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Window On Washington - September 16, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 34

Sep 16, 2019

Outlook for This Week in the Nation's Capital

Continuing Resolution. The House is scheduled to take up a “clean” continuing resolution to continue funding the government after the current fiscal year expires on September 30. While the draft continuing resolution being circulated does not specify how long the bill would fund the government, Democratic aides have stated it will be until November 21, which is when the House is scheduled to recess for the Thanksgiving holiday. The House bill will be clean of policy riders in order to gain Republican support. The bill does not include multiple funding anomalies that the White House requested, including additional border wall funding, NASA funding to accelerate a mission to the moon, and reimbursements for farmers facing losses due to the trade war with China.    

Senate Appropriations. Senate Appropriations got off to a rocky start last week with the cancellation of both the Labor/HHS/Education and State/Foreign Operations markups, and it looks like the delays will continue into next week – the Military Construction/Veteran Affairs bill originally slotted to be taken up was pulled off the schedule. The Senate intends to markup its Transportation/Housing and Urban Development, Financial Services, and Agriculture appropriations bills in full committee on Thursday. The Committee approved the Defense and Energy and Water appropriations bill last week and Senator Shelby, the Committee Chairman, stated the bill might come to the floor this week. However, Democrats will likely vote against the bill on the floor, and 60 votes are needed to end debate and move the bill to passage. The bill only passed out of Committee on a party line vote after an amendment that blocked Defense funds from being used to build the border wall was rejected.   

Members Not Seeking Re-election. To date, 26 Members of the House and Senate have announced they are not seeking re-election. Twenty House Members are either retiring or running for higher office, of which sixteen are Republicans. The number of House Republican retirements is ahead of pace from the 2018 election cycle, which saw the highest number of Republican retirements since the 1930s. At the Republican retreat in Baltimore last week, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said the only seat he was concerned about losing was Rep. Will Hurd’s (TX). Five Senators have announced their retirements, including Georgia Republican Senator Isakson, which means that both of the Georgia Senate seats will be up for election this cycle.

Last Week in the Nation's Capital

CONGRESS                                                              

Budget & Appropriations

Senate Panel Cancels Vote on Key Spending Bills Amid Standoff: The Senate Appropriations Committee canceled votes on two spending bills that had been scheduled for the following day, marking the latest sign of turmoil as lawmakers try to fund the government beyond Sept. 30. The panel had been scheduled to vote Thursday on spending bills covering the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education, as well as the State Department and foreign operations. Republicans argued that Democrats were trying to violate the spirit of a two-year budget deal by offering "poison pill" amendments. (The Hill)

Draft Stopgap Would Protect Ukraine Aid, Deny Wall Flexibility: House Democrats are circulating a draft stopgap spending bill to fund government agencies beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year that would prevent the White House from blocking military assistance to Ukraine and money for a variety of foreign aid-related programs. House Democrats are also denying the White House’s request to increase borrowing authority for the Commodity Credit Corp. to reimburse farmers facing losses due to the administration's trade war with China. (Roll Call)     

Health

Pelosi Woos Progressives on Prescription Drug Pricing Plan: Progressives who had pressured Pelosi Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to go bolder for months reacted with cautious praise to a leaked version of her signature plan to lower drug prices, even as they warned they still had concerns. Pelosi's office is hoping that President Trump will throw his support behind the plan, given his sharp rhetoric on drug costs, and that will help bring congressional Republicans on board. (The Hill)

Bipartisan Group Urges FDA To Go Beyond Vaping Flavor Ban: Senators from both parties emphasized to the Food and Drug Administration that more should be done to curb youth vaping beyond the Trump administration’s decision a day earlier to ban e-cigarette flavors. With flavors potentially coming off the market in the next few months, lawmakers say the FDA should do more to regulate devices used for vaping. (Roll Call)

Defense

Senate Dems Lose Border Wall Skirmish as Defense Spending Bill Advances: Typically a bipartisan measure, the Senate’s 2020 defense appropriations bill was the latest flashpoint in partisan fighting that has unraveled Senate Republican plans for speedy passage of spending bills before Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown. (Defense News)

Democrats Grill Army, Air Force Nominees on Military Funding for Border Wall: Sen. Angus King (I-ME) pressed Army Secretary nominee Ryan McCarthy and Air Force Secretary nominee Barbara Barrett, who were facing the Senate Armed Services Committee for their confirmation hearings, on whether the Pentagon has prepared a legal opinion on the use of military construction funds for the border wall. (The Hill)

Senator Seeks Independent Probe of Military’s Use of Trump Resort: Sen. Gary Peters (R-MI), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has formally requested an independent investigation into the Air Force’s increased used of a commercial airport In Scotland and overnight stays at the Trump Turnberry resort. (Politico)                 

Cyber

House Antitrust Panel Seeks Internal Records from Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook: Last week, bipartisan leaders of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee sent letters to Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google on Friday seeking internal communications and documents regarding the use of their market dominance. (The Hill)

