Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of December 10, 2018 
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will consider 23 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act of 2018 (S. 2511), which would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct regular assessments of publicly and commercially available "unmanned maritime systems"-remote controlled or autonomous surface or undersea vessels or aircraft-for potential use to support ocean-related research. The Senate will vote on the nomination of Justin Muzinich to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, the No. 2 position below Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Senators this week could also debate a joint resolution (S. J. Res. 54) that would direct the president to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from the conflict in Yemen, where they are currently supporting Saudi interests.
The 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2) conference report will be signed by House and Senate negotiators on Monday and will be released publicly on Tuesday, according to a senior Democratic aide. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said they reached a tentative deal, without detailing the provisions. A report was expected last week, but was delayed by the schedule changes in Congress. The House and/or Senate will then likely vote on the final conference report by the end of this week.
Leading the agenda off the floor are negotiations over funding seven of the federal government's remaining appropriations bills after Friday, December 21, the expiration date on the continuing resolution (H. J. Res. 143) passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week. The hangup is still Trump's demand for an additional $5 billion in the Homeland Security bill to fund a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The highest level negotiations yet over the wall will take place on Tuesday, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are scheduled to meet with Trump at 11:30 am. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said last week that the six remaining bills, Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, State and Foreign Operations, and Transportation-HUD can be finished quickly.
On Tuesday, the Trump Administration is expected to release a new "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) proposal to severely restrict the number of wetlands and waterways covered by the Clean Water Act and eventually replace the 2015 Obama-era rule. The EPA-Army Corps of Engineers plan, which will be open for a public comment period, will purportedly erase federal protections from streams that flow only following rainfall, as well as wetlands not physically connected to larger waterways. On Wednesday, President Trump will attend a roundtable event with local leaders and mayors in Baltimore, Maryland to promote "Opportunity Zones," which were created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and are designed to encourage investment in and around struggling neighborhoods. On Thursday, Trump will have a discussion with the 13 Democratic and 8 Republican governors-elect.
Week in Review

President Trump Signs Two-Week Continuing Resolution and NFIP Extension Into Law, Averting Government Shutdown
On December 7, President Trump signed a two-week Continuing Resolution (CR) into law, Public Law 115-298, which funds seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills at enacted FY 2018 funding levels through Friday, December 21, 2018, avoiding a government shutdown. The House passed the CR by unanimous consent on Dec. 6, and the Senate passed it by voice vote immediately after. The seven appropriations bills that are covered by the CR include:
  • Interior-Environment
  • Financial Services-General Government
  • Agriculture-Rural Development
  • Transportation-Housing and Urban Development
  • Commerce-Justice-Science
  • State-Foreign Operations
  • Homeland Security
The CR also extends authorizations through Dec. 21 for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Violence Against Women Act, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and other measures that were extended in the last CR (Public Law 115-245), enacted on September 28, 2018. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who will very likely be the new Speaker of the House beginning January 3, suggested last week that she doesn't see a resolution to the partisan impasse over border wall funding, and that she'd like to see the Department of Homeland Security funded on a continuing resolution through the remainder of FY 2019, which ends on September 30, 2019. Pelosi said her preferred solution for meeting the new deadline is for Congress to pass the six appropriations bills that appropriators have agreement on with a year-long CR for the DHS measure. Appropriators and leaders in both parties have said that border wall funding is pretty much the last item that remains unresolved in the seven spending bills Congress has yet to pass. President Trump and congressional Republicans want a minimum of $5 billion for the border wall. Many House Democrats don't want any wall funding, while Senate Democrats have said they're open to the $1.6 billion their chamber provided in its version of the DHS appropriations bill for "pedestrian fencing." Leader Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are meeting with Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Dec. 11 to negotiate on the matter. Read more.
