Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of July 8, 2019  
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will vote on 12 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019 (S. 998), which reauthorizes and expands a Justice Department grant program for family support services to state and local law enforcement personnel to also include suicide-prevention programs and mental health services, at $7.5 million annually for FYs 2020-2024. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (H.R. 2500), which authorizes $733 billion for FY2020 appropriations and sets forth policies for Department of Defense (DoD) programs and activities, including military personnel strengths.
 
The Senate will vote on seven judicial and executive nominations: Daniel Bress to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; T. Kent Wetherell II to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida; Damon Leichty to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Indiana; J. Nicholas Ranjan to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania; Robert King to be Assistant Secretary of Education for Postsecondary Education; John Pallasch to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training; and Peter Wright to be Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste at the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration have so far tried in vain to reach a deal that would avoid stiff budget cuts, a government shutdown and debt default in September. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has told congressional leaders that the debt ceiling may need to be raised by mid-September-that would potentially decouple the debt limit from funding the government, which has a Sept. 30 deadline. Add in a long August recess, and the Senate is scheduled to be in session seven weeks and the House just six before the end of September. At the moment, there is no meeting on the books for this month between the four top congressional leaders and the Trump Administration to discuss budget negotiations.
 
The Trump Administration has taken a fallback position of one year of funding at current levels to avoid a shutdown and the blunt budget cuts of a sequester that would slash defense spending by $71 billion and domestic spending by $55 billion. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says that's "almost as bad as the sequester" since it would not allow military spending decisions to be updated. He has resisted moving forward with Senate spending bills until there is a bipartisan deal with House Democrats and President Trump. McConnell has successfully impressed upon the President the importance of a two-year budget deal and raising the debt ceiling, and he helped organize two earlier budget meetings this year with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as well as Administration officials. However, those sessions produced little, with the parties stalemating over domestic spending and Administration officials then proposing to essentially give up and freeze spending levels to avoid a shutdown.
 
On Monday, President Trump will deliver remarks "on America's environmental leadership" along with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Mary Neumayr, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. On Tuesday, Trump is hosting the Amir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, for a meeting and lunch at the White House to "to discuss regional developments, bilateral security cooperation, and counterterrorism issues." On Wednesday, he will speak about "American kidney health" and on Thursday, he will speak at a Social Media Summit at the White House, an event which will focus on "opportunities and challenges of today's online environment" with numerous conservative social media personalities.
Week in Review