Legislative / Policy Update
House Floor. The first item on the House agenda Monday evening will be passage of a $19 billion disaster relief package that was approved by the Senate 85-8 on May 23. After three failed attempts to pass the measure by unanimous consent, the House will consider the bill under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for approval. The measure is expected to exceed that threshold and be sent to the President for his signature. The disaster bill also reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program through Sept. 30. The program was set to lapse May 31, but the House on May 30 used the unanimous consent process to approve a Senate bill extending the program through June 14.
Another item of note on the agenda this week is the American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide conditional green cards and work authorizations for so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. While the bill is a priority for House Democrats, the Senate is not expected to take up the measure.
The House doesn’t plan to hold any votes after 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, allowing Members to travel overseas for D-Day commemorations on June 6. The Senate will also have a shortened week of activity, with no votes on Thursday and Friday.
Senate Floor. When the Senate convened this afternoon, the first order of business was an FY 2020 budget resolution. The resolution was not the one approved in March by the Senate Budget Committee. Rather, it was a proposal by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Paul’s resolution envisions a balanced budget in five years but does not specify the changes that will need to be made to reach that target. The resolution also expresses the sense of Congress “that the United States will not be a socialist nation.” Sixty votes are needed for the Senate to take up the resolution, and support for the measure is expected to fall short of that threshold when the Senate votes later this evening.
For the rest of the short work week, the Senate will vote on nominations. On Tuesday, votes aren’t expected until the afternoon as many Senators will be attending funeral services for former Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who was the 10th-longest serving Senator in U.S. history, serving for nearly 39 years, from 1979 until his retirement because of health reasons in April 2018. For many years, Cochran chaired the Appropriations Committee, and two of the speakers tomorrow are the current chairman and ranking member of that panel, Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
FY 2020 Appropriations. Eight of the 12 FY 2020 appropriations bills have been approved by the full House Appropriations Committee and are ready to go to the floor. Five of those are expected to be packaged together for floor consideration on Wednesday, June 12. This first minibus is likely to include Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy and Water, State and Foreign Operations, and Legislative Branch. On Tuesday, June 4, the full committee will mark up two more bills – the Transportation-Housing & Urban Development measure and the Agriculture-Rural Development-Food and Drug Administration bill.
U.S.-Mexico Relations. On May 30, President Trump said the U.S. would impose 5% tariffs on Mexican goods beginning June 10 if Mexico doesn’t take steps to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. The tariffs would rise each month to reach 25% by October.
That same day, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent Congress a draft Statement of Administrative Action, a move that was notable for two reasons: (1) it starts the clock on when the Administration can submit to Congress the legislation necessary to implement the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and (2) it flew in the face of an informal understanding between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Administration.
On the first point, the submission of the Statement means that the Administration could send implementing legislation to Capitol Hill right around the July 4th recess, but the Administration can also opt to send up the legislation any time after that. On the second point, Pelosi planned to work with Lighthizer and House Democrats to reach an accommodation that would address Democratic concerns before the Administration sent up its Statement of Administrative Action. President Trump, however, wanted to move ahead with the process.
Responding to this latest development, Pelosi said this was “not a positive step,” while House Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-Mass.) said, “the timeline for the consideration of a renegotiated NAFTA will be determined by the completion of the work that remains to be done by Democrats and Ambassador Lighthizer to address [Democrats'] concerns.”
In an effort to shed more light on Mexican labor reforms that are a priority for House Democrats, a bipartisan group of Congressional staffers is planning to visit Mexico City at the end of this week. The staffers are hoping to meet with Mexican officials and business groups. Still another step in examining the USMCA is Pelosi’s plan to create four House task forces focusing on key components of the agreement – labor standards, environmental issues, pharmaceuticals, and the creation of a verifiable enforcement mechanism.
Committee Action of Note:
Trump Campaign Announcement. President Trump will formally announce his re-election campaign at a rally in Orlando, Fla. on June 18. The President will continue with the theme of “Make America Great Again” as his slogan. In a CNN poll released Sunday, 86% of Republicans said they approved of the job Trump is doing in office.
Iowa in June. The first big marquee Iowa event for Presidential hopefuls is the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration. At least nine candidates (Booker, Buttigieg, Delaney, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Klobuchar, Warren, and Yang) will speak at the ceremony on June 9. Former Vice President Biden will make his second campaign trip to Iowa on June 11, and President Trump is scheduled to visit the state for a fundraiser the same day.