Weekly Legislative Update
Week of December 3, 2018
The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House had originally planned to consider
under suspension of the rules, however, the death of 94-year old former President George H.W. Bush on November 30 has caused the House to cancel all of its votes this week out of respect for the President's lying in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda from Monday evening through Wednesday morning. The Senate will also not hold votes until Wednesday, when it considers the nomination of Bernard McNamee to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the remainder of the term expiring June 30, 2020. 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. Both the House and Senate will likely take action on legislation by voice vote to extend government funding for two weeks beyond Friday's expiration of a continuing resolution (CR), through Friday, December 21, covering seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, in order to avoid a government shutdown.
In addition to President Bush's lying in state at the Capitol for 41 hours, there will be a state funeral for Bush at 11am on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, where President Trump and former Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama will attend. On December 1, Trump signed Executive Order 13852 which closes all federal departments and agencies on Wednesday as a mark of respect for Bush and for the observation of a day of mourning. Bush's body will then be flown back to Houston, Texas for a private funeral at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. On Thursday afternoon, Bush will be buried in a family plot in College Station, TX behind the George H.W. Bush Library and Museum complex, alongside his wife and former First Lady, Barbara, and daughter Robin.
About a quarter of the federal government's $1.2 trillion discretionary budget remains unsettled for FY 2019 that began on October 1. Congressional negotiators say they are making steady progress resolving differences over line-items in the budgets of the departments of Treasury, State, Commerce, Justice, Interior and Agriculture as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. The main problem area is the Department of Homeland Security and President Trump's demand for $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border. Trump plans to meet on Dec. 11 with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), possibly to discuss immigration, border wall funding, and a spending bill.
Before the 115th Congress departs, lawmakers are working to consider a number of measures that may come to the floor over the next several weeks. Most importantly, Congress is expected to vote on the final Conference Report to accompany the 2018 Farm Bill (H.R. 2) during the week of December 10. The House last week debated the rule for a tax package that would renew expiring tax breaks and make fixes to last year's tax overhaul, but a vote on the legislation has not been scheduled. Congress passed legislation last week that pushed back the expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until this Friday, Dec. 7. The program's expiration date is now aligned with the expiration of the federal government's spending authority. If it chooses to, Congress can attach a longer-term flood insurance extension to the must-pass federal spending bill or extend it for two additional weeks in tandem with the new CR through Dec. 21.
Sweeping criminal justice overhaul, land and water conservation and other programs are also candidates to be resolved in the lame-duck session, or possibly to be included in a spending bill agreement.
Trump Signs One-Week NFIP Extension Bill Into Law
On December 1, President Trump signed the National Flood Insurance Program Further Extension Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-281) into law. The bill extends the NFIP's authorization for one additional week, from Dec. 1-7, 2018. The House passed the bill on November 29 by a vote of 350-46, while the Senate passed it on Nov. 29 by voice vote. This marks the eighth short-term extension of the NFIP since it initially expired on September 30, 2017.
In the coming week, Congress will consider whether to enact another two-week extension of the NFIP (through Dec. 21 when the next continuing resolution will expire) or a six-month extension bill (S. 3628) passed by the Senate on Nov. 29 by voice vote, which authorizes the NFIP through May 31, 2019.
If the NFIP's authorization were to lapse, two major things would happen:
- The authority to provide new flood insurance contracts would expire. Flood insurance contracts entered into before the expiration would continue until the end of their policy term of one year.
- The authority for NFIP to borrow funds from the Treasury will be reduced from $30.425 billion to $1 billion.
Other activities of the program would technically remain authorized, such as the issuance of Flood Mitigation Assistance Grants. However, the expiration of the key authorities listed above would have potentially significant impacts on the remaining NFIP activities. If there were to be a lapse in authorization on or after December 7, 2018, and the borrowing authority is reduced to $1 billion, FEMA would continue to adjust and pay claims as premium dollars come into the National Flood Insurance Fund (NFIF) and reserve fund. If the funds available to pay claims were to be depleted, claims would have to wait until sufficient premiums were received to pay them unless Congress were to appropriate supplemental funds to the NFIP to pay claims or increase the borrowing limit. Read more.
House Democrats Hold Leadership Elections for 116th Congress, 2019 House Floor Schedule Released
On November 28 and 29, the 239 members of the House Democratic Caucus for the incoming 116th Congress voted in behind-closed-door internal party leadership elections. The following 17 members were elected or appointed (in order of seniority):
- Speaker of the House: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ran unopposed and was elected by a vote of 203-32; the full House will officially vote for Speaker on January 3, 2019, when Pelosi will need 218 votes to win with a simple majority of the House;
- House Majority Leader: Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) ran unopposed;
- House Majority Whip: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) ran unopposed;
- Assistant Democratic Leader: Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) ran unopposed;
- Democratic Caucus Chair: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) defeated Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) by a vote of 123-113;
- Democratic Caucus Vice Chair: Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) defeated Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) by a vote of 144-90;
- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair: Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) defeated Reps. Denny Heck (D-WA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) by a vote of 117-83-32;
- Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) Chair: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) ran unopposed;
- Three DPCC Co-Chairs: Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) were elected with 161 votes, 144 votes, and 119 votes respectively; three other candidates ran for the three positions by fell short: Rep.-elect Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) received 107 votes, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) received 90 votes, and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) received 44 votes;
- Caucus Leadership Representative of five terms or less: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) defeated Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) by a vote of 65-57 by members who have served in the House for less than 10 years;
- Two Caucus Leadership Representatives from the incoming freshman class: Reps.-elect Katie Hill (D-CA) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) were elected from the roughly 60 incoming freshmen;
- Three Co-Chairs of Democratic Steering and Policy Committee: Speaker-designate Pelosi announced on Dec. 1 that she is recommending Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) to serve as the three Co-Chairs of the DSPC; her nominations will be voted on by the members of the DSPC.