Could Hackers Gain a Global ‘Kill Click’?: In a joint House Armed Services and House Oversight hearing on internet architecture security, representatives from DOD and CISA discussed how to protect the internet cables that connect the world from cyberattacks. (Fifth Domain)

Justice

Judiciary Approves New Investigative Powers with Eyes on Impeachment: The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Thursday to broaden the panel’s powers to investigate President Trump as Democrats seek to build their case for impeachment — and clean up their oversight message amid a month of mixed signals. (The Hill)

House Judiciary Committee Sends Gun Control Bills to the Floor: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee advanced three more gun control bills Tuesday during a lengthy, often contentious and sometimes emotional markup that highlighted how Republican opposition could stall the efforts in the Senate. (Roll Call)

Homeland Security/Immigration

Congress Set to Ignore Trump’s Wall Request in Stopgap Measure: Lawmakers are preparing to ignore President Trump’s request to loosen restrictions on border wall funding as part of a short-term spending deal. (The Hill)

Energy

Senate Appropriations Panel Advances Energy and Water Funding Bill: The measure would fund energy and water programs at $48.9 billion, more than $4 billion above fiscal 2019 levels and $10.8 billion more than President Trump requested for the programs in his budget blueprint. (Senate Appropriations Committee)

Environment/Interior

As Congress Debates PFAS Measures, Lawmakers Press 3M, DuPont, Chemours on Chemicals They Used: As negotiations continue in Congress over a defense spending bill that could provide for some federal cleanup and regulation of PFAS, executives from the companies that manufactured and used the chemicals faced tough questions from a congressional committee Tuesday. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Banking & Housing

House Financial Services Committee Advances Series of Bills: The House Financial Services Committee advanced a series of bills last week, including one that is designed to enhance the coordination of state and federal banking agencies in regulating the activities of bank service companies and a bill a bill that would help alleviate the current shortage of certified appraisers. (Financial Regulation News)

Transportation

CR Would Protect Transit from Rostenkowski Rule Cuts, For Now: The draft continuing resolution put forward by the House Appropriations Committee last week would temporarily avert an impending $1.2 billion cut to transit funds that would have otherwise been triggered by a budgetary rule, known as the Rostenkowski test. The rule requires the Treasury secretary to ensure each quarter that the amount of unfunded transit authorizations don’t exceed its projected Highway Trust Fund receipts for the next four years. If more money is owed than would be paid for by the next four years’ worth of revenues — even without taking into account any spending for the next four years — DOT must withhold transit money from states and transit agencies. The draft spending stopgap measure states that the Rostenkowski rule “shall not apply during the period covered“ by the CR. Negotiations are ongoing about how long it will stretch. (Clark Hill Insight)

Tax Reform

Ways and Means to Weigh Rollback of State, Local Tax Deduction Cap: Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) told reporters Tuesday that the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee would be taking up the issue “pretty quick.” (Roll Call)

Trade

Democratic Plan Could Block Trump’s Tariff-aid Payments to Farmers: The House Appropriations Committee is circulating among members a draft continuing resolution that leaves out language requested by the White House to ensure that the Agriculture Department can continue distributing checks to farmers and ranchers burned by President Donald Trump’s trade war. (Politico)

Education

HBCUs Press Congress to Extend Funding: Historically black colleges are putting on a full-court press to have Congress extend more than $250 million in mandatory funding for minority-serving institutions that is set to expire at the end of the month. (Inside Higher Ed)

EXECUTIVE BRANCH                     

Health/HHS/NIH

FDA To Banish Flavored E-Cigarettes: President Trump announced that the administration will move to force e-cigarette companies to take flavored vaping products off the market, as young people's use of them continues to rise and reports emerge of deaths and illnesses tied to vaping. The Food and Drug Administration announced plans to finalize a policy in the coming weeks that will enable it to remove many nontobacco flavored e-cigarettes from the market. (NPR)

NIH Funding Stagnates for Certain Populations: The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) clinical research funding for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders remains stagnant compared to its overall budget, according to a recent study, published in the JAMA Network. (Managed Healthcare Executive)

Labor & Workforce

Trump Labor Nominee Eugene Scalia Fought OSHA Ergonomics Rules From Their Beginning: It's a topic certain to be brought up by Democrats during the hearings on his nomination (now scheduled for this coming Wednesday) to run the Labor Department, which includes OSHA. Scalia was grilled on the same subject when he was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the agency's solicitor in 2001, with many lawmakers arguing it cast doubt on his ability to fully enforce the agency's rules. (Washington Examiner)

Space, NASA & NOAA

The Bigger Reason Trump's Fight with a Weather Forecast Worries Meteorologists: Federal meteorologists found themselves at the center of a political storm this month, due to misleading tweets from President Trump on the path of Hurrican Dorian, and some are worried that it could have long-term consequences for their field amidst the ongoing political fallout. (Live Science)

