House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has queued up another attempt to vote on a year-end tax package (text; summary) this week following an additional revamp designed to win broader support. The latest version of the bill restores an extension of two expired tax breaks: one for a biodiesel tax credit and another for a railroad track maintenance credit. The bill also contains a host of key health care provisions — including a five-year delay of the medical device tax (until Dec. 31, 2024), a two-year delay for the health insurance tax (until Dec. 31, 2021), and a one-year delay for the “Cadillac” tax (until Dec. 31, 2022) — as well as measures that aim to provide relief for disaster victims and promote incentives for retirement savings. While the bill may have enough support in the House, its future in the Senate remains murky as lawmakers prioritize a resolution to break government funding gridlock.
Lawmakers will return to Washington this week in the hopes of striking a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown. The appropriations process has been deadlocked in a contentious debate over President Trump’s $5 billion border wall demand, leaving the seven remaining funding bills in limbo heading into Friday’s deadline. Among some of the options to avoid partial shutdown that have been pitched include: (1) a short-term continuing resolution (CR) through Christmas to allow lawmakers to come back and try to reach a deal before the end of the year; (2) a two-month CR through January to punt to the next Congress; and (3) a CR for the Department of Homeland Security and passage of the other six remaining appropriations bills.
The Week in Review
The federal government inched closer to a partial shutdown last week following an intense oval office meeting between President Trump and Democratic leadership. President Trump told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he would be “proud” to shut down the government if the spending deal does not include his $5 billion border security request, frustrating Republican lawmakers who are looking to avoid an end-of-the-year spending fight. Leaders Pelosi and Schumer both reiterated their desire to pass the six funding bills where lawmakers have agreement, and extend the current Homeland Security funding until next September through a continuing resolution (CR).
Many believe that the overarching theme of Congress 2019 will be one of gridlock, with little legislative action expected to ultimately end up on the President’s desk – save perhaps an infrastructure and data privacy legislation. And to the casual observer, that may ultimately appear to be correct, but beneath the surface Democrats are going to be doing a lot of work. This will take the form of an oversight agenda that may be broadened to take into account businesses and industries beyond those connected to or adjacent the Trump organization. It will also be true for legislative initiatives, as sophisticated actors are working with both 2019 and 2021 in mind. Like the NFL, Congress is a copycat league, and Congressional Democrats appear eager to mirror the strategy that Republicans utilized between 2010 and 2017 if given the chance. Keen watchers of Congress over the next years will be wise to keep that in mind rather than focus on the apparent dearth of legislative activity.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) struck a deal with a group of insurgent Democratic lawmakers that will likely ensure she’ll have the votes she needs to claim the speaker’s gavel in the 116th Congress. The agreement would limit her tenure and that of Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC) to no more than four additional years. Despite potential opposition to the rule from within the caucus, Leader Pelosi stated she will abide by this agreement regardless of whether House Democrats vote to approve a rule change that would limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms.
The federal government inched closer to a partial government shutdown yesterday following a fervid oval office meeting between President Trump and Democratic leadership. President Trump told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that he would be “proud” to shut down the government if the spending deal does not include his $5 billion border security request, frustrating Republican lawmakers who are looking to avoid an end-of-the-year spending fight. Leaders Pelosi and Schumer both reiterated their desire to pass the six funding bills where lawmakers have agreement, and extend the current Homeland Security funding until next September through a continuing resolution (CR).
House and Senate Agriculture negotiators have released the text (summary) for the final version of the Farm Bill, putting lawmakers on track to pass the five-year legislation this week. The legislation omits conservative-backed work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients — a move that will likely increase support among Democrats in both chambers. Despite President Trump’s adamant support for work requirement language, lawmakers expect the president to sign the bill and potentially pursue the measures through the federal rulemaking process.
Following an emotional week of remembrance for the late former President George H.W. Bush, Congress is poised to resume talks on a deal to fund the rest of the government. The contentious debate over President Trump’s border wall demands has deadlocked the final stretch of the FY2019 appropriations process, leaving seven funding bills in limbo. Democratic leadership — who are pushing for a deal that would clear six of the seven outstanding appropriations bills and then pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — is set to meet with the President on Tuesday to discuss a resolution.
The Week in Review
Congress’ schedule was upended last week following the death of former President George H.W. Bush. President Trump declared last Wednesday a national day of mourning in honor of the state funeral for the nation’s 41st president, prompting lawmakers to strike a deal to postpone the government funding deadline until December 21. House lawmakers postponed their previously scheduled votes until today, whereas the Senate cleared the nominations of Bernard McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Kathleen Kraninger to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Over the next two weeks Congress and the President need to reach an agreement on the remaining spending bills in order to avoid a partial shutdown.
As that debate is keeping Congress open (when frankly, everyone in town would prefer that they were done for the year) and therefore providing an opening for a variety of hearings this week. Some a forum to look back over a Chairman's helm, others an opportunity to begin framing some of the agenda for next year.