This Week on the Hill: Congress Seeks to Check Off WRDA, NDAA; Voters in Eight States Head to the Polls

Congress returns after a week-long hiatus and will seek to check off a host of legislative priorities in an effort to clear the decks before the August recess. The Senate reconvenes today and will begin a work schedule that includes presidential nominations, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed cloture on three judicial nominations to be considered first, with a cloture vote expected this afternoon on the nomination of Robert Weir to be a district-level judge in Kentucky. The timing on consideration of both the NDAA and WRDA has yet to be decided, but could come as soon as late this week.

The House, which will return to work on Tuesday, has teed up consideration of both their version of WRDA (H.R. 8) and the first FY 2019 appropriations bill (H.R. 5895) to reach the floor of either chamber. The House version of the WRDA — a biennial authorization for water development projects — was approved on a voice vote out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in May, signaling bipartisan approval for the bill. Meanwhile, the appropriations bill will be a so-called “minibus” that combines the Energy and Water Development, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch appropriations bills into a single package. Consideration of that package may be more contentious as the underlying Energy-Water appropriations bill was passed on a party-line vote out of the House Appropriations Committee in its markup last month.

This week also sets the stage for significant political happenings as voters in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota head to the polls on Tuesday. California is being touted as the most significant state among them due to its unique “jungle” primary system that awards the top two vote-getters spots on the ballot in the general election, regardless of party. While that often results in races between two Democrats in the liberal state, the plethora of Democratic House candidates in a handful of districts could actually result in a “lockout” where Democratic candidates splinter the vote and two Republicans end up on the ballot this fall. National Democratic leadership views California as central to their campaign to take a House majority, and have strongly pressed California Democrats to coalesce in order to avoid a lockout situation.