Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of July 29, 2019  
Congressional Outlook

The House is in recess for the next six weeks, returning to Washington on September 9. The Senate is in session this week, where it will vote on the House-passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R. 3877), which suspends the federal public debt limit through July 31, 2021 and would increase total allowable appropriations by $320.3 billion over fiscal years 2020 and 2021 by increasing the caps on defense and non-defense spending established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Senate will also vote on overriding President Trump's recent vetoes of three joint resolutions blocking his arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; a package of 19 federal district court judicial nominations; and confirmation votes for Kelly Craft to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and David Norquist to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Assuming the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 is cleared by the Senate this week and signed into law by President Trump, lawmakers still have their work cut out for them on the FY 2020 Appropriations front. The House Appropriations Committee has already marked up all twelve FY 2020 spending bills, ten of which the chamber passed by mostly party-line votes. However, the panel will need to rework several of those spending bills to reduce non-defense accounts by somewhere between $9.5-15 billion to reflect the bicameral spending caps agreement, while defense-related accounts will receive an extra $5 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released any of its bills after opting to wait until Congressional leaders and the White House reached a universal agreement. That decision is set to lead to a flurry of activity during the August recess and the three weeks leading up to the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is likely to issue subcommittee allocations within the next couple of weeks so that subcommittee chairmen and ranking members can hash out bill text during the summer recess. There is not yet a final decision about whether those bills will go to the Senate floor or if the House and Senate panels will begin negotiating the bills immediately. Additionally, it's possible that the first package of spending bills that Congress may pass on time includes the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, and Energy-Water Development spending bills.
On Monday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee will release the text of its draft surface transportation bill, with a markup scheduled on Tuesday. The bill would authorize $287 billion in highway spending over five years, which would be a 27.7 percent increase in the first year above the FAST Act, which authorized $225 billion in the same area. The top-line number reflects highways, bridges and other programs only under the committee's jurisdiction. The final Senate bill will include legislative titles from several other committees, including the Senate Banking, Commerce, and Finance Committees.
On Monday, President Trump will sign the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act (H.R. 1327) into law. On Tuesday, Trump will travel to Williamsburg, Virginia to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Representative Legislative Assembly in the New World. On Wednesday, Trump will host Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga to discuss a range of issues, including defense and security, trade and investment, and sovereignty and rule of law, with the "goal of sustaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the enduring partnership between our two countries." On Thursday evening, Trump will hold a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, joined by Vice President Mike Pence.
Week in Review