Window On Washington - July 8, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 28
Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital
Congress. The House and Senate return to action this week, with some repair work needing to be done to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) relationship with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) that was put to the test in the aftermath of an emergency border supplemental spending bill that divided congressional Democrats. On the House side, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, the first GOP lawmaker to say that President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses, announced that he is officially leaving the Republican Party and will run for reelection as an independent/libertarian. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) laid out the legislative agenda for the month of July, which will start with consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, then the House will vote on a bill to increase the minimum wage and the Intelligence Authorization Act. The week of July 22nd, the House plans to consider legislation to bring down health care costs, legislation on the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, addressing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and bolstering our nation’s election security.
White House. Contradicting his own Justice and Commerce Departments, President Trump last Wednesday said his administration is moving ahead with an effort to place a citizenship question on the census amid a fierce legal battle. After the Supreme Court called the administration’s census plan “contrived,” administration officials said they were dropping the proposal. But the President tweeted that he will continue the push. The House told a federal appeals court last Monday that President Trump has “disdain” for congressional oversight ahead of action this week on the House’s efforts to subpoena his financial records from accounting firm Mazars USA. The brief sets the stage for what could be a messy couple of weeks legally on fights between Congress and the administration.
Budget & Appropriations. The House and Senate return from the break with a limited number of remaining work days in the fiscal year to resolve FY20 appropriations by October 1, and to secure a debt limit extension by the fall. Last week, 15 Republican Senators sent a letter to Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin, White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and OMB Acting Director Russell Vought objecting to the administration's proposal for a one-year CR that they had proposed last month, which had also proposed tying a one year debt limit extension to the CR. The House has no easy path forward on their two remaining FY20 Appropriations bills (Homeland Security and Legislative Branch) and now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put the kibosh on deeming funding levels so that FY20 appropriations can move forward, the Senate still cannot begin to roll out and mark up any of its 12 bills.
The 2020 Race for the White House. An interesting analysis from writers at The Hill on why a number of factors (including the economy, the large and divisive democratic field, fundraising and incumbency advantages) presently have Trump better positioned for victory in a second term.
Last Week in the Nation's Capital
House Panel Chair Asks Watchdog for Probe of Homeland Security Leaders: The chairman of a U.S. House panel asked an internal watchdog last Friday to investigate whether top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. border service knew about a Facebook group where agents posted racist and misogynistic comments. (Reuters)
Last Week in Healthcare on the Hill and Campaign Trail: Idea of nixing private insurance divides 'Medicare for All' supportive candidates during Democrat debates | Warren calls on ex-FDA chief to quit Pfizer board | Facebook targets bogus medical claims. (The Hill)
Ventas Announces $0.8 Billion in New University-Based Research & Innovation Developments: Ventas, Inc. recently announced four new developments in its university-based Research & Innovation business (with UPenn, Drexel University, the University of Pittsburgh and Washington University in St. Louis), all in partnership with Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, the leading developer of university-focused real estate solutions. (Business Wire)
VA Using Algorithms to Predict suicide / Price Transparency Order Aftermath: The Veterans Administration has been rolling out algorithms to specifically predict suicide and opioid overdoses that seem to be helping. Also, everyone’s scrambling to offer their takes on President Donald Trump’s June executive order on price transparency. (Politico)
Labor & Workforce
New Coalition Aims to Prepare Future Workforces for Restaurant Industry: Artificial intelligence, robotics and other emerging technologies are beginning to change the way restaurant businesses operate—and the impact on the U.S. workforce isn’t far off. The so-called technology-induced displacement of employees will mean a big evolution in how employers train, how employees adapt and compete and how policymakers write labor laws, experts say. (Restaurant Business Online)