Trump Announces Attorney General and UN Ambassador Nominees
On December 7, President Trump announced that he plans to nominate William Barr for U.S. Attorney General, a position he previously served in from 1991-1993 in the George H.W. Bush Administration. Trump also announced that he plans on nominating Heather Nauert to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert has served as the State Department Spokesperson since April 2017 and previously worked as a Fox News host and ABC News correspondent. Read more. 
Trump Administration Seeks $4.76 Billion More From Congress in Final Spending Talks
On December 7, the Trump Administration's five-page list of "anomalies" to Congress detailing an additional $4.76 billion in spending requests identified by the White House in late-stage appropriations talks was leaked by the press. The document outlines suggested tweaks that lawmakers could make if they pass a measure funding government programs at their FY 2018 levels. Such a move would reflect a breakdown in spending negotiations that have been tied up over how much money to provide for a border wall and fencing. On top of $3.4 billion more than Trump's official budget request for U.S.-Mexico border wall construction, which has been known informally for some time, the White House also wants $1 billion more for Interior Department and Forest Service wildfire suppression accounts to tide the agency over until new money frees up in FY 2020; an extra $345 million above their initial request for the Health and Human Services Department to care for unaccompanied migrant children in their custody; and a $1 billion increase for the Census Bureau's 2020 decennial census.
Trump Signs Coast Guard Authorization Act Into Law
On December 4, President Trump signed the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-282) into law, which authorizes appropriations for the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission through FY 2019; reauthorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hydrographic services program through FY 2023; and modifies the regulation of vessel incidental discharge and ballast water. The Senate passed the bill on Nov. 14 by a vote of 94-6 and the House passed it on Nov. 27 by voice vote. President Trump also issued a signing statement for the new law. Read more.
Senate Minority Leader Schumer Insists Infrastructure Bill Must Address Climate Change
On December 6, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a Washington Post opinion piece that any infrastructure bill in the next Congress would have to address climate change in order to secure support from Senate Democrats. Schumer said he also sent a letter to Trump detailing the kinds of policies Democrats would like to see included. Read more.
Senate Confirms FERC Commissioner and CFPB Director
On December 6, the Senate confirmed, by a vote of 50-49, Bernard McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the remainder of a term expiring June 30, 2020. FERC regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil, and also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects. McNamee currently serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Policy for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and he previously served as Deputy General Counsel for Energy Policy at DOE, practiced energy law with McGuireWoods LLP, and served four Attorney Generals in two states (Virginia and Texas). FERC will now be comprised of three Republican commissioners (including Chairman Neil Chatterjee) and two Democratic commissioners. Read more.
On Dec. 6, the Senate also confirmed, by a vote of 50-49, Kathleen Kraninger, to be the 2nd Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for a term of five years. Kraninger currently serves as the Program Associate Director for General Government at the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and previously served in various roles in the Senate, and Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation. Read more. 
Senate Passes Museum and Library Services Act
On December 4, the Senate passed, by Unanimous Consent, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2018 (S. 3530), which renews and builds on the $240 million commitment to the federal museum and library programs administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal agency that helps museums and libraries across the country advance their educational missions, deliver services, preserve history, and make their collections more accessible. The bill also makes numerous provisions to help museums and libraries improve their technology, enhance collaboration, and better serve the public. Read more.
Senate Passes Improving Access to Maternity Care Act
On December 6, the Senate passed, by Unanimous Consent, the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act (H.R. 315). The bill would increase data collection by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help place maternity care health professionals working in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) throughout geographic regions experiencing a health professional shortage. The House passed the bill on January 9, 2017 by a vote of 405-0, sending the bill to President Trump to be signed into law. Read more.
Senate Passes Ashanti Alert Act
On December 6, the Senate passed, by Unanimous Consent, the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (H.R. 5075), which directs the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network-the Ashanti Alert communications network-to support regional and local search efforts for missing adults. The Ashanti Alert communications network must operate in coordination with the AMBER Alert communications network (i.e., the communications network that supports search efforts for abducted children). The House previously passed a different version of the bill on September 25 by voice vote. Read more.