Congress's Q3 in Review
How do you feel about the last three months in Congress?
The third quarter of 2019 drew to a close Monday and with lawmakers back home for a two-week “district work period”, now is as good a time as any to look back at what Congress worked on the last three months, and what will be on the agenda when they return.
Bipartisan Budget & Avoiding a Shutdown: After reaching an agreement with the White House, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 to outline spending levels for FY2020 and FY2021, including increased spending on defense and domestic programs. After it became clear that Congress wouldn’t have time to reach bipartisan deals on the appropriations bills which provide the actual funding, Congress passed a seven-week continuing resolution on a bipartisan basis to keep the government open through November 21st.
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund: The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was permanently reauthorized and fully funded by broad bipartisan majorities in each chamber, and signed into law by President Trump.
Nominations: The Senate confirmed 25 district court judges, two circuit court judges, Mark Esper as Defense Secretary, and Eugene Scalia as Labor Secretary, in addition to numerous other ambassadors and executive branch officials.
Holding Barr & Ross in Contempt: The House voted along party-lines to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas related to the 2020 Census.
Condemning Trump’s “Go Back” Tweets as Racist: The House voted along party-lines to condemn President Donald Trump’s “racist comments” aimed at members of Congress who are immigrants (or were wrongly assumed to be immigrants) to “go back” to where they came from.
Condemning the Anti-Israel BDS Movement: The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement as counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
BLOCKED / FAILED
House Democrats’ Partisan Bills: House Democrats passed several bills that are unlikely to be considered in the Senate given Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) vow to block partisan bills. In Q3, House Democrats sent over bills to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024; block energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, off the Florida coast, and off the Atlantic & Pacific coasts; invalidate forced arbitration agreements; and prop up insolvent multiemployer pension plans.
House Democrats also approved immigration-related bills that would ban the separation of children from families in detention facilities, require standardized medical screenings for people detained at the Southern border, set minimum hygiene & nutrition standards for detention facilities, and make Venezuelan refugees eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). While some of these bills gained a modicum of bipartisan support, they're unlikely to be considered as standalone bills by the Senate and would need to be included in a bipartisan border and immigration reform package.
Halting Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia & the UAE: After both chambers of Congress voted to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over their actions fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, President Trump vetoed those bills to allow the arms sales and Congress was unable to override the vetoes.
IN PROGRESS / COMING SOON
Impeachment Inquiry: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House of Representatives will pursue an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump after the Judiciary Committee adopted its own guidelines for an impeachment probe. It’s unclear whether the House will hold a floor vote that formally tasks committees with considering the development of articles of impeachment as it did during the two modern era presidential impeachments.
Bipartisan Appropriations: While the Bipartisan Budget Act set top-line spending levels for the next two fiscal years, Congress still has to reach a bipartisan agreement on the appropriations bills that provide the actual funding. Congress has until November 21st to enact those spending bills, or it will face a potential government shutdown.
Terminating Trump’s Border Emergency: Both chambers of Congress passed a resolution to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Southern border. The president is expected to veto the bill (he vetoed an identical bill in March 2019), and the veto will likely be sustained when it returns to Congress for an override vote barring a significant change in its support among Republicans.
FY2020 Defense Authorization: After House Democrats passed their FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Senate approved a bipartisan bill, both chambers have formed a conference committee to produce a compromise bill setting defense spending levels and other policy for FY2020.
Allowing Legal Marijuana Businesses to Access Banks: The House passed a bill on a bipartisan 321-103 vote that would allow state-licensed, legal cannabis businesses to access banks. Currently, cannabis’ legal status prevents many legal businesses from accessing federally-insured banks, which are concerned with violating federal anti-money laundering laws.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / drnadig)
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