consideration.
Budget Caps. Speaking of working together, Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, along with Administration officials, plan to meet again this week to continue their discussions on what to do about the budget caps that limit discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years. Once again the participants will be Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and acting White House budget chief Russ Vought.
Various news reports point to Mulvaney as a roadblock to reaching a bipartisan deal. In a June 15 article, the Washington Post reported that, “according to administration officials and Senate GOP aides, Mulvaney and the administration favor continuing existing spending levels or striking a one-year deal, over reaching the kind of two-year deal that has been agreed to in the past and that lawmakers in both parties favor now.”
Trade Policy. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be busy on the Hill this week, appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday and the House Ways and Means Committee the following day to discuss trade negotiations with Mexico, Canada, China, and other trading partners. In the weeks to come, Lighthizer will also be negotiating with the House Democrats’ Trade Working Group, which Speaker Pelosi formed last week to address Democratic concerns with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. House Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal will lead the group, which is divided into four subgroups to examine biologics, environment, labor, and enforcement. On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Washington to hold separate meetings with President Trump, Majority Leader McConnell, and Speaker Pelosi to discuss the legislative outlook in the U.S. for the USMCA.
Committee Action of Note:
Trump Announcement. President Trump will officially kick off his 2020 reelection campaign at a rally Tuesday night in Orlando, Fla., capping what his campaign refers to as an all-day “45 Fest.” The President tweeted out this morning that over 100,000 people have requested tickets to the event, and local news is already reporting on attendees lining up outside the Amway Center arena. The Trump campaign currently sits on a war chest of $40 million, has built a more advanced campaign infrastructure than in 2016, enjoys the full support of the RNC, and is headed by a manager (Brad Parscale) who has lasted longer than all three of the President’s 2016 campaign managers.
Democratic Debates. The stage has been set for the first round of Democratic debates in Miami, with 10 candidates facing off on June 26 followed by another 10 on June 27. On the first night, the candidates who will get air time are Warren, O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar, Castro, Ryan, Gabbard, Inslee, de Blasio, and Delaney. On night two, Biden, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg, Yang, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Bennet, Williamson, and Swalwell will take the stage. Four candidates did not meet the qualifications to join the debates – Gov. Steve Bullock, Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Wayne Messam, and former Sen. Mike Gravel.
Rep. Susan Brooks’ Retirement. The woman in charge of recruiting more Republican women to run for Congress has decided she will not run for reelection in 2020. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) is one of 13 Republican women in the House, down from 23 in the 115th Congress and serves as recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
It’s anybody’s guess right now how Democrats and Republicans will come together on appropriations bills for FY 2020. With no resolution in sight, the House is taking the first step this week to fund the government beyond the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. To avoid a government shutdown, the House resolution is expected to provide funding through Nov. 21.Read More
Lawmakers are back in town after the August recess and will need to pass a stopgap measure to fund the government after Sept. 30. They also hope to pass the defense authorization bill by the end of the month but face a number of hurdles, including differences over reprogramming funds to pay for the border wall. On the political front, 10 Democrats will be on the debate stage Thursday, and President Trump has campaign dates in North Carolina and New Mexico.Read More
The Senate this week plans to send the debt limit/budget deal to the President for his signature, paving the way for House and Senate appropriators to craft bills that comply with the new spending limits. On the political front, a new poll asks voters which Democratic presidential candidate they would like to hang out with as a friend.Read More