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Window On Washington - January 13, 2020, Vol. 4, Issue 2

Jan 13, 2020

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Impeachment Update. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House will vote on a resolution this week to send the two articles of impeachment against President Trump over to the Senate. This will trigger the beginning of the Senate trial, which could start as early as this week (after the Senate receives the articles) and could last several weeks. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) will use the impeachment trial of President Clinton as a template. The trial will begin with the yet-to-be-named House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers making their cases. Then, the Senate would vote on any new witnesses or evidence. Because the rules will be set by a simple majority, the Senate Democrats would need four Republicans to join them to a vote.

Other Congressional Activities. The House will also vote on legislation to prevent workplace age discrimination and to overturn a student loan forgiveness policy implemented by the Department of Education that Democrats say is burdensome for borrowers. The Senate is scheduled to vote on a new head to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, while the USMCA trade deal continues to progress through the committee process.

FY21 Outlook. The House and Senate are both already looking ahead to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations process, which is set to officially begin after the budget is released in early February. House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) wants to follow a similar schedule to last year and is aiming to pass as many of the 12 bills as possible by the end of June. Some of the House Appropriations subcommittees are already beginning to announce their budget hearings schedule. While the Senate schedule is still in flux due to the pending impeachment trial, Senate Appropriations Committee leadership have stated they do not want a repeat of last year, where the Senate did not pass any bills until September.  

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

FY 2021 Budget Request Release: The Administration is expected to release its FY 2021 budget request on February 10. The budget release is the kickoff of the annual appropriations process in Congress. The budget agreement passed in the summer set the FY 2021 spending caps at $1.375 trillion to be evenly divided between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. (Clark Hill Insight)

Health

Democratic Chairmen Trying to Bridge Divide on Surprise Medical Bills: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that two Democratic committee chairmen are trying to work out their differences over a measure that would protect patients from surprise medical bills. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been pushing for months to pass legislation protecting patients from getting massive bills when they go to the emergency room and one of their doctors happens to be outside their insurance network. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) has said she hopes surprise billing legislation will be included in a health care package ahead of a May 22 deadline for renewing certain expiring health programs. (The Hill)

Sen. Grassley Turns to House Speaker Pelosi for Help Selling His Bipartisan Drug Pricing Bill: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is turning to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for help selling his bipartisan bill to lower drug prices in the Senate. Grassley said that he wants to persuade Pelosi to abandon her drug pricing bill, passed by the House in December, and support his legislation. He argued that there’s “no other bill that can get the 60 votes required” to pass the Senate. (CNBC)

Defense

House Approves Resolution Aimed at Trimming Trump’s Power on Iran: The House on Thursday approved on a sharply partisan vote, 224-194, a concurrent resolution seeking to curb the power of President Trump to attack Iran. But the parliamentary nature of the measure would not actually bind the White House’s hands even if the Senate were to go along with the resolution because it would never go to Trump's desk for signature. (Roll Call)

'This Was an Act of War': Lawmakers React to Iran's Missile Strike on US Military Bases: Lawmakers quickly reacted after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at US troops and coalition forces in Iraq last Tuesday, an apparent retaliation for a US drone strike days earlier that killed one of Tehran's most powerful generals, Qasem Soleimani. (USA Today)

Cyber

House Passes Bills to Gain Upper Hand in Race to 5G: The trio of bipartisan bills, which passed the House near-unanimously, would funnel US government resources into steering international wireless policy while securing the burgeoning networks against cyberattacks and foreign influence. (The Hill)

Election Security Officials Brace for Possible Iran Cyber Retaliation: With tensions between Washington and Tehran on the rise, election security officials are warning of possible retaliation from Iran in the form of election meddling -- a familiar threat in the wake of Russia’s efforts in the 2016 presidential election. (ABC News)

Voting Equipment Companies Throw Weight Behind Enhanced Disclosures: In a historic hearing before the House Administration Committee, the leaders of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic testified that they would support more disclosure requirements, marking a major step for the industry. (The Hill)

Environment/Interior

House Passes Sweeping Bill to Target Spread of Toxic 'Forever Chemicals': The PFAS Action Act, which passed 247 to 159, targets a class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS that have been leaching into the water supply across the country, causing health problems in communities where water has been contaminated. However, the bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. (The Hill)

Trade

Big Business Lobby to Push Trade, Data, Immigration in 2020: Noting the “extraordinary time” of political turmoil and impeachment running alongside the 2020 campaigns, US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue nevertheless said his group, the top spender on federal lobbying, would push for a full agenda this year that includes free trade, data privacy and immigration overhaul. (Roll Call)

