President Trump joined Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Buenos Aires to sign the highly anticipated United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) this morning. The wide-ranging agreement — which includes provisions for biologic drugs, intellectual property, agriculture, automotive, and labor — now must be ratified by the legislatures of each country. Congress is expected to consider the deal during the next Congress, leaving the long-term outlook of the agreement unclear due to the impending divided government.
Congressional lawmakers are poised to address reauthorization for a series of key programs, including the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Farm Bill. Regarding NFIP, lawmakers have introduced a short-term funding bill that would extend the program until December 7, giving Congress more time to figure out a solution. Both chambers will need to pass the short-term extension prior to the NFIP’s deadline this Friday at midnight. With respect to the Farm Bill — which funds crop insurance, farm subsidies, and nutritional assistance — House and Senate Agriculture Committee Leadership have announced they have reached an “agreement in principle” on the bill. Compromise language has yet to be released as lawmakers finalize legal and report language and await Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores.
House Democrats will meet behind closed doors today to elect their leadership for the 116th Congress. Despite some intraparty opposition from a host of incumbent and incoming Democrats, a clear challenger to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has yet to emerge — a sign that she is expected to win the closed-door vote for the speaker’s gavel. Despite the expectation that Leader Pelosi will win the behind-the-scenes vote, she still needs to earn 218 votes on the House floor in January after the new Congress gavels in.
House Democrats are set to continue a contentious debate over the speaker’s gavel for the 116th Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the presumed favorite for the speakership in the 116th Congress — is facing pushback from a host of incumbent and incoming Democrats who claim they have the votes to block her path to victory. Leader Pelosi is also facing dissent from some members of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus, who are pushing for an endorsement of their proposed House rule changes for the next Congress in exchange for their support. Despite the intraparty opposition, a clear challenger to Leader Pelosi has yet to emerge after Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) announced she would not seek the speakership last week. Democratic lawmakers will hold a closed-door vote on Wednesday for a speaker nominee, followed by a floor vote in January after the new Congress gavels in.
The Week in Review
Both chambers of Congress were out of town for a brief Thanksgiving recess.
The first week immediately after the election of a lame duck Congress is a unique experience, a diptych, framing the juxtaposition between those arriving and those leaving. Newly-elected members, sometimes with their spouses, sometimes with their staff can be found wandering around the Capitol complex, their faces full of expressions of awe and exhilaration as the gravity and the reality of their new jobs set in. At the same time those who have lost or decided not to seek re-election can be seen cleaning out their offices and sometimes interacting with their soon to be former colleagues as if a great weight has been lifted off their chests. And is often the case, the week is filled with whispers and wonderings of palace intrigue, with questions swirling amongst the Democrats as to who would be their leaders come January.
The Week in Review
Following a grueling 2018 midterm campaign, House and Senate lawmakers returned to Washington last week to begin the “lame duck” session of Congress. On the floor, Senators cleared the legislative vehicle (S.140) for Coast Guard reauthorization as well as the nomination of Michelle Bowman to be a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. In the House, lawmakers passed 15 bills under suspension of the rules, as well as a bill (H.R. 6784) that would remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife published under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
House Democrats are bracing for a contentious battle over the speaker’s gavel. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the presumed favorite for the speakership in the 116th Congress — is facing pushback from a host of incumbent and incoming Democrats who say they have the votes to block her path to victory. While both sides jostle for support behind the scenes, a potential challenger to Leader Pelosi has emerged in former Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) who indicated that she would be interested after other members encouraged her to run. The House Democratic caucus is expected to vote on its leadership slate on November 29, with a final vote on the House Floor in January after the new Congress gavels in.
House Republicans are set to hold leadership elections for the next Congress today. GOP lawmakers are expected to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to be Minority Leader for the 116th Congress, despite a challenge from Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). In hopes of quelling an intraparty feud, reports suggest that President Trump has privately urged Rep. McCarthy to cut a deal with Rep. Jordan, fueling speculation that the conservative Ohio lawmaker may be elevated to the top GOP job on the House Judiciary Committee. The Republican Conference is also expected to elect: (1) Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as Minority Whip; (2) Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as Conference Chairwoman; (3) Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) as National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman; (4) Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) as Conference Vice Chairman; and (5) Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) as Conference Secretary.
House and Senate lawmakers will return to Washington today to begin the “lame duck” session of Congress. As lawmakers seek to clear the seven outstanding appropriations bills, Congress faces a distinct possibility of a post-election showdown over border wall funding. If lawmakers are unable to reach a deal, another continuing resolution (CR) will likely be required to fund the government into early next year. Meanwhile, other items on the lame duck agenda include a farm bill and flood insurance package — both of which are set to expire before the end of the year — along with more targeted action to address issues including criminal justice reform or the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” reimbursement issue.