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Window On Washington - December 2, 2019, Vol. 3, Issue 45

December 2, 2019

Outlook for This Week in the Nation’s Capital

Impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first impeachment hearing this week to examine the constitutional grounds for crafting articles of impeachment and will call on constitutional and legal experts as witnesses. The Judiciary Committee will examine what constitutes an impeachable offense, the evidence gathered so far, and whether the President’s actions were impeachable. President Trump or his attorneys were invited to participate in the hearing but declined citing the process as being unfair. Today, the Intelligence Committee will begin reviewing a draft report of its investigation of the President’s actions regarding Ukraine and will vote to approve the report on Tuesday. The vote is expected to pass on party lines, after which the report will be considered by the Judiciary Committee. Democrats will then consider drafting articles of impeachment on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and the administration’s attempts to block the investigation.

Floor Activity. The Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Dan Brouillette to be secretary of the Department of Energy as well as a judicial nomination. The House will vote on a bill that bans certain insider trading related to corporate securities and may potentially take up a bill related to negotiating drug prices, if the bill is ready. House and Senate Appropriations Committees are expected to negotiate the details of the individual appropriations bills in order to have them ready for floor consideration before the December 20 deadline.   

NJ Presentation. The National Journal Presentation Center compiled a presentation of the upcoming legislative deadlines facing Congress by the end of the year. Besides the annual appropriations and defense authorization bills, other large programs like the National Flood Insurance Program and Export-Import Bank are set to expire before the end of the year. The presentation is available here.

Last Week in the Nation’s Capital


Budget & Appropriations

Blue Dogs Issue New Call for House Leaders to Abide by Pay-go Rule: The Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats stepped up its push for House Democratic leaders to abide by the chamber's pay-as-you-go rule and only advance legislation that is fully offset. The coalition sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) last week after 12 lawmakers in the centrist group voted against waiving the pay-go rule for a bill focused on tackling workplace violence in the health care and social services sectors. (The Hill)


Senate Quicksand Engulfs a Bipartisan Plan that Trump Backs: President Trump has vowed to lower the cost of prescription drugs. A Senate committee has approved a bipartisan bill to do just that. And the plan is going nowhere fast. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, expressed pessimism in an interview that the measure would soon hit the floor, saying Trump would have to lean on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and more Republicans would need to get behind it. (Politico)


Senators Challenge Trump on Military Pardons: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are pressing the Department of Justice to answer questions about President Trump’s pardons of US soldiers accused of war crimes. (The Hill)


Key Senate Democrats Unveil Sweeping Online Privacy Bill: The bill introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, publicizes the Democrats' wish list for any federal privacy bill. The long-awaited Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA) would enshrine online users' right to privacy and bar companies from obfuscating what they are doing with users' personal information. (The Hill)


California Democrats Seek EPA Watchdog Help Amid Trump Threats: A group of California Democrats last Monday pressed the EPA’s internal watchdog to investigate whether the agency has retaliated against their state for political reasons, including by threatening to withhold federal funds for multiple transportation projects. (Roll Call)

Democratic Senators Push EPA to Abandon Methane Rollback: Four Democratic senators are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon a regulatory rollback they say benefits the oil and gas industry. (Politico)


Mexican President Urges Pelosi to Approve Trade Deal by Year’s End: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last Monday that he will write a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to approve a new trade deal by the end of the year. (Yahoo! News)

GOP Lawmaker: USMCA Deal Has 'Overwhelming Bipartisan Support': Democrats have been negotiating the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for months, but Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) is optimistic that the trade deal will pass. (The Hill)

Banking & Housing

With Housing Credit Expansion, Congress Could Address the Affordability Crisis: The lack of housing availability is severely constraining our nation’s economic growth and is threatening Americans’ economic and geographic mobility. The Housing Financing industry is supporting a bill in Congress that they believe will increase the value of low-income housing tax credit allocations and provide the predictability needed to make developments more financially feasible. (Housing Finance)


