Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of April 16, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 16 bills under suspension of the rules, including several tax-related measures (in honor of Tax Day this Tuesday, April 17). For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act (H.R. 5192), which would require the Social Security Administration to provide a database that financial institutions could use to identify fraud involving theft of Social Security numbers; the Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 5444), which would require the IRS to modify its summons and asset seizure procedures; and the 21st Century IRS Act (H.R. 5445), which would require the IRS to put more of its services online and enhance the security of taxpayer information.
 
On Monday, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (S. 140), which would eliminate National Labor Relations Act jurisdiction over tribal-owned businesses, and includes provisions that would allow the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona to use money from a settlement fund for a rural water system. The Senate may also take up the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2017 (S.1129), which authorizes appropriations for the Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission for FYs 2018 and 2019, standardizes regulations for incidental vessel discharges, and changes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) requirements. The Senate will also vote on two nominations this week: John Broomes to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Kansas; and Rebecca Jennings to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Kentucky.
 
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to markup the 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2). The draft of the 641-page bill, released last Thursday, drew criticism from Democrats by adding new mandatory job training requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee say that they will produce a more bipartisan bill.
 
Three weeks after enacting the final FY 2018 appropriations legislation, lawmakers are ramping up work on a new set of spending bills for FY 2019. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week will be hearing testimony on FY 2019 budget proposals from the Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Health and Human Services, General Services Administration, Food and Drug Administration, White House Office of Management and Budget, and Census Bureau, among other agencies.
 
This week, President Trump travels to Florida where he will host a Tax Cuts for Florida Small Businesses Roundtable on Monday in Hialeah, FL. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago to discuss the "international campaign to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea in advance of President Trump's planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un [and] explore ways to expand fair and reciprocal trade and investment ties between the United States and Japan." On Thursday, Trump will visit the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, FL.
Week in Review

House Speaker Paul Ryan Announces Retirement

On April 11, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that he will retire from Congress at the end of this term. Ryan said the possibility of Democrats taking the House in the midterm elections did not factor into his decision. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said that he would not run against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to succeed Ryan as the next GOP leader in the chamber. Ryan later endorsed McCarthy as his successor. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he is exploring a run for speaker "if and when there is" a race. Read more...
House Rejects Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment Measure
 
On April 12, the House voted to reject a measure (H.J. Res. 2) to send a constitutional amendment to require the federal government to maintain a balanced budget to the states for ratification. The vote was 233-184; however, a two-thirds vote by the House (i.e., 286 votes) was required to advance the measure. The mostly party-line vote for the GOP-backed measure could provide campaign fodder for Republicans looking to paint Democrats as lax on fiscal discipline. The Trump Administration stated its support for the measure. Read more...
Federal Budget Deficit Projects to Soar to Over $1 Trillion in 2020
 
On April 9, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued new projections predicting that the federal government's annual budget deficit will top $1 trillion in 2020, despite healthy economic growth. The CBO forecast was the first since last year's tax overhaul and this year's boost to military and domestic spending. The national debt, which has exceeded $21 trillion, will soar to more than $33 trillion in 2028, according to the CBO. By then, debt held by the public will almost match the size of the nation's economy, reaching 96 percent of gross domestic product, a higher level than any point since just after World War II and well past the level that economists say could court a crisis. Read more... 
Senate Confirms Seven Trump Administration Nominees
 
During the week of April 9, the Senate confirmed four Trump Administration nominees by recorded vote:
  • Claria Boom to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, by a vote of 96-1;
  • John Ring to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board, by a vote of 50-48;
  • Patrick Pizzella to be Deputy Secretary of Labor, by a vote of 50-48; and
  • Andrew Wheeler to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, by a vote of  53-45.
The Senate also confirmed the following three Trump Administration nominees by voice vote:
  • James Reilly to be Director of the United States Geological Survey;
  • Theodore Garrish to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs; and
  • James Campos to be Director of the Office of Minority Economic Impact, Department of Energy.
House Passes Three Financial-related Bills
 
During the week of April 9, the House passed the following three financial-related bills:
  • Financial Stability Oversight Council Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 4061), which requires non-bank companies labeled as systemically important financial institutions to have more opportunities to challenge their designation by the Financial Stability Oversight Council-passed by a vote of 297-121;
  • Stress Test Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 4293), which scales back financial institution stress tests-passed by a vote of 245-174; and
  • Volcker Rule Regulatory Harmonization Act (H.R. 4790), which exempts insured banks with $10 billion or less in assets and limited trading activity from the Volcker Rule-passed by a vote of 300-104.
Trump Administration Implements One Federal Decision MOU for Major Infrastructure Projects
 
