Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of February 20, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in recess this week, for the Presidents Day holiday; however, there will be Pro Forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday at which no formal business will be conducted. Next week, the Senate will consider the following six nominations: Elizabeth Branch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia); Russell Vought to be Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. to be U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina; Karen Scholer to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas; Tilman "Tripp" Self III to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia; Terry Doughty to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana.
 
When Congress returns next week, it will need to confront several pressing legislative issues, including: (1) an immigration deal, including providing legal status for the 800,000 so-called undocumented "Dreamers" who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and who have utilized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which is set to expire on March 5; (2) finalizing a FY 2018 omnibus appropriations bill by March 23 (when the current Continuing Resolution expires); and (3) temporarily extending the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) reauthorization by March 31. The relevant House and Senate committees of jurisdiction will also likely begin focusing on crafting an infrastructure bill, since the Trump Administration released its proposal last week. Other legislative issues Congress is likely to focus on in the remaining 10.5 months of the 115th Congress include: the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA); the 2018 Farm Bill; National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization; legislation addressing the opioid crisis; and criminal justice reform.
 
On Tuesday, President Trump will host a public safety "Medal of Valor" awards ceremony; on Wednesday, he will host high school students and teachers for a "listening session"; on Thursday, he will meet with state and local officials on school safety; and on Friday, he will deliver remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence heads to NASA's Kennedy Space Center to visit Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch facilities and to attend a commercial spaceflight federal reception. On Wednesday, Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council, with a discussion focused on the moon, Mars "and worlds beyond,"; on Thursday, Pence will address CPAC.
Week in Review

White House Unveils FY 2019 Budget Request to Congress
 
On February 12, the Trump Administration released its FY 2019 budget request to Congress, a proposal that seeks to authorize $4.4 trillion in spending - 10 percent more than government spending in 2017 - as Congress prepares to consider spending bills for the next fiscal year. The budget request was finalized before the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 was signed into law on Feb. 9, which raises spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding by nearly $300 billion for FYs 2018 and 2019. The Trump Administration included an addendum to its FY19 budget to account for the additional spending, and also suggested cuts that Congress could make in the current fiscal year. Parts of President Trump's FY19 budget request are certain to face opposition from lawmakers in both parties, who will resist chopping favored programs. And as always and regardless of Administration, House and Senate Appropriators have made clear that they, rather than the President, will be shaping the appropriations bills needed to fund the government. Markups of the twelve FY19 appropriations bills will likely begin in earnest in April and May 2018. Read more...  
White House Releases Infrastructure Proposal

On February 12, the White House released its long-awaited " Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America." The proposal would spend $200 billion in federal funds over ten years to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments with partners at the State, local, Tribal, and private level. Additionally, the proposal focuses on streamlining the permitting process down to two years; investing in unmet rural infrastructure needs; empowering State and local authorities; and advancing workforce training. Importantly, the proposal does not indicate how much money will go to each individual mode of infrastructure; does not indicate how much money each federal agency tasked with carrying out the proposal will receive; and does not have a specific "pay-for." The White House expects at least six House committees and five Senate committees to be involved in the infrastructure push. Read more...  
Senate Fails to Advance Four Immigration Proposals
 
On February 15, the Senate failed to advance four different immigration-related proposals with the 60 votes necessary to consider the legislation. The bills dealt with extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, sanctuary cities, and border security, among other issues.
  • The Senate voted 52-47 to advance the "Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018," offered by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and John McCain (R-AZ) to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children; offered no money for President Trump's border wall; and included some border security measures. 4 Republicans voted to advance the bill, while 1 Democrat voted against it.
  • The Senate voted 54-45  to advance the "Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act," offered by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to penalize so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration policy by withholding federal funding from those municipalities. 4 Democrats voted to advance the bill with all 50 Republicans.
  • The Senate voted 54-45 to advance the "Immigration Security and Opportunity Act," offered by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME) to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children; offered $25 billion for border security; and prevented DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents for legal status. 8 Republicans voted to advance the bill, while 3 Democrats voted against it.
  • The Senate voted 39-60 to advance the "SECURE and SUCCEED Act," offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to provide a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children; offered $25 billion to fund a southern border wall; and substantially curtailed family immigration and eliminated the diversity visa lottery program in such a way that would curtail the legal immigration system. 3 Democrats voted to advance the bill, while 14 Republicans voted against it.
The failure of the Senate to advance consideration of any immigration legislation provides an uncertain path to address the Dreamers issue before a March 5 deadline. Read more... 
President Trump Signs Three Bills Into Law
 
