Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of August 20, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The Senate is in session this week, while the House is in recess until September 4. The Senate will complete its consideration of the $854 billion "Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019," (H.R. 6157) which covers nearly 70 percent of discretionary federal spending. The legislation includes top Republican and Democratic priorities-a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, billions of dollars for new ships and aircraft, and a boost to HHS, which funds health programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the National Institutes of Health. The measure will provide a path forward for much of the federal spending as President Trump threatens to shut down the government over funding to build a wall on the southern border.
 
On Monday, the Senate will vote on two amendments to the minibus package: the first, offered by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), would provide $1 million to implement the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-194); the second, offered by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI), would provide $10 million for POW/MIA identification within the Defense Personnel Accounting Agency.
 
Notable Senate hearings and markups this week include a Judiciary subcommittee hearing entitled "Cyber Threats to Our Nation's Critical Infrastructure"; an Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on 14 public lands, forests, and mining bills; and a Rules Committee markup of the "Secure Elections Act" (S. 2593), which would give the Department of Homeland Security primary responsibility for sharing information about cyber hacking of registration records or election systems, threat intelligence, and vulnerabilities with other federal agencies and state election officials.
 
On Tuesday, voters in Alaska and Wyoming head to the polls to vote in Democratic and Republican primary elections for local, state, and House and Senate races.
 
On Monday, President Trump will have lunch with Vice President Pence and will host the "Salute to the Heroes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection." On Tuesday, Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and have lunch with Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley; he then will travel to Charleston, West Virginia for a roundtable with supporters and a rally. On Wednesday, Trump will present the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Air Force Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman for conspicuous gallantry on March 4, 2002 in Afghanistan. On Friday, Trump returns to Columbus, Ohio to be the featured speaker at the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner and to attend a fundraiser for the Senate campaign of Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH).
Week in Review

Trump Delay of WOTUS Rule Invalidated by Federal Judge
 
On August 16, U.S. District Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, David C. Norton, issued a nationwide injunction invalidating the Trump Administration's two-year delay of the 2015 "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) rule, which clarified which waters and wetlands fall under the Clean Water Act's jurisdiction. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers released a final rule on February 6, 2018 that delayed implementation of the WOTUS rule until Feb. 6, 2020. Judge Norton ruled that the EPA did not follow the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in finalizing its rule to delay the WOTUS rule for two years, which was designed to allow the agency to complete a rewrite of WOTUS; a proposed new definition of WOTUS currently is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. In his ruling, Judge Norton sided with the environmental groups and states who sued the EPA, saying the text of the proposed suspension rule and the EPA memorandum for the record on the suspension rule rulemaking process made it clear the agency did not solicit any comments on the merits of the WOTUS rule or the merits of the 1980s regulation that EPA's suspension rule returned WOTUS to before the agency issued the suspension rule.
 
With Judge Norton's ruling, the 2015 rule is now in effect in 26 states, including California and Texas; because of court actions in other cases, the rule still remains on hold in the 24 other states. A coalition of businesses led by the American Farm Bureau Federation is challenging Judge Norton's decision and also used the ruling to put pressure on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to quickly rule on its request for a nationwide injunction on WOTUS. Read more.
Trump Signs FY 2019 NDAA Into Law
 
On August 13, President Trump signed the "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019" (Public Law 115-232) into law. The House passed the bill on July 26 by a vote of 359-54 and the Senate passed it on August 1 by a vote of 87-10. The legislation authorizes approximately $708.1 billion in FY 2019, with $616.9 billion for base Department of Defense (DOD) programs, $21.9 billion for the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy (DOE), $300 million for defense-related activities, and approximately $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). President Trump issued a signing statement for the bill, stating that "the bill includes several provisions that raise constitutional concerns," including four of the eight provisions dealing specifically with Russia. With the NDAA signed into law, Congress now turns its attention to passing a defense spending bill to make the dollar amounts authorized by the NDAA a reality. Read more.
HUD Takes Steps to Revamp 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule
 
On August 13, Department of Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Ben Carson announced plans to revamp an Obama-era fair housing rule from 2015, the "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH) rule, which requires jurisdictions that receive funding from HUD to assess fair housing and identify solutions to discriminatory barriers in housing markets. The rule, which required communities and local governments receiving federal funding to submit fair housing assessments, was a way for HUD to ensure recipients were following the law and actively working to eradicate historical discrimination and segregation practices in housing. The changes encompassed in the rule were recommended by the Government Accountability Office and by HUD itself. In a statement, HUD said that it is accepting public comments on proposed changes to the rule in an effort to minimize housing regulations, give more control to local governments, and increase the housing supply. HUD's announcement comes after it withdrew the Local Government Assessment Tool in May 2018, which helped local governments comply with the AFFH rule. In January 2018, HUD suspended the requirement for local governments file plans under the rule until late 2020. HUD will receive public comments on the proposed changes until Monday, October 15, 2018. Read more. 
Trump Signs Four Additional Bills Into Law
 
On August 14, President Trump signed four bills into law:
  • Public Law 115-233, the "National Suicide Hotline Improvements Act of 2018," which requires the Federal Communications Commission, in coordination with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, to study the feasibility of designating a three digit dialing code for a national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system;
  • Public Law 115-234, the "Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Amendments of 2018," which reauthorizes for five years, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) user fee programs for animal drugs and animal generic drugs, and to amend FDA animal drug programs with regards to electronic submission of applications, drug labeling, conditional approval of drugs, agency guidance on investigational design, food additives, and pet food;
  • Public Law 115-235, which extends the authority for promulgation of regulations necessary to carry out the tribal transportation self-governance program; and
  • Public Law 115-236, the "NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act," which requires the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop and disseminate resources for small businesses to help reduce their cybersecurity risks.