Weekly Legislative Update
Week of November 19, 2018
The House and Senate are both in recess this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. When the Senate returns on November 26, the chamber will vote on the nominations of
to be General Counsel of the Department of Agriculture; Karen Kelley to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce; Thomas Farr to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina; Jonathan Kobes to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit; and Kathleen Kraninger to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
As for additional legislation to be considered in the lame duck session, lawmakers will return next week with a number of outstanding issues totackle before the new Congress begins on January 3, 2019. Negotiations continue regarding 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 (which is set to expire on November 30), a disaster relief package, budget and appropriations reform legislation, executive and judicial nominations, and possible tax fixes. The House and Senate are only scheduled to be in session together for a total of eight legislative days leading up to midnight on Friday, December 7, when government funding will lapse for dozens of federal departments and agencies absent the enactment of a Continuing Resolution (CR) or an omnibus appropriations bill funding the remainder of FY 2019 (i.e., Sept. 30, 2019).
On Monday, President Trump
and the First Lady will participate in the delivery of the White House Christmas tree. On Tuesday, Trumpwill participate in the presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey and will then fly to Palm Beach, Florida for the remainder of the week.
Democrats Pick Up Five Additional House Seats, GOP Expands Majority in the Senate By One
During the week of November 12, several outstanding House and Senate races that were too close to call on Election Day were finally decided. In the House, six of 10 undecided races were called:
- Democrat Josh Harder defeated Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) by 2.8 percentage points (51.4%--48.6%) in California's 10th District;
- Democrat Gil Cisneros defeated Republican Young Kim by 1.6 percentage points (50.8%--49.2%) in California's 39th District;
- Democrat Katie Porter defeated Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) by 2.8 percentage points (51.4%--48.6%) in California's 45th District;
- Democrat Jared Golden defeated Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) by 1.06 percentage points (50.53%--49.47%) after Maine's new ranked-choice voting system was initiated since none of the candidates initially received a simple majority of the vote in Maine's 2nd District;
- Democrat Andy Kim defeated Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) by 1.1 percentage points (49.9%--48.8%) in New Jersey's 3rd District; and
- Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) defeated Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by 0.5 percentage points (49.2%--48.7%) in Texas' 23rd District.
The Democrats will now have control of at least 232 seats in the House and the Republicans will control at least 199 seats beginning January 3. Four races still remain officially undecided as of Nov. 19: GA-7 (between Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux and Rep. Rob Woodall [R-GA]), NY-22 (between Democrat Anthony Brindisi and Rep. Claudia Tenney [R-NY]), NY-27 (between Democrat Nate McMurray and Rep. Chris Collins [R-NY]), and UT-4 (between Democrat Ben McAdams and Rep. Mia Love [R-UT]).
In the two outstanding Senate races, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) defeated Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) by 1.7 percentage points (49.7%--48%) in Arizona and Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) defeated Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) by 0.12 percentage points (50.05%--49.93%). The GOP will now control at least 52 seats in the Senate beginning January 3 and the Democrats will control at least 47 seats, a net gain of one seat for the GOP. On Nov. 27, there will be a special Senate runoff election in Mississippi between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Democrat Mike Espy; if Hyde-Smith wins, then the Senate GOP will have received a net gain of two seats in the 2018 election cycle. Read more.
House Republicans Elect Leadership Team for the 116th Congress
On November 14, the 199+ members of the incoming House Republican Conference elected the following individuals to serve as the seven-member leadership team for the duration of the new 116th Congress:
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) defeated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) by a vote of 159-43 for the position of House Minority Leader;
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) ran unopposed for the position of House Minority Whip;
- Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) ran unopposed for the position of House GOP Conference Chair;
- Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) ran unopposed for the position of National Republican Congressional Committee Chair;
- Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) defeated Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) for the position of House GOP Policy Committee Chair;
- Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) ran unopposed for the position of House GOP Conference Vice Chair; and
- Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) ran unopposed for the position of House GOP Conference Secretary.
The 232+ members of the incoming House Democratic Caucus will vote in their closed-door leadership election on November 28. Read more.
Senate Republicans Elect Leadership Team for the 116th Congress
On November 14, the 53 members of the incoming Senate GOP Conference elected the following individuals to serve as the six-member leadership team for the duration of the new 116th Congress:
- Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ran unopposed for the position of Senate Majority Leader;
- Sen. John Thune (R-SD) ran unopposed for the position of Senate Majority Whip;
- Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) ran unopposed for the position of Senate GOP Conference Chair;
- Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) ran unopposed for the position of Senate GOP Policy Committee Chair;
- Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) defeated Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) for the position of Senate GOP Conference Vice Chair;
- Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) ran unopposed for the position of National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair.
