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Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of September 17, 2018 
  
Congressional Outlook

The Senate is in session this week, while the House is in recess until Tuesday, September 25. The Senate will vote on a substitute amendment to the House-passed opioid bill, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6), which incorporates dozens of bills that cover Food and Drug Administration rules, Medicare and Medicaid policies, Health and Human Services Department grants, Justice Department programs, Transportation Department drug testing, and more. The Senate will also vote on the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554), which would prohibit companies that administer drug-benefit plans from barring pharmacists from advising customers of the least-expensive alternative medication that is available. The Senate may also vote on the House-passed America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), a comprehensive bill to improve America's harbors, ports, waterways, flood protection, and other vital water infrastructure.
 
The Senate this week will also vote on the final conference report for the $854 billion FY 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations minibus package (H.R. 6157), which funds nearly 70 percent of federal discretionary spending; the package was publicly unveiled on Sept. 13. The minibus package also contains a Continuing Resolution (CR) which will temporarily fund the federal government from October 1--December 7, 2018 for the parts of government funded under the seven FY 2019 appropriations bills that will not be enacted prior to the beginning of FY 2019 (i.e., Interior-Environment; Financial Services; Agriculture-Rural Development; Transportation-HUD; Homeland Security; Commerce-Justice-Science; and State-Foreign Operations). The House will then vote on the minibus package/CR during the week of Sept. 24, in order to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
 
On Monday, President Trump will participate in the inaugural meeting of the "President's National Council for the American Worker" and will host a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. On Tuesday, Trump will host Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. On Thursday, Trump will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend a "Make America Great Again" rally.
Week in Review

House and Senate Pass $147 Billion FY 2019 Energy-Water, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA Minibus Appropriations Package
 
During the week of Sept. 10, Congress passed the final conference report for the $147 billion FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act (H.R. 5895), which makes up approximately 12 percent of overall FY 2019 spending. The Senate passed the bill on Sept. 12 by a vote of 92-5, while the House passed it on Sept. 13 by a vote of 377-20. The White House has indicated that the President will sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk. Enactment of the minibus package will mark the first time since 2007 that more than one annual appropriations bill was passed on time by Congress prior to the first day of the new fiscal year on October 1. The Trump Administration congratulated Congress for reaching the agreement on the bill, and President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law prior to Sept. 30. Summaries of each part of the minibus package are available here. Read more.
House Passes America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018
 
On September 13, the House passed, by voice vote, the America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 ( S. 3021; aka Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA). The AWIA bill was "pre-conferenced" between the House and Senate to eliminate the need to negotiate between the two different bills after passage, and saving time in getting the measure approved before the election in November. Among other things, the bill would: authorize several new Corps of Engineers studies, construction and environmental restoration projects as recommended by the Chief of the Corps; reauthorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund at more than $4.4 billion over the next three years; ease the streamlining process for hydropower projects; reauthorize the popular Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) through FY 2021; and, initiate a study with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the Trump Administration's controversial proposal to move at least parts of the Corps out of the Defense Department. The Senate is expected to take up the measure as early as the week of Sept. 17. Summaries of the bill are available here and letters of support for the bill are available here. Read more. 
House and Senate Leadership Unveil FY 2019 Defense-Labor-HHS-Education Minibus Appropriations Package and 10-week Continuing Resolution
 
On Sept. 13, the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees unveiled a deal to effectively sidestep an Oct. 1 shutdown threat from President Trump over border wall funding. The two chambers decided to pair a short-term continuing resolution (CR) extending all government funding until Friday, December 7 with the $854 billion FY 2019 Appropriations minibus package (H.R. 6157) funding the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In order to force a shutdown over border wall funding, Trump would have to veto the entire package, including the increased spending of the Defense bill. The Senate will vote on the second minibus/CR during the week of Sept. 17 while the House will vote on it during the week of Sept. 24. The conference report text, joint explanatory statement, and summaries of each part of the minibus are available here. Read more.
House Republicans Unveil "Tax Reform 2.0"
 
On September 10, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) unveiled a package of three bills that "constitute Republicans' Tax Reform 2.0 package and will lock in the individual and small business tax cuts made law in the  Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, make it easier for families and businesses to save for retirement, and boost American innovation by growing startup businesses." The House Ways and Means Committee marked up and passed the three bills on Sept. 13. The three bills include:
  • H.R. 6760, the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018, makes permanent the individual and small business tax cuts from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, currently set to expire in 2025--passed by a vote of 21-15;
  • H.R. 6757, the Family Savings Act of 2018, "helps families save more and earlier throughout their lives by expanding access to new and existing savings vehicles. In addition, the bill helps local businesses provide retirement plans to their workers and helps workers participate in retirement plans"--passed by a vote of 21-14; and
  • H.R. 6756, the American Innovation Act of 2018, focuses on "spurring innovation by helping brand-new businesses with startup costs and capital"--passed by voice vote.
The House is expected to vote on the package of bills later in September, however, passage in the Senate isn't expected, since 60 votes are needed for it to pass. Read more.
Trump Signs Executive Order Opening Door for New Sanctions for Election Interference
 
On September 12, President Trump signed Executive Order 13848 entitled "Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election." Under the E.O., the intelligence community will have 45 days after each election to assess whether any foreign meddling occurred. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will then send its assessment to the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which will have 45 more days to determine whether the sanctions described in Trump's E.O. should be imposed. The Treasury and State Departments can also impose penalties beyond those sanctions. The E.O.'s definition of election interference includes social media influence operations, the release of hacked political documents and attempts to breach election systems like voter registration databases - all of which Russia carried out during the 2016 presidential race, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have said. Read more.