Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of April 23, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider 7 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447), which would update the management of music copyrights to account for streaming services and bulk licensing. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4), which would authorize the Federal Aviation Administration at $3.35 billion each year through FY 2023 (the current FAA authorization expires on Sept. 30, 2018) and includes the text of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, which provides reforms to FEMA's response and recovery programs, focusing on increased pre-disaster planning and mitigation; and a bill (H.R. 3144) to require dams along the Columbia River and its tributaries in the Pacific Northwest to continue using current practices regarding salmon until at least 2022, and block any action that restricts electrical generation at federal dams on the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia River, without further congressional action explicitly authorizing it.
 
The Senate this week will vote on the nomination of Stuart Kyle Duncan to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas). On Monday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be voting on the nomination of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the 70th U.S. Secretary of State, with the full Senate voting on his nomination on Friday. Senators will join House members on the other side of the Capitol for French President Emmanuel Macron's address to a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday morning. Additionally, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday will vote on the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act (S. 2644), which would protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired in the midst of his investigation into potential Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
 
Four weeks after enacting the final FY 2018 appropriations legislation, lawmakers are continuing 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 Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, among other agency heads.
 
On Tuesday, voters in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, which includes the suburbs north and west of Phoenix, head to the polls to vote in a special election to fill the House seat vacated by former Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who resigned on December 8, 2017 in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal. Republican former state Senator Debbie Lesko is running against Democratic physician Hiral Tipirneni in a district that President Trump won by 21 percentage points.
 
On Monday, President Trump is lunching with Vice President Mike Pence and hosting French President Macron and his wife for dinner at Mount Vernon. On Tuesday, Macron is at the White House for a host of meetings, and Trump will hold a press conference with him; Trump lunches with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then hosts a state dinner for Macron. On Thursday, the President and First Lady host a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier ride. On Friday, Trump has Team USA at the White House, and hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Week in Review

House Agriculture Committee Advances 2018 Farm Bill
 
On April 18, the House Agriculture Committee advanced, on a strict party-line vote of 26-20, the "Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018" (H.R. 2); the full House will likely vote on the bill during the week of May 7. The Committee signed off on 20 amendments introduced at the markup (all provided by Republicans), including topics focused on broadband speed; gene editing and precision plant breeding; repealing a block on the use of margin insurance by producers enrolled in Agriculture Risk Coverage; an algae research program; organic approved substances; and banning the sale of cats and dogs for eating. The defining issue in the debate surrounding the 2018 Farm Bill is the proposed work requirement changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which Committee Democrats unanimously oppose. Read more.
Senate Confirms Two Trump Administration Nominees
 
During the week of April 16, the Senate confirmed two Trump Administration nominees:
  • Carlos Muniz to be General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education, by a vote of 55-43; and
  • Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be 13th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, by a vote of 50-49.
Read more here and here.
House Passes Several Tax-Related Bills
 
During the week of April 16, the House passed several tax-related bills, including:
  • Protecting Children from Identity Theft Act (H.R. 5192), passed by a vote of 420-1: requires the Social Security Administration to provide a database that financial institutions could use to identify fraud involving theft of Social Security numbers;
  • 21st Century IRS Act (H.R. 5445), passed by a vote of 414-3: requires the IRS to put more of its services online and enhance the security of taxpayer information;
  • Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 5444), passed by a vote of 414-0: requires the IRS to modify its summons and asset seizure procedures; and
  • Justice for Victims of IRS Scams and Identity Theft Act of 2018 (H.R. 2905), passed by a vote of 403-3: requires the Justice and Treasury departments to report to Congress on prosecutions of alleged identity theft.
Senate Passes CRA Disapproval Resolution Blocking 2013 CFPB Auto Guidance
 