Banking & Housing

Jovita Carranza Confirmed as SBA Administrator After Nine-Month Delay: The Senate confirmed Jovita Carranza on an 88-5 vote as the 36th administrator of the Small Business Administration — nine months after she was nominated by President Trump. (American Banker)

Transportation

Rep. Dingell Introduces Bill to Boost Electric-Vehicle Adoption: The legislation, known as the USA Electrify Forward Act, directs US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to "accelerate domestic manufacturing efforts directed toward the improvement of batteries, power electronics and other technologies for use in plug-in electric vehicles." (The Detroit News)

Electric Vehicle Bill Clears House Subpanel: Last Thursday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee advanced H.R. 5545 from Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL) that would authorize tens of billions of dollars to expand the nation’s electric vehicle charging network. The bill, which was introduced just two days ago, would authorize more than $6 billion annually in grants and rebates for electric vehicle infrastructure deployment and manufacturing around the country over the next decade. It also would mandate that 100 percent of light-duty vehicles be alternative fueled vehicles beginning in fiscal year 2025. (Clark Hill Insight)

Homeland Security/Immigration

House Panel Seeks Restoration of Homeland Security Grants: A bipartisan group of US House members, in the wake of this week’s US killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and recent domestic acts of anti-Semitic violence, called on the Trump administration to restore millions of dollars in homeland security grants aimed at aiding state and local jurisdictions in combatting terrorism. (Homeland Security Preparedness)

Energy

Clean Energy Measures Clear House Subpanel: Last Thursday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee advanced multiple bills aimed to encourage investment in clean energy. Legislation passed included a bill to reauthorize a program meant to clean the nation’s school bus fleet with a focus on electric vehicle deployment (H.R. 2906); authorize and expand DOE’s Clean Cities Coalition program (H.R. 5518); creating a grant program to repair and modernize natural gas distribution systems (H.R. 5542); and establishing financial assistance for grid modernization projects (H.R. 5527). (Clark Hill Insight)

Tax Reform

Businesses Hit by Mistaken Tax Penalty Seek Help from Congress: A one-word drafting error in the 2017 tax code overhaul has sent companies ranging from specialty retailer PetSmart Inc. to Nissan Motor Co. scrambling to Capitol Hill for relief. (Roll Call)

Space/NASA & NOAA

House Panel Approves Space Weather Bill: The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology approved legislation to coordinate federal government space weather research, forecasting and operations with input from academia, commercial firms and groups affected by space weather. (Space News)

Impeachment Inquiry

McConnell Backs Measure to Change Senate Rules, Dismiss Impeachment Without Articles: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is backing a resolution to change the Senate’s rules to allow for lawmakers to dismiss articles of impeachment against President Trump before the House sends them over. (The Hill)

Pelosi to Send Impeachment Articles to Senate: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced she will transmit the articles of impeachment against President Trump next week, ending a heated standoff with Senate Republicans over the terms of the impeachment trial. (Politico)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

Trump Administration Wants Supreme Court to Delay Hearing on ObamaCare Case: The Trump administration on Friday said it would be premature if the Supreme Court decided to expedite a review of a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare. The administration said that a lower court first needs to rule before the Supreme Court can take up the case. The court filing was made in response to an effort by Democrats to convince the Supreme Court to speed up a challenge to a lower court ruling that struck down the law’s individual mandate penalty. (The Hill)

Nearly 8.3M Pick ACA Plans on HealthCare.gov for 2020: Nearly 8.3 million people signed up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage on HealthCare.gov for 2020, a slight decline from the 8.4 million that signed up for 2019. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final enrollment for the site that is used by residents in 38 states to buy coverage on the ACA’s exchanges. The agency will release a final report on enrollment in March that will include enrollment from state-based exchanges. (FierceHealthcare)

Labor & Workforce/DOL

Economy Adds 145K Jobs in December, Meeting Expectations: The US economy added 145,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate stayed steady, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department. (The Hill)

Defense/DOD

US, Iran Ease Fear of Conflict But Threats Keep Tension High: Iran spurned President Trump’s call for a new nuclear pact and its commanders threatened more attacks as the Middle East remained on edge following the US killing of an Iranian general and Tehran’s retaliatory missile strikes. (Reuters)

Iran Faces Fresh Protests After Admitting it Shot Down Plane, Killing 176: Iranian demonstrators defied a heavy police presence Sunday night to protest after the government reversed course and admitting it shot down a passenger plane, killing all 176 people aboard. (NBC)

Trade

Trump Says He Could Wait to Finish China Trade Deal Until After 2020 Election: The president said his administration will start “right away” negotiating the next piece of an agreement after striking a so-called phase one deal. But he said “it’ll take a little time” to finish an accord and suggested he could have more leverage after his reelection bid in November. (CNBC)

