This Week in Congress

The Senate will consider some legislation that was introduced last week and “Rule 24” to enable it to come to the floor without having to go through Committee.

The first bill the Senate plans to vote on is S. 1. The bill reauthorizes aid to Israel and Jordan. It also imposes sanctions on Syria, in a direct rebuke of President Trump’s declared intention to withdraw form that conflict—even though he seems to be backtracking.

So, now we know what it takes to get the Senate to challenge the president in an area of foreign policy—have the president threaten to end a war!

The bill also clarified that state and local governments are legally allowed to divest pension and other investment funds and cease doing business with companies that boycott Israel. The bill also protects managers of pensions and other investment funds from liability for making a judgment that diverts from businesses that are boycotting Israel.

This has come under criticism from some Democrats and others as aimed at silencing critics of Israel and effectively outlawing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. As a result, some Democrats are blocking the bill from being voted on.

The other two important bills are S. 22, which ensures the Coast Guard gets paid in the event they are affected by the Government shutdown and S. 24, which ensures federal employees receive back pay in the event of a shutdown.

The House is in session Tuesday through Friday. The only legislation on the calendar are the following appropriations bills:  Financial Services and General Government; Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration; Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of the Interior and Environment.

The bills are similar to ones passed last year by the Republican House and Senate. The Democrats are trying to shame the Republican Senate and the president by claiming these are Republican spending bills, so there is no reason the Senate should not take them up.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell remains firm that he will not bring any spending bill to the floor that the President will not sign.

The House will also be completing work on the Rules package.

The House will also consider bills under suspension, including:

1. H.R.31 – Requires a study to determine if the Syrian central bank is primarily a money laundering institution, also imposes sanctions on individuals who aid the Syrian government, provides for continued assistance to the government in Syria. This bill is the same as the Syrian language in S. 1.

2. H.R. 133—Prioritizes economic partnership with Mexico and the U.S. Urges increased academic exchanges and joint efforts to develop entrepreneurs, as well as exchanges between U.S. and Mexican medical schools.

3. H.R. 192—Establishes a partnership between the U.S. and West African nations to fight terrorism

4. H.R. 221 Creates a special envoy to assist the U.S. Government in combating anti-Semitism around the world.

5. H.R.?—does not have an H.R. number at this time. This bill reauthorizes federal programs to deal with pandemics, including military involvement. The bill also makes changes to regulations of over the counter drugs.

6. H.R. ?—does not have an H.R. number at this time. Extends Medicaid and follows the program which allows states to move Medicaid patients out of institutional care to home-based settings. Allows states to wave laws ensuing spousal benefits test does not deny someone Medicaid benefits if paying for the benefits themselves puts their spouse at risk of impoverishment.

7. H.R. 251—extends the Homeland Security Department’s Security Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program by two years. (Because private property owners are incapable of protecting  their facilities without government help.)

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