Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of July 2, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in recess this week for the July 4th holiday. Both chambers will return next week.  
 
NATaT wishes you a safe and happy July 4th!
Week in Review

Senate Passes 2018 Farm Bill 
 
On June 28, the Senate passed its $867 billion 2018 farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act, by a vote of 86-11. Now that both chambers have approved their respective 2018 farm bill proposals, conference negotiations to reconcile differences will likely begin soon.
 
The bipartisan Senate farm bill stands in stark contrast to the House farm bill, which passed on June 21 by a close two-vote margin after a previous failed attempt to pass the bill in May. The House bill proposes to make several contentious changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), farm subsidy caps, and conservation programs that the Senate bill does not. Lawmakers tasked to conference the two bills could have a difficult time reconciling these differences. Read more... 
EPA Releases Supplemental Proposed Rule on WOTUS 
 
On June 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) released an overhauled proposal to repeal the Obama-era 2015 Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction rule over "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS). The new supplemental proposed rule is designed to help bolster the Trump Administration's WOTUS rule repeal and fend off expected legal challenges.
 
The 93-page proposal goes far beyond the brief 11-page justification that the EPA and Corps released for comment in 2017. The agencies add new legal reasoning to support the repeal of the 2015 rule, specifically stating that their predecessors exceeded the scope of the landmark Supreme Court opinion used as the basis for the 2015 rule: Justice Anthony Kennedy's concurrence in the 2006 case Rapanos v. United States. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement that the agencies want to make it clear that they are proposing to "permanently and completely repeal the 2015 WOTUS rule and keep the pre-2015 regulatory framework in place" as they work on a "new, improved" WOTUS definition. Read more...   
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy Announces Retirement
 
On June 27, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the court after more than 30 years of service, effective July 31. Kennedy, who turns 82 this month, is the court's longest-serving member and is the second-oldest justice after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85. Kennedy's retirement is expected to spur a divisive debate over the confirmation a new justice. President Trump is expected to announce Kennedy's replacement on July 9. Read more...  
Senate Passes Minibus Appropriations Bill 
 
On June 25, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $147 billion three-bill FY 2019 "minibus" appropriations package (H.R. 5895) that includes the Energy and Water Development (E&W), Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) appropriations bills. During the debate, Senators kept to their promise of not inserting controversial policy riders or other provisions into the bill. For example, the Senate voted 62-34 to table a Republican-sponsored amendment meant to scrap the contentious Obama-era WOTUS rule.  
 
The Senate bill will now be conferenced with the House-passed $44.7 billion E&W, Legislative Branch, and MilCon-VA minibus, which largely ignores President Trump's requested budget cuts like the Senate bill, but includes controversial measures dealing with ocean policy and repealing the Obama-era WOTUS rule that the Senate bill does not. Read more...  
House Passes Defense Spending Bill  
 
On June 28, the House easily passed its FY 2019 Defense Department spending bill by a vote of 359-49. The $675 billion bill would provide $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding and $68.1 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) war fund account. Several amendments were added to the bill leading up to the final vote, including a provision to add $10 million to aid in bringing Korea War remains from North Korea to the United States and a proposal to block the Pentagon from doing business with Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei. The Senate is expected to take up its FY 2019 Defense Department spending bill when it returns the week of July 9. Read more...  
House Fails to Pass Compromise Immigration Legislation
 
On June 27, the House failed to approve compromise immigration legislation that Republican leaders hoped would unite conservatives. In the end, the bill only garnered 121 Republican votes and failed to secure any Democratic support.  
 
The bill called for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, $16.6 billion for the Trump Administration's border wall initiative, an end to the diversity visa lottery, an increase in the number of employment-based visas, and a clarification that documented immigrant children could remain with their parents or legal guardians in detention instead of being separated. The House is now likely to try to pass a more narrow immigration bill that would allow migrant parents and children to be detained together when the adults are taken into custody for crossing the border illegally. However, it is unclear when the House will again consider immigration legislation on the floor. Read more...