NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Congress is in Session
Congress Returns with Daunting Agenda
After a two-week recess, Congress has returned facing a daunting agenda that includes writing and approving 12 appropriations bills by October 1 and raising the debt limit.
President Trump has prioritized raising the debt limit over passing appropriations bills, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said raising the debt limit can wait while Congress moves forward passing appropriations bills. In the meantime, the Treasury Department is now using “extraordinary” measures to enable the federal government to continue borrowing money. The Congressional Budget Office has indicated that Congress does not have to act to raise the debt ceiling until September or October of this year.
House Democrats have stated that they want to pass all 12 appropriations bills by June 30, and House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated that she expects all the House appropriations bills to be ready for floor consideration sometime in May.
Still out of reach is a Senate and House budget agreement. Without an agreement, House and Senate appropriators will be working from two different sets of caps that may make appropriations agreements more difficult later in the year.
House Democrats are currently drafting legislation assuming they have $661 billion for defense and $631 billion for nondefense. Senate Republicans have said that any budget agreement between the House and Senate should include $750 billion for defense, a substantial increase over current spending. House Democrats have set the overall cap for defense at $733 billion, including contingency funds that are not subject to the caps.
Other legislation that may move forward between now and the month-long August recess includes the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would replace NAFTA and legislation to overhaul Internal Revenue Service operations, improve work access to retirement savings accounts, reduce the cost of retail prescription drugs, and reform the immigration process (though that remains a long shot.)
Next week: an overview of some of the bills pending before Congress.
- Tomorrow, 4:00 PM ET: Markup of FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies House Subcommittee Appropriations Bill
- Wednesday, 9:30 AM ET: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing to review the FY 2020 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Service funding request and budget justification
- Wednesday, 10:00 AM ET: House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Members’ Day
- Wednesday, 10:oo AM ET: House Financial Services Hearing: Housing in America: Assessing the Infrastructure Needs of America’s Housing Stock
- Wednesday, 1:00 PM ET: Markup of FY 2020 Legislative Branch House Subcommittee Appropriations Bill
- Wednesday, 3:00 PM ET: Markup of FY 2020 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies House Subcommittee Appropriations Bill
- Thursday, 10:00 AM ET: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing to review the FY 2020 US Department of Labor funding request and budget justification
Trump, Pelosi to Meet on Infrastructure Proposals Tomorrow
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), and other Democratic leaders are meeting with President Donald Trump tomorrow to discuss an infrastructure deal. Speaker Pelosi told reporters that she is pursuing an infrastructure package of at least $1 trillion, although she would prefer it be closer to $2 trillion. The president has proposed spending $200 billion in federal funds over the next 10 years while leveraging $800 billion. Speaker Pelosi sent the White House a letter this morning in preparations for their discussions tomorrow, highlighting infrastructure bill priorities.
Lisa Soronen: Expect to See a Citizenship Question in the 2020 Census
While it is usually ill advised to predict the outcome of a Supreme Court case based on oral arguments alone, the oral arguments for the 2020 census citizenship question currently in front of the Court strongly indicate that the census will contain the citizenship question. The Justices spent the majority of the time allotted for oral argument asking whether the question violates the Administrative Procedures Act, which prevents federal agencies from acting arbitrarily or not in accordance with the law. While the more liberal justices argued that this question could produce less accurate information than other methods, the more conservative justices spent their time refuting their colleagues’ points, suggesting the Court may ultimately be decided by the conservative majority. The Supreme Court will likely issue their opinion in June, right before the census form is due to be printed.
EPA Seeking Comment on New Draft Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS
The EPA is seeking comment on new guidance for regulating water contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This interim guidance will support actions to protect the health of communities impacted by groundwater that contains PFOA and PFOS above the 70 parts per trillion level, and is a potential source of drinking water. This is a critical tool for our state, tribal, and local partners to use to address these chemicals.” Comments will be accepted through June 10, 2019 (please submit here).
EPA Releases New Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guide
The EPA issued a new version of their Planning for Natural Disaster Debris guide last week. The guide outlines how communities can reduce the impact of natural disasters by creating plans to minimize the amount of dangerous debris generated during events. The document, which focuses on the development of comprehensive pre-incident plans, dedicates a subsection to methods for incorporating climate change adaptation into pre-incident planning.