Today on the Hill: House Shortens Work Week Amid Slow Spending Talks; Kudlow to Lead NEC

The House has cancelled its previously scheduled legislative work day on Friday and will leave town this afternoon — a sign that there is still work to be done on the omnibus spending package. House leadership aimed to introduce the 2018 spending bill by the end of the day yesterday, setting an ambitious goal of voting on the package on Friday. But a slate of contentious issues have hamstrung the spending negotiations, including: (1) provisions targeting Planned Parenthood; (2) possible technical fixes to the new GOP tax law; (3) funding for low-income subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); (4) the expansion of background checks for gun sales; and (5) an immigration deal that provides funding for President Trump's proposed border wall and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

Before lawmakers skip town, the House is slated to consider a bill (H.R. 4545) that would amend the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Act to improve examinations of depository institutions. The lower chamber will also consider a measure (H.R. 4263) under suspension of the rules that would expand the Regulation A+ exemption under the Securities Act and require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to adjust the threshold for inflation every two years.

The Senate approved (67-31) a major banking regulatory relief bill (S. 2155) last evening, sending it to the House where changes to the underlying bill are expected to be proposed. Action in the upper chamber today includes consideration of bipartisan bill that seeks to crack down on online sex trafficking. The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (H.R. 1865) — which cleared the House in a 388-25 vote last month — would amend the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to stipulate that the law does not protect interactive computer services providers or users from liability for private blocking or screening of offensive material. The Senate will vote on final passage the sex trafficking measure, as well as the nomination of Kevin McAleenan to be a Commissioner of U.S. Protection in the Department of Homeland Security, on Monday, March 19.

In notable White House personnel news, President Trump announced that he has tapped CNBC Commentator Larry Kudlow as his new Director of the White House’s National Economic Council (NEC). Kudlow — a conservative economic analyst and television commentator — replaces outgoing NEC Director Gary Cohen, who resigned earlier this month over disagreements with the President on a plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel. While Kudlow has also publicly disagreed with President Trump’s decision on tariffs, both men stressed that it was a non-issue and are focusing on  an “orderly transition.”