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Window On Washington - April 29, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 18

Apr 29, 2019

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

Congress: Congress returns from a two week long recess, and the Majority Leader Hoyer has already announced that the House will vote on at least three of Democrats’ top priorities in May, as the chamber takes up legislation on health care, climate change and equal rights.  First up on the upcoming agenda is HR 9, a bill affirming support for the United States staying in the Paris climate agreement despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to exit the pact as soon as eligible. Also planned for votes in May once committees have finished marking up bills are several measures — which may be packaged for floor consideration — that would update the 2010 health care law and address prescription drug costs. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has indicated that in May the Senate may address the National Defense Authorization Act, reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act and an overhaul of the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as infrastructure bills and even some immigration reform measures, as well as getting started on the FY20 spending bills.

White House: The White House last week blocked adviser Stephen Miller from testifying before congressional committees on immigration and a staff shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security, prompting lawmakers to demand internal communications on the topic from Homeland Security officials, and setting up some tense show downs in coming weeks as House Democrats ramp up oversight hearings in the wake of the Mueller Report. The Trump administration also boycotted  last Saturday’s White House Correspondents' Association dinner, with the President skipping the party for a third year in a row.

Budget & Appropriations: The House Appropriations Committee has signaled its intention to start marking up FY20 spending bills this week, beginning with the Labor/HHS/Education and legislative branch bills. The House Committee will prepare its bills assuming a total of $733 billion in defense spending and $631 billion in non-defense spending for FY20.  They intend to move at least two bills per week through Committee during May in order to finish in mid-June. With the Senate still stuck on the previously passed House disaster aid supplemental package (due to additional funding for Puerto Rico), the House Majority Leader stated in a Dear Colleague letter that during the week of May 6 the House will consider a new version of a disaster relief funding package. Lastly, word comes that the administration is pressing Congress to take up legislation to raise the debt ceiling limit quickly, in an attempt to avoid the issue being pulled into a potential end of the fiscal year train wreck.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Health

CBO to Release Report on Single-Payer Health Care Next Week: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said last Thursday that it will release a report (but not an official “score” of a specific bill) on single-payer health care next week. The report from Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, slated for release on May 1, is sure to draw close scrutiny from both sides as “Medicare for All” single-payer proposals are hotly debated among Democrats on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail. (The Hill)

Beer and Cigarette Makers Join the Pot Lobbying Parade: The push to legalize marijuana quickly transformed the cannabis industry into a multibillion dollar legal business. And now Fortune 500 companies and elite K Street lobbying firms have joined the green gold rush. The arrival of corporate giants and K Street firms represents a tipping point for the mainstreaming of marijuana legalization in Washington, even while marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. And while there’s a long way to go before Congress goes the way of 30-plus states and legalizes medical or recreational sales, it’s clear that special interests think there’s money to be made trying to change federal drug policies. (Politico)

Justice

Cummings Alleges 'Growing Pattern of Obstruction' over DOJ's Refusal to Comply with Subpoena: House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) last week tore into the Department of Justice over the agency’s refusal to comply with his committee’s subpoena, alleging that the department is engaging in “a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction.” (The Hill)

Transportation & Infrastructure

Pelosi, Schumer to Meet with Trump on Infrastructure Next Week: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will meet with President Donald Trump next week to discuss infrastructure. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 30, at 10:30 a.m., according to a senior Democratic aide. (Politico)

NASA

Bridenstine to Testify This Week: NASA Administrator James Bridenstine is scheduled to testify this Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee about the FY20 budget request. Hearing will take place at 2 p.m. (Clark Hill Insight)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Space/NASA & NOAA

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Announced as Keynote Speaker at ISS R&D Conference: The International Space Station (ISS) Research and Development Conference announced today that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will be a keynote speaker at its 8th annual meeting, July 29 to August 1, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. The ISS Research and Development Conference connects commercial companies, academic institutions, and government agencies in order to foster new innovations, breakthroughs, and discoveries onboard humankind’s unique orbiting laboratory. (Space Ref)

Chinese Firms Space Transportation and Linkspace Test Reusable Launcher Technologies: Two Chinese launch startups have successfully carried out tests of technology demonstration rockets as part of quests to develop reusable launch vehicles. A wide range and vast number of NewSpace companies have emerged in China following a 2014 policy decision to open the launch and small satellite sectors to private capital. Approved firms have also received support through a civil-military integration national strategy, which facilitates the transfer of restricted technologies in order to promote innovation in dual-use technology and reduce costs. (Space News)