NASA's Artemis Moon Lander for Astronauts Will Be Born in Alabama's 'Rocket City': The lunar lander that will bring astronauts to the moon in 2024 will be born in Alabama's "Rocket City," NASA announced during the Congressional recess in mid-August, despite the efforts of some to steer more work to the Johnson Space Center in Texas. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville will lead the development of a lunar lander for the agency's Artemis program, which aims to land astronauts on the moon in 2024. (Space.com)

Defense/DOD                       

Trump Fires John Bolton: President Donald Trump abruptly announced in a tweet Tuesday that he has asked national security adviser John Bolton to resign, noting that he “strongly disagreed with many” of Bolton's suggestions “as did others in the administration.” Three aides, who have reportedly worked with Bolton for years, resigned from the White House shortly after the news broke. (The Hill)  

DOD Talks PFAS: As House and Senate negotiators work to hammer out a final deal on PFAS as part of the 2020 defense bill, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Bob McMahon invited reporters to the Pentagon on Thursday to talk about the military’s efforts to deal with the contamination. (Politico)

Trade

Trump Team Rushes to Find Escape Hatch for China Tariffs: President Donald Trump's top advisers are rushing to find an escape hatch for a series of tariff increases in the coming months, worried about the potential for further economic damage. (Politico)

DHS/Immigration

Supreme Court to Allow Trump Administration to Enforce Asylum Restrictions: The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted a district court's block on a Trump administration rule that would prevent almost all Central American migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. (Axios)

Department of Education

Inside the Education Department’s Effort to ‘Obstruct’ Student Loan Investigations: The Education Department is intervening on behalf of student loan servicers, some accused of illegally exploiting borrowers, by declining to turn over information to law enforcement agencies in multiple states investigating the businesses, some consumer advocates say. (NBC News)

Energy/DOE

Glick ‘Mistakenly’ Violated Ethics Pledge: On Thursday, FERC Commissioner Richard Glick said that he had "mistakenly" violated the Trump administration's ethics pledge by voting on matters involving a former employer after erroneous guidance from the head FERC ethics official. (Politico)

Transportation/DOT

U.S. DOT Awards 3 States AV Research Funds: Representatives from Ohio, Michigan and Virginia announced this week that each of the states received funding, ranging from $7.5 million to $15 million, from the U.S. DOT to advance research and testing of autonomous vehicle technology. (Automotive News)

Justice/DOJ

US Attorney Recommends Moving Forward with Charges Against McCabe after DOJ Rejects His Appeal: The move comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) rejected McCabe's appeal of a decision made by Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney for Washington D.C. He had appealed in the hopes of avoiding criminal charges after an internal DOJ watchdog concluded that he "lacked candor" with federal investigators. (The Hill)

Environment/EPA

Interior Department says it will Temporarily Block Democratic Aides from Official Oversight Trips: The Interior Department announced Thursday it was suspending the practice of allowing congressional staffers for the House Appropriations Committee on department-funded trips, acknowledging a rift between the department and Democratic lawmakers who approve its spending plans. (CNN)

Trump Administration Rolls Back Landmark Water Protections: The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal of one of the Obama era's most sweeping environmental rules — a set of pollution protections for small streams and wetlands that had riled up opposition from coal miners, home developers, farmers and oil and gas drillers. (Politico)

Beekeepers Sue EPA Over Controversial Pesticide Authorization: An environmental group representing leaders in the beekeeping industry has filed a lawsuit contesting the Trump administration's rollback of pesticide restrictions, citing major risks to honeybee hives. (The Hill)

IRS

IRS Offers Tax Break to Some American Expats: The IRS has outlined new procedures for some "accidental Americans,", giving them the chance to comply with their US tax and filing obligations and in turn qualify for relief from back taxes, penalties and interest. (International Investment)

Agriculture/USDA

USDA Doubles Disaster Aid Pay Limit for Farmers: Farmers are eligible for up to $500,000 apiece for the hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other disasters they faced in 2018 and this year, including Hurricane Dorian last weekend, said the USDA last Monday, with $3 billion in aid available. As it did in July for Trump tariff payments, the USDA set the maximum disaster payment at double the Congressional limit for farm subsidies. (Agriculture Magazine)

Democratic Plan Could Block Trump’s Proposed Tariff-Aid Payments to Farmers: The House Appropriations Committee is circulating among members a draft continuing resolution that leaves out language requested by the White House to ensure that the Agriculture Department can continue distributing checks to farmers and ranchers burned by President Donald Trump’s trade war. (Politico)

Banking & Housing

FHFA says Fannie and Freddie Must Direct Over One-Third of Multifamily Loans Towards Affordable Housing: The regulatory agency will now limit the two firms to purchasing $100 billion in multifamily-housing residential loans, respectively, between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020. The caps are substantially larger than in previous years. (Market Watch)