Labor Department Launches Awards For Contractors Who Include People With Disabilities in Workforce: The Excellence in Disability Inclusion Awards will feature two levels of recognition, according to a department news release. Up to four – two large and two small – federal contractors will receive a “Gold Award” and a three-year moratorium on compliance evaluations from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. (OH&S)
Space, NASA & NOAA
Commerce Getting Ready for Space Traffic Mission: Congress has not yet approved President Donald Trump's 2018 directive placing the Commerce Department in charge of sharing data with the public about the locations of orbiting spacecraft and debris. But that's not stopping the Commerce Department from taking over parts of the nation’s space traffic management mission, says Kevin O’Connell, the agency's director of the Office of Space Commerce. (Politico)
SpaceIL and Other International Ventures Revise Lunar Lander Efforts: SpaceIL’s recent decision not to mount a second lunar lander mission is only the latest sign of delays and retrenchment among international ventures planning missions to the moon. Team Indus is no longer trying to develop their own lander, instead working with OrbitBeyond, one of the nine U.S.-based companies that is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. (Space News)
Hacking, Glitches, Disinformation: Why Experts Are Worried About the 2020 Census: In the run-up to the 2020 census, the government has embraced technology as never before, hoping to halt the ballooning cost of the decennial head count. For the first time, households will have the option of responding online, and field workers going door to door will be equipped with smartphones to log the information they collect. (New York Times)
U.S. Trade Deficit Surges to Five-Month High as Imports Soar: The U.S. trade deficit jumped to a five-month high in May as imports of goods increased, likely as businesses restocked ahead of an increase in tariffs on Chinese merchandise, eclipsing a broad rise in exports. The Commerce Department said on Wednesday the trade deficit surged 8.4% to $55.5 billion. Data for April was revised higher to show the trade gap widening to $51.2 billion instead of the previously reported $50.8 billion. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade gap widening to $54.0 billion in May. (Reuters)
What You Should Know About Submitting a Comment to the CFPB’s Notice of Proposed Rule for Debt Collection: A Step-by-Step Guide: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB or Bureau) Notice of Proposed Rule (NPR) is a dense 500-page document. In the NPR, the CFPB puts forth numerous proposals which seek to clarify numerous debt collection processes that span from communicating with consumers to providing a new validation form. Many agencies and interested stakeholders are now thinking about submitting comments on the NPR to the CFPB. However, very few potential commenters are familiar with the formal process of submitting written comments to a federal agency, let alone determining what they should comment on. (Clark Hill Insight)
DOJ, Trump Push Ahead in Fight for Census Citizenship Question: President Trump has not given up on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census despite court setbacks, administration lawyers said Friday, but the move faces numerous challenges amid ongoing preparations. (Roll Call)
Department of Energy Announces $17 Million for Research in EPSCoR States: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $17 million in funding for nine energy research projects under the federal Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program. EPSCoR is designed to build capabilities in underserved regions of the country that will enable them to compete more successfully for other federal R&D funding. (DOE)
White House Faces Time Crunch With Trump’s Top Pentagon Pick: The White House is racing against the clock to install a permanent Pentagon chief. (The Hill)
U.S. Biofuel Quotas Would Get Modest Bump Under EPA Proposal: Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal, refiners and importers would be required to use 20.04 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2020, a 0.6% increase over the existing 2019 quota of 19.92 billion gallons. As much as 15 billion gallons could be fulfilled from conventional renewable fuels, such as corn-based ethanol, while refiners would have to turn to advanced biofuels for the remaining 5.04 billion gallons. The EPA is proposing a 2.43 billion gallon quota for biomass-based diesel in 2021, identical to the 2020 target. (Bloomberg)
BUILD Grant Due by July 15: Applications for the DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant program, are due on July 15. The grants provide an opportunity for DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. (Grants.gov)
$4.59B Border Aid Package Signed into Law: President Trump signed a $4.59 billion supplemental spending bill Monday for cash-strapped agencies dealing with poor conditions and overcrowded shelters for the unprecedented surge of migrants at the southern border in recent months. (Roll Call)