Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of November 26, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House will consider 29 bills under suspension of the rules, including the Senate-passed Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018 (S. 140), which reauthorizes the  Coast Guard and Federal Maritime Commission through FY 2019 and modifies the regulation of vessel discharge and ballast water. The Senate will vote on the nominations of Stephen Vaden 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. 
 
Congressional leaders this week will also be working to beat several deadlines, including Friday's expiration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the December 7 expiration of a continuing resolution (CR) covering seven of the 12 regular FY 2019 appropriations bills. Talks are also continuing on the 2018 Farm Bill after no agreement was reached last week. Additionally, on Tuesday, the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform will continue its markup and consideration of the committee's report, recommendations, and legislative language, which must be approved by Friday, Nov. 30. If a majority of the committee can agree on a consensus package, it would be automatically placed on the Senate calendar for consideration in December.
 
On Wednesday, the 238 members of the new House Democratic Caucus for the 116th Congress (including four non-voting delegates from DC and three U.S. territories) will vote in their internal, behind-closed-door party leadership elections for Speaker, Majority Leader, Majority Whip, Assistant Democratic Leader, Caucus Chair, Caucus Vice Chair, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair and five Regional Vice Chairs, three Co-Chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), a Caucus Leadership Representative of five terms or less, and a Caucus Leadership Representative from the incoming freshman class. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to easily win the support of the vast majority of the Caucus to be the next Speaker of the House, however, her bigger challenge will be to gain nearly universal Democratic support when the full House votes on the first day of session for the 116th Congress on January 3, 2019, when she will need 218 votes to win.
 
On Tuesday, voters in Mississippi head to the polls to vote in a special runoff election for U.S. Senate for the remaining two years of former Sen. Thad Cochran's (R-MS) six-year term. Incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) is running against Democrat Mike Espy, who previously served in the House from 1987-1993 and as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1993-94. If Hyde-Smith retains her seat, the Senate GOP will control 53 seats in the 116th Congress, a net gain of two seats.
 
On Monday, President Trump will hold political rallies in Tupelo and Biloxi, Mississippi for Sen. Hyde-Smith. On Wednesday, Trump will participate in the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. On Thursday Trump will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina to attend the annual Group of Twenty (G20) summit for meetings with leaders of the world's 20 largest economies; he will be in Argentina through Saturday. Among the world leaders expected there are Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Week in Review

Major Trump Administration Climate Report Released
 
On November 23, the Trump Administration released a major report on climate change produced by 13 federal departments and agencies, overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which said that by 2090, labor-related losses from extreme heat could amount to an estimated $155 billion annually and deaths from temperature extremes could take an economic toll of $141 billion per year, while coastal property damage could total $118 billion annually. The congressionally mandated document - the first of its kind issued during the Trump Administration - details how climate-fueled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming. The report finds that the continental United States already is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was 100 years ago, surrounded by seas that are on average nine inches higher and being racked by far worse heat waves than the nation experienced only 50 years ago. But those figures offer only the prelude to even more potentially severe impacts. The report suggests that by 2050, the country could see as much as 2.3 additional degrees of warming in the continental U.S. Read more.
Federal Judge Stalls Enforcement of Trump Administration Asylum Restrictions; Deal with Mexico Paves Way for Asylum Overhaul at U.S. Border
 
On November 19, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California Jon Tigar blocked President Trump's effort to refuse asylum to migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, agreeing with plaintiff groups who argued asylum-seekers do not have to use official ports of entry to be eligible. The nationwide decision comes after President Trump issued a Nov. 9 proclamation saying anyone who crossed the southern border between official ports of entry would be ineligible for asylum. The Administration argued that caravans of migrants approaching the southern border made the new restrictions immediately necessary. Judge Tigar's ruling remains in effect for one month, barring an appeal. Trump called Tigar "an Obama judge," drawing a rare public rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Additionally, on Nov. 24, it was announced that the Trump Administration had won the support of Mexico's incoming government for a plan to remake U.S. border policy by requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims move through U.S. courts, according to Mexican officials and senior members of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador's transition team. Read more here and here.
Democrats Pick Up Two Additional House Seats
 
During the week of November 19, several outstanding House races that were too close to call on Election Day were finally decided. In the House, four undecided races were called:
  • Democrat Anthony Brindisi defeated Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) by 1.6 percentage points (50.8%--49.2%) in New York's 22nd District;
  • Democrat Ben McAdams defeated Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) by 0.26 percentage points (50.13%--49.87%) in Utah's 4th District;
  • Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) defeated Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by 0.2 percentage points (50.1%--49.9%) in in Georgia's 7th District; and
  • Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) defeated Democrat Nate McMurray by 0.9 percentage points (49.4%--48.5%) in New York's 27th District.
In California's 21st District, represented by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) since 2013, the election results may still change enough in favor of Democrat TJ Cox to give him a win over the incumbent. That's because most people in California vote by mail, and mail ballots only have to be postmarked by Election Day; they can arrive at elections offices as late as three days later and still be counted. For that reason, several prognosticators think the CA-21 race is far from over, even though the Associated Press already projected a Republican win there. Rep. Valadao currently has a 0.4% lead (a 447-vote margin), but the votes that have been released in recent days have favored Cox, and the counties that have yet to report the most votes, including Fresno County, appear to lean Democratic as well. With the CA-21 election results still in question, the final makeup of the new House will include between 234-235 Democrats and 200-201 Republicans, a net gain of 39-40 seats for Democrats from the 195 seats they currently control. Read more.