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Window On Washington - October 14, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 38

Oct 14, 2019

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

Congress Returns. The House and Senate return on Tuesday from a two week recess that included multiple House committee meetings related to the impeachment inquiry. More meetings related to the inquiry are also expected in the House this week. On the floor, the House will take up a pair of bills on financial services disclosures. Later this month, the House will also likely take up Speaker Pelosi’s (D-CA) bill on lowering prescription drug costs, as well as potential legislation related to the President’s decision to withdraw troops in Syria.

Defense Authorization Bill. The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are attempting to complete the annual defense authorization bill by the end of October, with the chairmen and ranking members focusing on finishing the conference report upon Congress’s return this week.  However, there are still some large items that must be resolved, including Syria, the authorization of force against Iran, and border wall funding.

2020 Election Primer. The National Journal has compiled a helpful presentation on the presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections next year. It is available here.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS

Budget & Appropriations

DeLauro Enters Race to Succeed Lowey as Appropriations Chief: The jockeying to replace Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) atop the House Appropriations Committee has already begun. Lowey, the first woman to chair the powerful panel in the nation’s history, stunned Washington in announcing that she’ll retire at the end of this Congress, after just one term with the gavel. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the longest-serving female House member in the nation’s history, is next in line and almost certainly eyeing the post. But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), another senior member of the panel and a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quickly threw her name in the ring just hours after Lowey’s announcement. (The Hill)

Democrats: Budget Rule Change Undercuts Congress’ Authority: Democratic appropriations leaders wrote to the Office of Management and Budget objecting to a decision to limit agencies’ reporting of alleged budget violations, which they said is an attempt to weaken congressional oversight. (Roll Call)

Both House and Senate Appropriations Committee Hold Oversight Hearings: This week, the House Appropriations Committee is holding hearing on NASA’s proposal to go to the moon; the Food and Nutrition Service; e-cigarettes impact on public health; and chronic wasting disease. The Senate Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission Spectrum Auctions Program. (Clark Hill Insight)

Health

PhRMA CEO Warns Pelosi Bill to Lower Drug Prices Would Be 'Devastating' for Industry: The head of the main pharmaceutical industry lobbying group on Thursday warned that a bill to lower drug prices from Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) would have a “devastating” effect on the industry and weaken its ability to develop new treatments. (The Hill)

House Conservatives Prep Obamacare Alternative: Republicans are on the verge of releasing a major health care proposal of their own. But it’s not the White House-developed plan that everyone’s been waiting on for months. Instead, Republican Study Committee will publish its own health care alternative by the end of the month. (Politico)

Oklahoma and Nevada Representatives Introduce Bill that Caps Medicare Drug Costs: In an attempt to cut through roadblocks in Congress, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) are introducing legislation on Friday that would cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors with Medicare. The bill would cap drug costs for 46 million patients who have Medicare Part D at $2,000 per year for life-saving drugs like insulin. (Review-Journal)

Defense

Lawmakers Approve Pentagon Omnibus Reprogramming Request: The House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services panels have approved more than $2.5 billion of a $2.8 billion annual reprogramming request submitted by the Pentagon this summer. The request to shift billions within the defense budget is an annual practice by the Pentagon to right-size spending and address emerging requirements. (Clark Hill Insight)

Cyber

House to Vote This Month on Legislation to Combat Foreign Interference in Elections: The House will vote on legislation later this month aimed at limiting foreign interference in U.S. elections after a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee this week called on Congress to take action on the issue. (The Hill)

Reddit, Google to Testify Before House Panel on Tech’s Legal Protections: The co-founder and CEO of Reddit and a top policy official with Google are slated to testify this week before a key House panel about the tech industry's legal protections. (The Hill)

Justice

Justice Department Slow to Answer Congress on Gun Background Checks: House lawmakers are still waiting for Attorney General William Barr to answer written questions after he misstated key data about gun background checks during testimony in April. (Roll Call)

Homeland Security/Immigration

Bipartisan Senators Want Federal Plan for Sharing More Info on Supply Chain Threats: In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, top members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee called for the Federal Acquisition Security Council to come up with a plan of action. (The Hill)

Environment/Interior

Senate Democrats Seek to Reverse Trump's Regulations on Health Care, Taxes, Environment: The Senate minority leader said last Thursday that his caucus will force a vote next week on reversing the Trump administration’s decision to gut former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. (Politico)

Trade

Democrats Warm to Trump’s Revised NAFTA Trade Deal After Mexico Pledges Labor Reforms: One of the remaining obstacles to passing a new North American trade agreement could soon be cleared after Mexico promised top House Democrats that it would improve enforcement of new labor standards to protect workers’ rights in that country. (LA Times)

AFL-CIO Chief Richard Trumka Says Trump’s USMCA Deal ‘Would Be Defeated’ if House Votes Before Thanksgiving: A top labor leader has cast doubts on the House quickly approving President Trump’s replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement. (CNBC)

