ON THE SENATE FLOOR: The Senate failed to override President Trump's vetoes of three resolutions disapproving the sales of weapons and defense services to Saudi Arabia and other countries. The Senate does not have the two-thirds votes needed to override. In other action this week, the Senate plans to confirm Kelly Craft to be Ambassador to the United Nations and David Norquist to be Deputy Secretary of Defense and will also vote on the debt limit/budget caps deal that was announced July 22.
IN THE HOUSE: The House recessed late last week and the next House votes will be September 9.
EDITORS NOTE: Capital Brief will resume it's publishing schedule when Congress returns after Labor Day. Stay tuned for notices on conference calls next month.
BUDGET DEAL | APPROPRIATIONS: Trump enthusiastically tweeted his support last week for legislation to suspend the debt limit through July 31, 2021 and raise the budget caps for FY 2020 and 2021, but when the House took up the bill July 25, only 65 House Republicans sided with the president. The 132 Republicans who voted “no” knew their votes weren’t needed as Speaker Pelosi was able to line up 219 of her Democratic colleagues to vote “yes,” with only 16 opposing the measure. The final tally was 284-149.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill by Wednesday at the latest, and shortly thereafter Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) will let each of the 12 subcommittees know how much money is available to them as they write the FY 2020 appropriations bills. Staffers, with the input of key Senators, will then spend August drafting individual spending bills in anticipation of subcommittee action when the Senate returns the week of September 9. Whether there will be time for markup in all subcommittees is one of many unknowns at this point, as is how the full committee will handle the bills.
There appears to be agreement that the Senate will try to pass legislation in September that packages the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills. Other measures may be added to the package, but it’s unlikely that all 12 can be signed into law by October 1, the start of the 2020 fiscal year. If that proves to be the case, a continuing resolution (CR) will be needed to provide funding for any departments and agencies whose appropriations bills have not yet been enacted.
Meanwhile, on the House side, appropriators will have to adjust the spending levels in the 12 bills that cleared their committee earlier this year. Defense spending will be $5 billion higher ($2.5 billion in spending subject to the caps and $2.5 billion more in spending designated for Overseas Contingency Operations). On the non-defense side of the ledger, the total spending will be $15 billion less (when you factor in spending outside the caps) than the totals used by House Democrats to craft their appropriations bills.
If House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-NY) agrees to use the same subcommittee numbers [known as 302(b) allocations] as the Senate, that will obviously speed up the process, but she is under no obligation to do so. As with the FY 2019 appropriations, the biggest battle will once again be over the Homeland Security bill and funding for the border wall.
HIGHWAY BILL: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday released what it said will be “the largest highway bill in history.” The legislation authorizes $287 billion in spending from the Highway Trust Fund over five years, increasing spending by 27% above the FAST Act. Unlike previous highway bills (the FAST Act, MAP-21, and SAFETEA-LU), this latest reauthorization has a rather uninspired title – America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act. One of the new provisions in the bill is a competitive grant program for states and localities to expand the network of electric-vehicle charging stations, as well as hydrogen and natural gas facilities, along designated highway corridors.
Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) had planned for his panel to mark up the bill Thursday, August 1, but with the Senate hoping to wrap up its work early this week, the mark-up has been moved to today. There is no particular reason for the committee to finish its work before the August recess as the FAST Act does not expire until Oct. 1, 2020. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) says he hopes to have a bill ready by early next year. Of course, the hardest part of reauthorizing federal highway programs is figuring out where the money will come from... That is a task that must be handled by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, which have not yet begun their work.
U.S. | CHINA TRADE TALKS: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will be in Shanghai starting today to continue trade talks with Chinese officials, but no grand deal is expected in this round.
GSE CONFERENCE CALL: The Future of the GSE's - Join us on August 6 at 10 am as we discuss the potential for changes to Fannie and Freddie by the Administration with AEI's Ed Pinto. Find the details for the call here.
COMMITTEE ACTION OF NOTE:
- Senate Finance Committee Hearing: "The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement."
- Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation Hearing: “Oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
- Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation markup of the Pipeline Safety Act (S. 2299).
- Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Hearing: "Next Steps for Positive Train Control Implementation."
Favorability. A new PerryUndem poll examined how voters view candidates rather than who they would vote for. Senator Warren topped the poll in the categories of favorability, representing one’s political views, most excited about, most likable, best representative of issues women faced, and current vote choice. While Warren led the pack on the question of most likable/who would you like to hang out with, other candidates were close behind: Warren (13%), Buttigieg (12%), Sanders (11%), Harris (11%), and Biden (10%), followed by O’Rourke (7%), Booker (6%), Yang (5%), Gabbard (3%), Klobuchar (2%), and Castro, Gillibrand, Bennet, and Bullock (1%).
Debate Nights. The second round of debates featuring Democrat contenders for the presidency begin tonight and continue tomorrow in Detroit, MI
House Retirements. Last week Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), and Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) all announced their retirements from Congress at the end of their term. Rep. Mitchell and Roby’s seats seem to be safe for future Republicans, while analysts have shifted the Texas 22 district to a 'Toss Up' following Rep. Olson’s decision to retire. We now have three Democrats and seven Republicans who have announced they will retire. Still another Republican seat might open up if Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) is nominated and confirmed as the new Director of National Intelligence. If a special election is needed, the seat is expected to remain in the Republican column.
Impeachment. There are now 110 members of Congress who have called for House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) to launch impeachment proceedings – 109 Democrats plus former Republican Justin Amash (I-MI).