During the week of February 12, President Trump signed three bills into law:
  • Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act (Public Law 115-125): the bill permanently authorizes the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign program to issue Department-wide guidance and develop training programs to address human trafficking;
  • Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-126): the bill requires adults authorized to interact with certain minors and amateur athletes to report evidence of child abuse; and
  • Kari's Law Act of 2017 (Public Law 115-127): the bill requires multi-line telephone systems, like those found in hotels or offices, to allow users to dial 911 without a prefix.
Senate Confirms 33 Trump Administration Nominees
 
During the week of February 12, the Senate confirmed, by voice vote, 33 Trump Administration nominees, including:
  • Adam Sullivan to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Government Affairs;
  • Ronald Batory to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration;
  • Raymond Martinez to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration;
  • Margaret Weichert to be Deputy Director for Management, White House Office of Management and Budget;
  • Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction;
  • Melissa Burnison to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs; and
  • Holly Greaves to be Chief Financial Officer for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Senate Passes Three Veterans-related Bills
 
On February 15, the Senate passed three veterans-related bills by Unanimous Consent, including:
  • A bill (H.R. 1725) to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to submit certain reports relating to medical evidence submitted in support of claims for benefits under the laws administered by the VA Secretary;
  • The Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 3122), which seeks to crack down on scam artists who are diverting federal funds from the VA Aid and Attendance program intended to support low-income and older veterans who require assisted care; and
  • The Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 946), which would require the VA to hire additional Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) specialists to ensure veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system have greater access to treatment courts.
Read more here and here.
House Passes TRID Improvement Act
 
On February 14, the House passed, by a vote of 271-145, the TRID Improvement Act of 2017 ( H.R. 3978), which is effectively a House Financial Services Committee omnibus bill that combines the base bill, which brings changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule (also called the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule), with four additional bills of varying degrees of controversy. The five titles of the bill include: TRID Improvement; Protection of Source Code ( H.R. 3948); Fostering Innovation ( H.R. 1645); National Security Exchange Regulatory Parity ( H.R. 4546); and Eliminating Barriers to Jobs for Loan Originators ( H.R. 2948). Read more... 
House Passes Protecting Consumers' Access to Credit Act
 
On February 14, the House passed, by a vote of 245-171, the Protecting Consumers' Access to Credit Act of 2017 ( H.R. 3299). The bill proposes to overturn a 2015 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Madden v. Midland Funding, LLC, and permit nonbank financial institutions to charge interest rates that exceed certain state caps if a national bank makes a valid loan and then sells or transfers the loan to a nonbank. Read more... 
House Passes ADA Education and Reform Act
 
On February 15, the House passed, by a vote of 225-192, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 ( H.R. 620), which would add a "notice and cure" component to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Title that guarantees access to public accommodations, shifting the current burden of compliance away from public establishments and to victims of discrimination. The proposed provision would require that, before a lawsuit can be filed, a person with a disability who has been unable to access a public accommodation must: (1) provide "written notice" of the alleged barrier to the owner of the accommodation; (2) wait sixty days to see if the owner of the accommodation responds; and (3) prove that the owner either did not respond or has not made "substantial progress" toward fixing the issue within 120 days, before filing a suit. Read more... 
Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Six Individuals to Key Administrative Posts
 
During the week of February 12, President Trump announced his intent to nominate six individuals to positions in the Trump Administration, including:
  • Naomi Earp to be Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Civil Rights;
  • Jean Hovland to be Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans, Department of Health and Human Services; and
  • Thelma Drake to be Federal Transit Administrator.