Senate Democrats Elect Leadership Team for the 116th Congress
On November 14, the 47 members of the incoming Senate Democratic Caucus unanimously re-elected the entirety of the Caucus' 11-member leadership team for the duration of the new 116th Congress:
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY);
- Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL);
- Senate Assistant Minority Leader Patty Murray (D-WA);
- Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI);
- Vice Chairs of the Senate Democratic Caucus Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA);
- Senate Democratic Steering Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN);
- Senate Democratic Outreach Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT);
- Senate Democratic Vice Chairman of Policy and Communications Committee Joe Manchin (D-WV); and
- Secretary of the Democratic Conference Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
Senate Minority Leader Schumer also announced his appointment of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) to serve as the new Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2019-2020 campaign cycle. Read more.
Democrats' Draft House Rules Package for 116th Congress Presented to House Democratic Caucus
On November 15, incoming House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) presented his 14-page draft proposal for overhauling the House rules during the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Some of the notable proposals include:
- Requiring every bill that goes through the Rules Committee to have a hearing and a markup before it goes to the floor;
- Requiring bill text to be available for a full 72 hours before the bill can go the floor;
- Reinstating the Gephardt rule that provides for the automatic engrossment of a House joint resolution changing the statutory limit when Congress has completed action on a budget resolution.
- Ending the Holman rule that Republicans reinstated two years ago to allow members to offer amendments to appropriations bills designed to reduce the scope and size of government;
- Eliminating so-called dynamic scoring, another Republican-used tool that allows the Congressional Budget Office to provide macroeconomic analyses of bills that factor in projected economic growth resulting from the policy;
- Requiring a three-fifths supermajority to pass legislation that would raise income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers;
- Granting voting rights to delegates of U.S. territories and the District of Columbia;
- Mandating all committees to hold a members-day hearing so that people who do not sit on the panel can provide input on its agenda;
- Creating a diversity office to help offices with hiring qualified candidates from a wide array of backgrounds; and
- Preventing members and staff from serving on corporate boards.
One proposal not included on the list is a restoration of earmarks. Since the 2010 earmark ban Republicans implemented was included only in their intraparty rules, Democrats technically do not need to use the rules package to restore them-they can just start using them again. However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who is expected to be House Majority Leader next Congress, has suggested that language be added to the rules package outlining the parameters under which earmarks could be used and providing guidelines for ensuring they are transparent. The rules package is expected to be ratified by the House Democratic Caucus on, or immediately after, the internal leadership elections take place on November 28. Read more.
Senate Passes Coast Guard Authorization Bill
On November 14, the Senate passed, by a vote of
, the $10.6 billion
Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018
), 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 House is expected to accept the Senate-passed bill and get it to President Trump for his signature. Read more.
House Passes Manage our Wolves Act
On November 16, the House passed, by a vote of
Manage our Wolves Act
requires the Secretary of the Interior to remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the lower forty-eight states by the end of FY 2019 and prohibits lawsuits challenging the removal. Gray wolves were first listed as endangered under the ESA in 1974. While the population of the gray wolf has increased over the last several decades, the species currently only occupies five percent of its historic range in the lower 48 states and are only beginning to recolonize areas where they were long a critical part of the ecosystem. Under the bill, landowners, hunters and others would be allowed to kill gray wolves, unless the states decide to implement their own protections. Read more.
House Passes Strengthening Coastal Communities Act
On November 16, the House passed, by a vote of
Strengthening Coastal Communities Act
would formalize a new set of digitized coastal flooding maps, a significant step for homeowners who complained they could not get flood insurance because their properties were incorrectly listed on outdated maps. The revisions would affect
of properties along coastal states including Delaware, North Carolina
, Florida, and Louisiana. The upgrading of the maps by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to a digital format is important
to homeowners who have complained that previous maps incorrectly identified their properties as being located in flood zones. Such a listing can mean being denied flood insurance as well as being disqualified for federally backed mortgages from the Federal Housing Administration. Read more.
Trump Signs Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act Into Law
On November 16, President Trump signed the
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018
Public Law 115-278
) into law,
which re-designates the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Additionally, the legislation:
- Elevates the cybersecurity mission at DHS;
- Streamlines current cybersecurity efforts into a stand-alone, operational component;
- Ensures DHS can better support on critical infrastructure, including election infrastructure, by leveraging the full scope of cybersecurity services;
- Provides the agency a name and director position to reflect operational objectives and effectively carry out existing authorities; and
- Emboldens recruitment of top cyber talent.
The Senate passed the bill on October 3 by Unanimous Consent and the House passed it on November 13 by voice vote. Read more.