Banking & Housing:

Mark Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress on Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the House Financial Services Committee this month. Zuckerberg will be the only witness at a hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 23 at 10 a.m. ET, entitled “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors.” Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), previously requested Facebook halt implementation of the libra cryptocurrency ahead of a July hearing with the project’s lead. (CNBC)

Labor & Workforce

Biz Groups Say Warren Labor Plan Would be Disaster: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) extensive labor plan to raise wages and strengthen the rights of workers is making waves with groups representing business, which are growing increasingly nervous about her candidacy as she rises in the polls. Warren's plan, unveiled recently, echoes arguments she’s long made as a US senator and presidential candidate: Workers’ wages have “largely stagnated” while corporate profits and worker productivity has risen. (The Hill)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Health/HHS/NIH

NIH Funding Disparity Between Black and White Scientists Partly Driven by Research Topic: A new paper builds on that previous work to find that research topic choice is partially driving the disparity, accounting for 20% of the funding gulf. Looking at data from nearly 160,000 funding applications from 2011-2015, researchers found that topics dealing with cellular and molecular science were more likely to be funded by the NIH — and black scientists were less likely to be studying these topics. (STAT News)

FDA Cuts Red Tape in Diagnosis Applications for Cancer Trials: Drug companies developing cancer treatments can fold the risk assessment of unapproved screening tests into their clinical trial application instead of filing separately. The final guidance from the FDA marks another step to advance precision medicine, an emerging approach for disease prevention and treatment that targets care based on an individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle. (Bloomberg)

US to Issue New Advice for Doctors Focused on Lung Infections: US health officials are preparing to release new guidance for doctors stressing the need to ask every patient with an apparent respiratory infection about their vaping history. The CDC has already recommended doctors start asking patients about their vaping history during routine visits, but gathering that information is especially important as doctors evaluate patients with respiratory symptoms from infectious causes. (Reuters)

Labor & Workforce

DOL Issues Proposed Regulations on Handling Tips and the “80/20 Rule”: Over a year after Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to clarify tip ownership questions, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) finally published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on October 8, 2019, with two key proposed changes to its current regulations on handling tips under its minimum wage guidance. (JD Supra)

Space, NASA & NOAA

Newly Decommissioned Earth Science Satellite to Remain in Orbit for Centuries, Raising Collision Concerns: A US-European satellite (Jason-2) that recently completed its mission has been decommissioned but will remain in orbit for as long as 1,000 years, far beyond existing orbital debris mitigation guidelines. The joint mission to study sea-level height by NASA, NOAA, the French space agency CNES and European weather agency Eumetsat, officially ended on Oct. 1. (Space News)

As NASA Tries to Land on the Moon, it Has Plenty of Rockets to Choose From: The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Richard Shelby (R-AL) has mandated that NASA use the agency's SLS rocket to launch the crewed Orion spacecraft to lunar orbit. But for the lunar lander - elements of which will be pre-positioned in lunar orbit prior to the crew's arrival - NASA has given contractors the flexibility to choose their own launch vehicle, and several companies look to be in position to have flown the required 3 test flights and gain NASA certification to bid on these missions by 2024. (Ars Technica)

A Trillion Dollar Storm Looms For Earth And It’s Not A Hurricane: Much of the public is still unaware that there are storms that could cause over $1 trillion (with a “t”) dollars in losses on Earth. These events are not hurricanes or tornadoes, but powerful geomagnetic storms that originate from the Sun. Programs at NASA and NOAA to study this “space weather” and provide earlier warnings of these storms are starting to grow. (Forbes)

Defense/DOD

Trump’s Syria Decision Tests the Bounds of Republican Support as He Demands Solidarity on Impeachment: President Trump’s decision to suddenly withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria has angered evangelical Christian leaders and Republican hawks, cleaving his political coalition at the very moment he is trying to fortify his standing to survive the intensifying impeachment inquiry in Congress. (Washington Post)

Pentagon Sends New Wave of Troops to Saudi Arabia Even as Trump Calls for Ending Wars: The deployment is meant to “assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” a spokesman said, following attacks on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure last month. (Politico)

Pentagon Calls on Turkey to Halt Syria Offensive: In a Thursday phone call with Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar, Defense Secretary Mark Esper “made it clear that the United States opposes Turkey's uncoordinated actions” in northeast Syria, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement Friday. (The Hill)

Trade

US Says China Tariffs Scheduled to Rise on Tuesday Suspended; No Decision on Other Tariffs: Last Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that tariffs slated to hit imports of Chinese goods this Tuesday will not go into effect, after President Trump says the two nations have a “very substantial phase one deal.” (CNBC)