Independent Body Proposed to Ensure Commercial Spaceflight Safety: The nonprofit International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety issued a new report in March calling for the establishment of an independent Space Safety Institute to speed development of commercial space flight safety standards and certification processes. The Space Safety Institute could take over from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington-based industry association of leading businesses in the field, which has been pushing a voluntary consensus approach to safety standards. (Space News)

Labor & Workforce

Equity-Oriented Workforce Strategies for a Progressive Infrastructure Plan: A new report from the Center for American Progress urges Congress to ensure that the benefits of federal investment in infrastructure are shared equitably and incentivize systematic changes that advance equitable economic growth, lawmakers must take an inclusive approach to any infrastructure plan, forming partnerships with existing workforce development systems to integrate stronger employment connections between critical public infrastructure entities and less advantaged workers living in affected communities. (American Progress)

This New Study Reveals Why Your Employees May be Quitting: According to the new "Future of Work and Employee Learning" report from Sitel Group, a customer experience management company, "Thirty-seven percent of current employees say they would leave their current job/employer if they were not offered training to learn new skills." So here we are again, coming to another realization of the growing need for organizations to invest in their people through training and development. (Inc.)

Energy

Trump Gambles with Gas Prices as He Goes After Iran: The Trump administration announced that it will no longer waive sanctions on any countries that import oil from Iran, one of the world’s top petroleum producers. The decision means that eight governments that had earlier been granted waivers, including China, India and Turkey, may face U.S. sanctions if they keep buying Iranian oil beyond May 2. (Politico)

Trump’s Offshore Oil-Drilling Plan Sidelined Indefinitely: The Trump administration’s proposal to vastly expand offshore oil and gas drilling has been sidelined indefinitely as the Interior Department grapples with a recent court decision that blocks Arctic drilling, according to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. (Wall Street Journal)

Defense

Lockheed's Costly F-35 to Be Billions Costlier, Pentagon Finds: The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects. The estimate for operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades grew by almost $73 billion to $1.196 trillion. (Bloomberg)

Pentagon Watchdog Clears Acting Defense Chief in Ethics Probe: The Pentagon’s watchdog has cleared acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan of allegations he violated his ethics agreement by favoring his former employer Boeing while serving in government. (The Hill)

Pentagon Set to Expand Military Role Along Southern Border: The Pentagon is preparing to loosen rules that bar troops from interacting with migrants entering the United States, expanding the military’s involvement in President Trump’s operation along the southern border. (Washington Post)

DHS

DHS Draft Proposal Would Speed Deportations: The Homeland Security Department is weighing a plan to bypass immigration courts and remove undocumented immigrants who cannot prove they’ve been present continuously in the U.S. for two years or more. (Politico)

Trade

Trump says Sees Possibility of U.S.-Japan Trade Deal by May: President Donald Trump said on Friday it is possible that the United States and Japan could reach a new bilateral trade deal by the time he visits Tokyo in May, but he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited areas where they differ on trade. (Reuters)

Cyber

Turmoil Consumes White House Team Guiding Feds’ Tech Strategy: The White House team that ensures federal agencies build better technology and defend networks from hackers is plagued by cratering morale — jeopardizing efforts to modernize the government and protect sensitive data from spies and cybercriminals. (Politico)

In Push for 2020 Election Security, Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump: In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election. President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president. (New York Times)

Tax/IRS

Average Tax Refund Down 2 Percent in First Year of Trump Tax Law: The average refund amount through the end of the first tax-filing season under President Trump's tax law was down 2 percent, but more taxpayers have received refunds so far this year, according to data the IRS released. (The Hill)

FEC

Watchdog Groups Sue Federal Agency over NRA's Alleged Campaign Coordination 'Scheme': A pair of legal groups sued the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, seeking to compel the agency to enforce the law amid what they allege is mounting evidence that the National Rifle Association has engaged in “an elaborate scheme … to unlawfully coordinate with candidates it supports for federal office,” including with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. (ABC News)

Interior

Former New Mexico Congressman, Interior Chief Manuel Luján Jr. Dies at 90: Manuel Luján Jr., a former 10-term Republican congressman from New Mexico who also served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, died Thursday in Albuquerque at the age of 90. (The Hill)

EPA

EPA Draft Groundwater Rules Disappoint Clean Water Advocates: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed draft cleanup standards Thursday for groundwater contaminated by so-called forever chemicals, but advocates who urged the adoption of such standards said they were too weak. The proposal addresses PFAS compounds, which are so slow to degrade they’ve been nicknamed forever chemicals. (Roll Call)