House GOP Ranking Members Announced for 116th Congress
On November 30, the full House Republican Conference ratified the following recommendations from the House Republican Steering Committee for 17 committee ranking members in the 116th Congress:
- Agriculture: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX)
- Appropriations: Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)
- Armed Services: Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
- Budget: Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)
- Education and the Workforce: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
- Energy and Commerce: Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)
- Financial Services: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
- Foreign Affairs: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
- Homeland Security: Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
- Judiciary: Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)
- Natural Resources: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)
- Oversight and Government Reform: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
- Science, Space, and Technology: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
- Small Business: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
- Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)
- Veterans' Affairs: Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
- Ways and Means: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)
In addition, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) appointed Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) as ranking member for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) as ranking member for the House Administration Committee. Additional committee ranking member appointments for the House Rules Committee, the House Ethics Committee and the Joint Economic Committee will be made soon. Read more.
Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform Fails To Approve Reform Legislation and Recommendations by November 30
Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform
failed to pass its report, recommendations, and legislative language for reforms to the current budgeting and appropriations processes in Congress by the statutory deadline of November 30. A markup was held by the Committee on Nov. 29, however, it failed to get a majority of members to support a compromise proposal which
would have switched Congress to biennial budgets, and called for moving back the April 15 budget deadline to May 1.
Republican panel members favored the plan 5-3 (Reps. Steve Womack [R-AR], Pete Sessions [R-TX], Rob Woodall [R-GA], Jodey Arrington [R-TX], and Sen. Roy Blunt [R-MO] supported it, while Sens. David Perdue [R-GA], James Lankford [R-OK] and Joni Ernst [R-IA] opposed it), while the Democratic members voted two in favor, two opposed, and four present (Reps. John Yarmuth [D-KY] and Derek Kilmer [D-WA] supported it, Sens. Michael Bennet [D-CO] and Brian Schatz [D-HI] voted against it, and Reps. Nita Lowey [D-NY], Lucille Roybal-Allard [D-CA] and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] and Mazie Hirono [D-HI] voted present). Several Committee members were not impressed with the Committee's recommendations and thought they were too modest, while others couldn't support it without an agreed upon floor schedule agreement. Read more.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Releases FY 2019 Work Plan
On November 21, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
that it had delivered its
FY 2019 Work Plan
for the Army's Civil Works program to Congress on Nov. 20.
The Work Plan identifies the projects, programs, and activities within the Civil Works program that will receive FY 2019 funding and how much each will receive. The Corps' FY 2019 $6.999 billion funding bill was signed into law by President Trump on September 21, 2018, of which $6.566 billion is appropriated in five accounts: Investigations; Construction; Operation and Maintenance; Mississippi River and Tributaries; and the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program ( FUSRAP). The funding bill's accompanying Statement of Managers report allocates approximately $4.467 billion of the total for these five accounts to specific programs, projects and activities (PPA). The Corps is responsible for allocating the remainder in these accounts, approximately $2.099 billion, to specific PPAs, consistent with the categories, subcategories, and other direction provided in the Statement of Managers. The allocation of these additional funds is presented in the work plan. The remaining $432 million in the FY 2019 Civil Works appropriations provides funding for the Corps in the Expenses, Regulatory, Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE), and Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works accounts. Read more.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Special Senate Runoff Election in Mississippi
On November 27, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) defeated former Democratic Congressman and Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy in a special Senate runoff election in Mississippi to serve out the final two years of former Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-MS) six-year term ending on January 3, 2021. Hyde-Smith received 53.9% of the vote to Espy's 46.1%. The outcome-which made Hyde-Smith the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi-
ended the 2018 Senate campaign slate, establishing a 53-47 GOP majority for the 116th Congress, a net gain of two seats for the Senate GOP. Read more.
Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) Defeated by Democrat TJ Cox, Providing Democrats a 40-seat Net Gain in House for 116th Congress
On November 28, Democrat TJ Cox officially defeated Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) in California's 21st Congressional District, giving Democrats
a gain of seven House seats in California and 40 nationwide - the party's strongest midterm showing since the Watergate era in 1974.
Cox clinched his victory more than three weeks after Election Day, when updated results from Fresno and Kings counties pushed his lead over Valadao to 529 votes. The contest was the country's last remaining undecided congressional contest. The House in the 116th Congress will now be comprised of 235 Democrats and 200 Republicans. Read more.
Trump Signs New North American Trade Pact at G-20 Conference
On November 30, President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
a new North American trade deal at the G-20 Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina that overhauls the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The deal, which Trump calls the "
," faces uncertain prospects in Congress next year. The deal will require ratification by all three countries' legislatures before taking effect.
House Passes Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, Sending Bill to Trump's Desk
On November 27, the House passed the
Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018
(S. 140) by voice vote, which reauthorizes the
Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission through FY 2019 and modifies the regulation of vessel discharge and ballast water. The Senate previously passed the bill on November 14 by a vote of
. The bill will now be sent to President Trump's desk to be signed into law.
Senate Confirms USDA General Counsel and Deputy Secretary of Commerce
On November 27, the Senate voted
to be General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Nov. 28, the Senate voted
to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce, the No. 2 position in the Department after Secretary Wilbur Ross. Read more