On April 18, the Senate passed, by a vote of 51-47, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) disapproval resolution (S.J. Res. 57) to block Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) guidance issued on March 21, 2013 that was meant to stop discriminatory markups on indirect loans made by car dealers. The CRA resolution was sent to the House, which is expected to pass it during the week of May 7 and send it to the President, who has indicated that he will sign it into law. The consequences of the vote will ripple beyond the confines of the CFPB, which is already on a deregulatory path under the leadership of Mick Mulvaney, Trump's White House budget chief and the acting CFPB Director. It was the first time the Senate has used its authority under the 1996 CRA to strike down an action taken by an agency years ago, instead of just within the narrow window prescribed by the law. The move also marked a broadening of how Congress has generally used the CRA to include regulatory guidance and not only formal agency rules that were recently issued. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who orchestrated the effort, was able to bring the CFPB guidelines under the scope of the CRA by asking the Government Accountability Office to determine that they amounted to a "rule" for the purposes of the law. Read more.
Senate Passes the Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act
 
On April 17, the Senate passed, by voice vote, the Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act ( S. 1281), which would establish a bug bounty pilot program - modeled off of similar programs at the Department of Defense and major tech companies - that uses vetted "white-hat" or ethical hackers to help identify unique and undiscovered vulnerabilities in the DHS networks and information technology. Under the bill, payments would be provided to white-hat hackers that identify unique and undiscovered vulnerabilities in DHS's networks and data systems. Read more.  
Senate Fails to Advance Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act
 
On April 16, the Senate failed to advance, by a vote of 55-41 (60 votes were needed), the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act ( S. 140). The bill 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 vast majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus (40 out of 49) voted against the bill due to concerns with rolling back labor rights on tribal lands. Read more. 
Senate Fails to Advance Coast Guard Authorization Act
 
On April 18, the Senate failed to advance, by a vote of 56-42 (60 votes were needed), 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 vast majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus (41 out of 49) voted against the bill because the legislation includes a version of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA), which would exempt ships' ballast water from Clean Water Act oversight under the EPA and stop most states' attempts to regulate ballast water. Ballast water has been blamed for some of the worst invasive species cases, like zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and the introduction of various algae species to waterways. Read more.
Trump Signs Memorandum Loosening Rules Governing the Export of U.S.-made Drones
 
On April 19, President Trump signed a Memorandum regarding U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, which loosens the rules governing the export of U.S.-made drones. The updated policy makes it easier for U.S. defense contractors to sell drones directly to foreign nations and relaxes restrictions for certain drone-based technologies like laser designators. In a conference with reporters, Trump Administration official Peter Navarro said that the new rules would increase American competitiveness in the international market for military drones. Read more. 
Trump Sends Cyber Warfare Strategy to Congress
 
On April 19, President Trump sent to Congress the long-awaited report on U.S. policy for deterring and responding to attacks in cyberspace. The policy was sent to the House and Senate committees with oversight of the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense and Justice. The text of the letter contains no clues about the actual contents of the report; an aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee stated that the document is classified. Lawmakers have raised concerns for successive Administrations about the lack of a comprehensive policy on deterring and responding to aggression in cyberspace. Read more. 
Trump Signs Executive Order Regarding the Delegation of Authority to Approve Certain Military Decorations
 
On April 20, President Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13830 entitled "Delegation of Authority to Approve Certain Military Decorations." The E.O. sets forth rules and regulations pertaining to the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Coast Guard Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier's Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Airman's Medal, and Coast Guard Medal.
Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Four Individuals to Key Administrative Posts
 
During the week of April 16, President Trump announced his intent to nominate four individuals to positions in the Trump Administration, including:
  • Richard Clarida to be Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a term of four years and to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System representing Region 1 (Boston, Massachusetts) for the remainder of a fourteen year term, expiring January 31, 2022;
  • Michelle Bowman to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System as the Community Bank Representative representing Region 8 (St. Louis, Missouri)  for the remainder of a fourteen year term expiring January 31, 2020;
  • Dan Berkovitz to be Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for the remainder of a five year term expiring April 13, 2023; and
  • John Lowry III to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training, Department of Labor.