DHS/Immigration

Appeals Court Allows Trump To Divert $3.6 Billion In Military Funds For Border Wall: A divided 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision late last Wednesday, reversing a lower court order that stopped Trump from using $3.6 billion in US Defense Department money to construct the long-promised border wall. (NPR)

Homeland Security Chief Visited Yuma to Tout Progress on Border Wall Construction: The country's top border security officials visited Yuma last Friday to tour and tout progress on border wall construction, just as the courts handed President Trump's administration a legal victory that allows them to use military funds to continue building barriers at the US-Mexico border. (AZ Central)

Justice/DOJ

DOJ Inquiry Tied to Clinton, Touted by Trump Winds down with No Tangible Results: Report: A Department of Justice inquiry into Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation has effectively concluded without producing tangible results, The Washington Post reported last Thursday. (The Hill)

Justice Department: Too Late to Pass Equal Rights Amendment: The Justice Department has thrown a roadblock into efforts to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, finding that an expired pair of deadlines imposed by Congress on ratification of the measure means it's too late for additional states to ratify it now. (ABC News)

Environment/EPA/DOI

Congress Members Demand Answers from EPA on Whether It’s ‘Backing Away’ from Role Enforcing Chesapeake Bay Cleanup: Six US senators and more than a dozen members of Congress are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency take “immediate steps” to show the agency will hold states accountable to a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, and gave it two weeks to answer questions about whether the Trump administration is “backing away from its statutory obligations” to see that the bay’s health is restored. (Baltimore Sun)

EPA Employees Push 'Bill of Rights' to Protect Scientific Integrity: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unionized employees have drafted a bill of rights, asking the agency to recognize the need for scientific integrity, research into climate science and the ability to enforce environmental laws without political interference. (The Hill)

Tax Reform/IRS

New Research Confirms State-and-Local Tax Incentives Don’t Work: A new paper from researchers at Princeton and Columbia found "no evidence" that state-and-local tax incentives to individual companies increased economic growth. (Clark Hill Insight)

IRS Audits Drop to Lowest Point in Decades: The proportion of taxpayers facing an IRS audit has dropped to the lowest point in decades, potentially depriving the government of billions of dollars in revenue. (The Hill)

Transportation/DOT

Trump Moves to Exempt Big Projects From Environmental Review: The White House last Thursday introduced major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law, moving to ease approval of major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental assessment or consideration of climate change. (New York Times)

New Federal Self-Driving Car Policy Talks Up Government’s Safety Role but Leaves Industry in Charge of Technology: The White House and the Transportation Department announced a revamped self-driving car policy at CES in Las Vegas last Wednesday, outlining efforts to get more than three dozen federal agencies working together on the potentially revolutionary technology. (Washington Post)

'Designed by Clowns': Boeing Employees Ridicule 737 MAX, Regulators in Internal Messages: The messages, disclosed last Thursday, show attempts to duck regulatory scrutiny with employees disparaging the plane, the company, the Federal Aviation Administration and foreign aviation regulators. (Reuters)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Stocks Slip After Dow Crosses 29,000 for First Time Ever: US stocks made another run towards fresh records but were unable to hold those gains falling across the board on Friday amid a light trading session. (Fox Business)

HUD Releases Proposal, Further Weakening Enforcement of Fair Housing Laws: HUD last Tuesday published its proposed rule to roll back fair housing enforcement. The public now has 60 days to comment on the proposal, which advocates say is an erosion of Obama-era rules. (Washington Post)

Agriculture/USDA

USDA To Re-Survey Unharvested Corn and Soybean Acres: The annual Crop Production numbers released Friday by USDA may change as the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) seeks to clarify corn and soybean acres that still were not harvested at the time of the end of the growing season survey. (Ag Web)

Space/NASA & NOAA

NASA Postpones Procurement of Lander for VIPER Lunar Rover: NASA has delayed the release of a task order that’s part of its commercial lunar lander program for the delivery of a rover at the south pole of the moon, a decision some lander companies have quietly welcomed. (Space News)

First SLS Core Stage Ready for Shipment: The core stage of the SLS rolled out of the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, accompanied by workers who helped build the stage as well as a band. The stage was moved about two kilometers to a barge, which will later transport it to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (Space News)

Impeachment

Bolton Is Willing to Testify in Trump Impeachment Trial, Raising Pressure for Witnesses: Former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s surprise declaration, in a statement on his website, was a dramatic turn that could alter the political dynamic of the impeachment process in the Senate and raise the risks for President Trump of Republican defections. Bolton is a potentially vital witness, with direct knowledge of presidential actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the narrative of the impeachment case. (New York Times)