King Sponsors Attempt to Overturn DeVos Rule Denying Student Loan Forgiveness: A long-simmering feud between US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and congressional Democrats over student loan forgiveness is heating up as hundreds of thousands of borrowers continue to wait for help on loans they claim were fraudulent. (Maine Beacon)

Impeachment Inquiry

House Judiciary Committee Announces First Impeachment Hearing, Invites Trump to Attend: Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said the hearing, which will focus on "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," will take place on December 4. President Trump is scheduled to be in London for a NATO leaders meeting on that date. (NBC)

Democrats Eye Taking Fight over McGahn Testimony to Impeachment Trial: Legal experts say the fight over whether White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena before Congress could be settled at the Senate impeachment trial before it finishes its path through the courts. (The Hill)



Clashes Among Top HHS Officials Undermine Trump Agenda: President Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, and his Medicare chief, Seema Verma, are increasingly at odds, and their feuding has delayed the president’s long-promised replacement proposal for Obamacare and disrupted other health care initiatives central to Trump's reelection campaign, according to administration officials. Behind the policy differences over Obamacare, drug pricing and other initiatives, however, is a personal rivalry that has become increasingly bitter. (Politico)

FDA Warns 15 Companies for Illegally Selling CBD Products: The US Food and Drug Administration sent a warning to 15 companies that have illegally sold cannabidiol products, better known as CBD, by adding it to food or marketing it as a dietary supplement. The agency also released a consumer update about CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana increasingly used to treat pain and anxiety. Until it learns more about the effectiveness and safety of CBD, the FDA said it cannot generally recognize the ingredient as safe or approve products that contain it. (CNN)

Labor & Workforce/DOL

Slowing Down the DOL Apprenticeship Train: The DOL admitted several weeks ago to misusing about $1.1 million on the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program that still hasn’t been finalized, dipping into a pot of money designated for a separate apprenticeship program that’s been around for decades. This and other issues has slowed the White House’s effort to put together a final rule to establish the new, industry-led job training model. (Bloomberg Law)


‘Rule of Law is What Sets Us Apart': Richard Spencer's Scathing Final Letter as Navy Secretary: Richard Spencer did not go quietly after Defense Secretary Mark Esper asked for his resignation as secretary of the Navy over his handling of the case of SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whose demotion for taking a photo with a corpse had been reversed by President Trump. (USA Today)

US Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria: United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. (New York Times)

Banking & Housing/HUD

NY Fed's Williams: Financial Regulations May Have Created Inefficiencies: Financial regulations put in place following the 2008 financial crisis may have contributed to recent liquidity crunches and ructions in short-term lending markets, New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said last Tuesday. (Reuters)


Trump Campaign, RNC Blast Google Political Ads Policy as 'Voter Suppression': President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican party's top campaign arms last Tuesday blasted Google for limiting their ability to micro-target political advertisements. (The Hill)

Silicon Valley Adjusts to New Reality as $100 Billion Evaporates: Once Silicon Valley’s highest-flying darlings, companies from WeWork to Uber Technologies Inc. have collectively lost about $100 billion in value this year, prompting some startup executives to talk up profitability over growth as venture-capital investors grow more cautious about spending. (Wall Street Journal)


Homeland Security Watchdog Investigates Whistleblower Complaint Over Lapses in Bioterrorism Program: Harry Jackson, a former information security manager at Homeland Security, complained that data from the BioWatch program had been stored on an insecure dot-org website for over a decade, where it was vulnerable to cyberattacks, according to government documents. (LA Times)

Trump Vows to Designate Mexican Drug Cartels as Terror Organizations: President Trump told Bill O'Reilly in an interview broadcast last Tuesday that he plans to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations after they killed Americans in Mexico. (Axios)

Judge Halts Trump Immigrant Insurance Mandate: An Oregon federal judge last Tuesday halted President Trump’s effort to require people trying to enter the US with certain visas to have health insurance or otherwise prove they can afford to pay for medical costs before obtaining their visa. (The Hill)

ICE Arrests 90 More Students at Fake University in Michigan: A total of about 250 students have now been arrested since January on immigration violations by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of a sting operation by federal agents who enticed foreign-born students, mostly from India, to attend the school that marketed itself as offering graduate programs in technology and computer studies, according to ICE officials. (Detroit Free Press)