On April 9, the Trump Administration released its One Federal Decision (OFD) Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU) to implement Executive Order (E.O.) 13807 , signed by President Trump on August 15, 2017, which directs that "processing of environmental reviews and authorization decisions for new major infrastructure projects should be reduced to not more than an average of approximately 2 years." The MOU is effective beginning April 10, 2018 and applies to the permitting of public and private projects, including roadways, bridges, railroads, transit, aviation, ports, navigational channels, water resources projects, energy production and generation (including from fossil, renewable, nuclear, and hydro sources), electricity transmission, broadband Internet, pipelines, stormwater and sewer infrastructure, and drinking water infrastructure. The MOU was signed by the heads of the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council. Read more... 
Trump Orders Military Strike on Syria
 
On April 13, President Trump ordered U.S. military forces, acting in concert with French and British military forces, to strike three Syrian military chemical weapons-related facilities, in response to the Syrian government's continued and unlawful use of chemical weapons, including the attack in Duma, Syria, on April 7 that injured or killed numerous innocent civilians. The purpose of this military action was to "degrade the Syrian military's ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian government from using or proliferating chemical weapons." Read more... 
Trump Signs Executive Order Pushing Work for Welfare
 
On April 10, President Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13828, entitled "Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility," which aims to add and strengthen work requirements for public assistance and other welfare programs. The E.O., which focuses on looking for ways to strengthen existing requirements and exploring new ones, gives various Cabinet secretaries 90 days to review the programs their agencies offer and recommend possible changes. Read more... 
Trump Signs Executive Order to Review Postal Service Finances
 
On April 12, President Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13829, entitled "Task Force on the United States Postal System," which orders an audit of the U.S. Postal Service, a move that comes after repeated criticisms of Amazon.com Inc. and allegations that the company and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos are driving the Postal Service into the ground. In the E.O., Trump said the Postal Service is "on an unsustainable financial path and must be restructured to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout." Read more... 
Trump Signs Memorandum to EPA Administrator Regarding National Ambient Air Quality Standards
 
On April 12, President Trump sent a Memorandum to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt directing him to take numerous steps to ease companies' and states' compliance with a key air pollution program, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Trump also wants the EPA to prioritize taking into account factors that could increase air pollution and make it harder for states to comply with the NAAQS. Read more...  
White House OMB Publishes FY 2019 Budget Amendments
 
On April 13, White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney submitted amendments to the President Trump's FY 2019 budget proposal, released on Feb. 12. "These amendments would increase the total net discretionary budget authority counted under the discretionary spending caps in the FY 2019 Budget by $95 billion, with $20 billion more counted under the defense cap and $75 billion more counted under the non-defense cap. This would bring base discretionary funding in the FY 2019 Budget to the defense cap specified in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 of $647 billion while holding non-defense funding to $540 billion, or $57 billion below the non-defense cap." Read more...
Trump Signs Three Bills Into Law
 
On April 11 and 13, President Trump signed the following three bills into law:
  • Public Law 115-164, the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017," which makes it a Federal crime to own, manage, or operate a website with the intent to promote or facilitate prostitution;
  • Public Law 115-165, the "Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018," which modifies oversight of the representative payee system for Social Security beneficiaries; and
  • Public Law 115-166, the "Ashlynne Mike AMBER Alert in Indian Country Act," which reauthorizes and amends the program that provides grants for AMBER Alert communication plans.
Trump Pardons Scooter Libby
 
On April 13, President Trump pardoned I. "Scooter" Lewis Libby, who as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001-2005 was convicted of perjury in connection with the leak of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Former President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence on July 2, 2007, but did not grant him a full pardon. Read more... 
Trump Personal Attorney Michael Cohen Under Federal Investigation
 
Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three unnamed sources. Trump said the Federal Bureau of Investigation raid of Cohen's Manhattan office, home and hotel room on April 9-which came after federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained a search warrant following a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller-was "a disgrace." Read more... 
Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership
 
On April 12, President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors that he is directing his advisers to examine rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He later tweeted that the United States would rejoin the trade pact only if it's "substantially better" than the one signed under former President Barack Obama. Read more... 
Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Six Individuals to Key Administrative Posts
 
During the week of April 9, President Trump announced his intent to nominate six individuals to positions in the Trump Administration, including:
  • James Hubbard to be the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment;
  • Andrew Saul to be Commissioner of Social Security, for the remainder of a six yearterm expiring January 19, 2019 and for an additional six year term expiring January 19, 2025;
  • David Black to be Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for the remainder of a six-year term expiring January 19, 2019;
  • Bonnie Glick to be Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development;
  • John Pallasch to be an Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training; and
  • Jennifer Homendy to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board, for the remainder of a 5-year term expiring December 31, 2019.