Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of June 25, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

Both the House and Senate are in session this week. The House today will consider 21 bipartisan, noncontroversial bills under suspension of the rules. For the remainder of the week, the House will consider the FY 2019 appropriations bill for the Department of Defense (H.R. 6157); a motion to go to conference on the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515); and an immigration bill that would give Dreamers (young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children) a pathway to citizenship, provide $16.6 billion for the Trump Administration's border wall initiative, end the diversity visa lottery, increase the number of employment-based visas, and clarify that documented immigrant children could remain with their parents or legal guardians in detention instead of being separated (H.R. 6136).
 
The Senate today overwhelmingly approved a three-bill FY 2019 "minibus" appropriations package (H.R. 5895) that includes the Energy and Water Development, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bills. The White House has criticized the bill for busting the FY 2019 non-Defense spending cap of $597 billion ($57 million above the FY 2019 budget).    
 
Starting today and for the remainder of the week the Senate will consider its 2018 farm bill legislation (S. 3042) using the House-passed farm bill (H.R. 2) as the legislative vehicle. The Senate bill is less controversial than the House bill, particularly because it lacks several contentious provisions related to conservation programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, among other provisions.
Week in Review

House Passes 2018 Farm Bill 
 
On June 21, the House passed its 2018 farm bill legislation by a vote of 213-211, with 191 Democrats and 20 Republicans voting against the bill. As you may recall, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, failed by a vote of 198-213 in May amid a dispute over unrelated immigration legislation and other policy concerns. It was again unclear if Republican leadership could whip enough votes from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus for the bill to pass. The House Freedom Caucus was in part responsible for the defeat of H.R. 2 in May by withholding support for the bill to force a vote on immigration legislation. That immigration legislation received a floor vote earlier in the day on June 21, clearing the way for the Freedom Caucus to provide enough votes for H.R. 2 to pass.  
 
H.R. 2 would increase federal mandatory spending by $3.2 billion from FY 2019 through FY 2023. The bill would also eliminate broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP, which would reduce spending by $5.04 billion over 10 years. Many conservation programs would see changes under the bill, including ones that would reduce spending by a net $795 million over 10 years. Read more...  
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of State and Local Governments on Online Sales Tax
 
On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to require out-of-state online retailers and other remote sellers to collect sales tax from their customers. The 5-4 decision overturned an earlier court ruling that state and local governments have fought for years. Interestingly, Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito, and Gorsuch voted in the favor and Justices Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan voted against the decision. Read more...   
White House Releases Proposal to Reorganize the Executive Branch
 
On June 21, the White House unveiled its long-anticipated sweeping reorganization plan for the federal government, titled " Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century." The reorganization plan outlines the Administration's analysis and recommendations for the "structural realignment of the Executive Branch to better serve the mission, service, and stewardship needs of the American people." Some recommendations can be done through executive actions while others will require congressional approval.  
 
The plan, among other things, proposes to move the Army Corps of Engineers' Civil Works missions out of the Department of Defense and into the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The Corps' navigation mission would be transferred to DOT and the remaining Civil Works missions (flood and storm damage reduction, aquatic ecosystem restoration, regulatory, and all other activities) would be moved to DOI, where those activities would be integrated and aligned with "complementary programs" focused on issues like water management, ecosystem restoration, and recreation. In addition, the plan proposes to merge the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is currently under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Department of Commerce, with DOI's Fish and Wildlife Service, and merge the Labor and Education departments. Read more...  
Senate Blocks White House Rescissions Package
 
On June 20, by a vote of 48-50, the Senate blocked a $15 billion rescissions package the White House asked Congress to pass to help offset the deficit-increasing 2017 tax cuts law and FY 2018 omnibus. This package proposed several dozen rescissions of unspent federal budget authority from numerous federal programs. Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Burr (R-NC) joined all Democrats and Independents in voting against the measure. The package was previously approved by the House on June 7 by a vote of 210-206. It is unclear if the Senate will attempt another vote on the measure. Read more...
President Signs Executive Order Addressing Family Separation at the Border
 
On June 20, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) titled, "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation." The EO is a response to criticism the Administration has received from Congress and stakeholders regarding recent changes to its immigration enforcement/prosecution policies. The EO states that "Congress's failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law," but says that the Administration will do what it can "to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations" to keep families together during the pendency of any criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings. Read more...