Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of November 13, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will consider 15 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2018 (H.R. 5787), which would codify digital maps of protected areas on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. For the remainder of the week, the House will vote on the Manage Our Wolves Act (H.R. 6784), which would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from the endangered and threatened species list under the Endangered Species Act before the end of FY 2019.  
 
The Senate will consider the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140), which reauthorizes the Coast Guard through FY 2019 and establishes a framework for the service to enforce an EPA-led standard setting initiative for national ballast water discharge rules. Under the agreement, the EPA will have the lead role in establishing standards for discharges, while the Coast Guard will have the lead role in monitoring and enforcing those standards. Existing rules would stay in place until finalization of enforceable new standards. The Senate will also vote on the nomination of Michelle Bowman to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for a term expiring January 31, 2020.
 
On Wednesday, the House and Senate Republican Conferences for the new 116th Congress will each vote behind closed doors to fill their leadership rosters. Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Liz Cheney (R-WY) are set to fill the top three positions of House Minority Leader, Minority Whip, and Conference Chair, respectively. Additionally, the House GOP will vote on the positions of Conference Vice Chair, Conference Secretary, National Republican Congressional Committee Chair, and Policy Committee Chair. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are set to either remain or fill the top four positions of Senate Majority Leader, Majority Whip, Conference Chairman, and Policy Committee Chairman, respectively. Additionally, the Senate GOP will vote on the positions of Conference Vice Chair and Senate Republican Senatorial Committee Chair.
 
The 90+ new Representatives-elect will make their first trips to Capitol Hill for freshman orientation this week. Check-in and registration is today, the class photo is tomorrow, and new member briefings will be held Thursday. The seven Senators-elect (Mitt Romney [R-UT], Josh Hawley [R-MO], Mike Braun [R-IN], and Reps. Marsha Blackburn [R-TN], Kevin Cramer [R-ND], Jacky Rosen [D-NV], and Kyrsten Sinema [D-AZ]) will be attending their orientation as well.
 
As for legislation, lawmakers return Tuesday with a number of outstanding issues totackle before the new Congress begins on January 3, 2019. Negotiations will begin this week to work through difficult FY 2019 spending and policy decisions that include debates over border wall funding, stiffening work requirements for food stamp recipients as part of a renewal of the 2018 Farm Bill, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization, a disaster relief package, budget and appropriations reform legislation, executive and judicial nominations, and possible tax fixes.
Week in Review

Democrats Win Back Control of the House, GOP Maintains Control of the Senate
 
On November 6, the Democratic Party won a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, receiving a net gain of 35-45 seats from the 193 that they currently control in the 115th Congress, the largest net gain of House seats won by Democrats since Watergate, when the party picked up 49 seats in 1974. 218 seats are necessary for a political party to control the House, and the Democrats will ultimately control between 227-237 seats during the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Of the 370 House incumbents running for re-election in 2018, not a single House Democrat lost, while at least 26 incumbent House Republicans lost, or will likely lose, their races. Because the Democrats will hold a majority in the House, the Chairmanships of all 21 Committees will be held by Democrats. As a majoritarian institution, the policy agenda of the House in the 116th Congress will also be controlled by the House Democratic majority through its elected leadership, which the new House Democratic Caucus will select on Nov. 28. The 116th Congress is on track to be one of the most diverse, with at least 101 women serving in the House, the largest number in U.S. history.
 
The Republican Party maintained its Senate majority for the next two years, keeping its current makeup of at least 51 members; if the GOP ultimately wins both the Florida Senate election (the results of which are still in dispute) and the Nov. 27 special Mississippi Senate runoff election, the Senate GOP would receive a net gain of two seats, increasing their majority to 53 seats. Incumbent Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Heidi Heitkmap (D-ND), and Dean Heller (R-NV) all lost their re-elections, while Senators-elect Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) won open seats in Utah and Tennessee, respectively. Even with a divided Congress, President Trump will be able to continue nominating judicial and executive branch officials with the help of a strengthened Republican Senate majority. With the addition of Reps. Blackburn (R-TN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to the Senate, and the defeats of Sens. Heitkamp (D-ND) and McCaskill (D-MO), the 116th Congress will have the largest amount of women ever serving in the Senate: 24. Senate GOP leadership races will take place on Nov. 28. Read more.
Jeff Sessions Resigns as U.S. Attorney General
 
On November 7, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign per President Trump's request after serving in the nation's top law enforcement post for just under 21 months. Matthew Whitaker, who served as Sessions' chief of staff, replaced him as Acting Attorney General. Trump and Sessions have had a troubled relationship regarding the Justice Department's Russia probe after Sessions recused himself and gave oversight of the probe to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein beginning in May 2017. Some legal scholars are questioning the constitutionality of Whitaker serving as Acting AG since he has not been confirmed to another position at DOJ by the Senate. Read more. 
Trump Signs Proclamation Limiting Asylum Seekers
 
On November 9, President Trump signed a Proclamation entitled "Addressing Mass Migration Through the Southern Border of the United States." The Proclamation requires asylum seekers to go to a legal point of entry along the border to apply for asylum, changing the policy that allows migrants up to a year after they enter the United States to request asylum regardless of how they arrived. Read more. 
Federal Appeals Court Rules that Trump Can't Immediately End DACA
 
On November 8, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled that President Trump cannot immediately end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides deportation protections for young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The decision increases the odds that the question will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. The DACA program was begun in 2012 by President Obama and has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to this country as children. The Trump Administration moved to end the program in 2017 after Texas and other states threatened to sue to force an end to the program. Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised the Department of Homeland Security to end the program, saying it was probably unlawful and that it could not be defended in court. But a number of courts around the country have ruled that the Administration's reasoning was incorrect and kept the program in place. Like the other courts, the panel did not question the Administration's power but faulted its approach. Read more.