DOJ Workers Call out Barr over Supreme Court Arguments Against LGBT Protections: DOJ Pride, a group representing LGBT Justice Department employees, wrote a letter to Barr saying that the administration's stance on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had a "clear and negative impact on employee morale." (The Hill)

Judge Delays Flynn Sentencing to Wait for Russia IG Report: A federal judge last Wednesday agreed to postpone next month’s sentencing for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn until after the release of a much-anticipated inspector general report about the FBI’s Russia investigation. (Politico)

Oversight Panel Sues William Barr, Wilbur Ross Over 2020 Census Documents: The House Oversight and Reform Committee filed a lawsuit last Tuesday against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to enforce the panel’s subpoenas seeking information about the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. (Politico)


Conservationists: Interior Ignores Court Order on Sage Grouse Protection: The Interior Department is offering leases to drill for oil and gas in greater sage grouse habitat using a species conservation plan nullified by a federal court last month for being too weak, according to conservation advocates. (Roll Call)


Trump Dispenses Billions of Dollars in Aid to Farmers, Hoping to Shore Up Rural Base: Moving to offset the impact his trade war has had on rural America, President Trump has bypassed Congress to send some $20 billion in aid to farmers, mostly going to a bundle of states that are essential to his reelection chances next year. The payments have ranged from as little as $2 for some small-scale farmers to more than $1 million each for some corporate agricultural enterprises. (LA Times)

How Cities Are Turning Food Into Fuel: Every year, America throws away more than 80 million pounds of food. More than three-quarters of it ends up in landfills, where it produces as much greenhouse gases as 3.4 million vehicles. Increasingly municipalities divert the waste to compost facilities that turn organic material into nutrient-rich soil and are also now turning it into usable energy called biogas. (Politico)


International Weather Agencies Object to 5G Spectrum Decision: A decision made at the recent World Radiocommunication Conference could undermine the accuracy of weather forecasts by interfering with meteorological satellite observations, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). (Space News)

Will SpaceX’s Starlink Mega-Constellation ‘Ruin’ Astronomy’s Biggest Ever Eye On The Sky? Will Elon Musk's SpaceX’s Starlink project end ground-based astronomy as we know it? Despite only 122 of a planned total of 42,000 broadband internet satellites being in orbit so far, astronomers are now gravely concerned about the mega-constellation’s effect on the $466 million Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), one of the world’s most new important telescopes currently being built in Chile. (Forbes)

Chinese Astronomers Discover Black Hole Three Times Larger Than Researchers Thought Possible: Scientists have found a “stellar” black hole that's so large it theoretically isn't supposed to exist (with a mass of 70 times greater than the sun), according to findings published in Nature Wednesday. Named LB-1, it was found and named by a group of Chinese scientists at the National Astronomical Observatory of China and is located 15,000 light years away. (The Hill)

Tax Reform/IRS

Blue States Appeal Ruling in Lawsuit Over GOP Tax Law Deduction Cap: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland last Tuesday filed a notice of appeal in an effort to further their legal challenge to the GOP tax law's cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. (The Hill)


Scoring Perry's Tenure: Perry’s last day at the Energy Department was December 1. And though his departure has been under the cloud of the House's impeachment probe, he generally received high marks for some of his initiatives from both Republicans and Democrats for his nearly three years of running the Energy Department. (Politico)


Two OMB Officials Resigned in Part Over Concerns About Ukraine Aid Hold, Official Testifies: Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget recently resigned in part over concerns about the holdup on Ukraine aid, a career employee of the agency told impeachment investigators, according to a transcript of his testimony released last Tuesday. (Washington Post)

Trump Knew of Whistle-Blower Complaint When He Released Aid to Ukraine: President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter. (New York Times)

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn Gets Temporary Pause on Testimony from Judge: After McGahn appealed a judge's ruling from earlier last week that he must speak to the House, the judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, gave McGahn a temporary pause on his case. (CNN)

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