DHS/Immigration

Lower Federal Courts Side Against Trump on Border Fence Funding, ‘Public Charge’ Rule: Federal judges in New York, Texas and California sided against two of the Trump administration’s key immigration initiatives last Friday, the latest lower court ruling against the president’s push for new physical and administrative barriers to migrants. (Washington Post)

Trump’s Latest Homeland Security Secretary Will Resign: Kevin McAleenan will step down as acting Homeland Security secretary after serving a six-month tenure that often frustrated top officials in the Trump administration, including the president himself. (Politico)

Trump Proclamation Could Bar an Estimated Two-Thirds of Legal Immigrants: President Trump’s policy that will deny visas to immigrants who cannot prove they will obtain health insurance or can cover medical costs could exclude two-thirds of future immigrants, a new analysis found. (U.S. News &World Report)

Cyber

DOJ's Latest Case Against Encryption: It Helps Child Predators: The Justice Department's latest arguments against encryption, presented at a summit in Washington last Friday, focus on child predators and take aim at only certain kinds of data. (Axios)

Energy/DOE

Rick Perry Subpoenaed in House Impeachment Investigation: The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees have subpoenaed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to turn over documents by Oct. 18 as part of their investigation into President Trump's alleged efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. (Axios)

Tempers Flare as Millions in California Endure Power Outages from PG&E: Last Wednesday, the state’s largest utility shut off power to millions of Californians in a drastic attempt to avoid the killer wildfires that have charred hundreds of thousands of acres, caused billions of dollars in damage and spurred cries for widespread change in how electricity is delivered over the state’s aging grid. (LA Times)

Perry Has No Plans to Resign, Urged Ukraine Call on Energy Issues: Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday he “absolutely” encouraged President Donald Trump to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July to discuss energy issues, but not to pressure authorities there to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and said he was not resigning. (Roll Call)

Transportation/DOT

Boeing and FAA Faulted in Damning Report on 737 Max Certification: A new report released last Friday by the FAA found that Boeing failed to adequately explain to regulators a new automated system that contributed to two crashes of the 737 Max, and that the FAA lacked the capability to effectively analyze much of what Boeing did share about the new plane. (New York Times)

Friction Between US, European Regulators Could Delay 737 MAX Return to Service: Boeing Co.’s delay-prone effort to return 737 MAX jets to service has hit a new snag due to heightened European safety concerns about proposed fixes to the aircraft’s flight-control system, according to people familiar with the details. (Wall Street Journal)

Justice/DOJ

DOJ Says Congress Has Yet to See Mueller Team’s Notes from McGahn, Hicks Interviews: The Department indicated that Congress has yet to receive any of the notes — known as FBI-302s — from sixteen of Mueller’s interviews with senior members of the Trump administration, Trump confidants and Justice Department officials, despite an agreement reached in June to provide access to the documents. (Politico)

Trump Asked Tillerson to Interfere in DOJ Case Against Giuliani Client: President Trump pressured then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help convince the DOJ to drop a criminal investigation against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was also a client of Trump's current personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. (The Hill)

Environment/EPA/DOI

Senior Interior Official Denied There Was an Ozone Hole and Compared Undocumented Immigrants to Cancer: William Perry Pendley was appointed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as the acting director of the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management in July 2019. Prior to his appointment, Pendley was a conservative activist, commentator, lawyer and served as the longtime president of the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation. (CNN)

Nearly 600 Ex-EPA Officials Want Congress to Investigate Agency over ‘Inappropriate Threat of Use’ of Authority: The officials also want an investigation into Wheeler's demand that the state take action regarding its homelessness crisis. The officials write in the letter that both actions "were intended as retaliation for the state's failure to support President Trump's political agenda." (CNN)

Department of Education

Federal Judge Slams DeVos, Education Department for Violating Order on Corinthian Loans: U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim said in a hearing she was “extremely disturbed” and “really astounded” that the department and Secretary Betsy DeVos had sought to collect on the student loans in spite of her May 2018 order to stop doing so. (Politico)

White House Looks to Clear Path for Agriculture 'Bioeconomy': Trump administration officials say they are committed to reducing regulatory barriers to agricultural biotechnology as part of a larger strategy to promote the development of a “bioeconomy” based on far-reaching scientific innovations that could revolutionize medicine, nutrition and manufacturing as well as farming. Agricultural biotech “should be the leading area for the bioeconomy, almost by definition,” Andrew Olmem, deputy director for the National Economic Council said last week at an all-day White House "Summit on America’s Bioeconomy.” (Agri-Pulse)

Banking & Housing/HUD

Fed Eases Dodd-Frank Banking Restrictions on Capital Requirements, ‘Living Wills’: The Federal Reserve is easing restrictions imposed on banks following the 2008 financial crisis, giving a victory to the banking industry and President Trump. The Fed last Thursday approved a set of rule changes that implement legislation passed by Congress last year to loosen restrictions, particularly for smaller community banks, imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010. (Market Watch)