This Week in Congress

It’s the last week of the first session of the 116th Congress. The Senate came in yesterday to start working on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Following the NDAA, the next major item on the Senate’s agenda will be the bipartisan spending deal on this year’s appropriations bills. The House will be voting on all 12 appropriations bills today, and they will take the form of two “omnibuses” (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158 ).  H.R. 1865 consists of  Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Agriculture, Energy and Water Development, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development. and H.R. 1158 consists of Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services and General Government, and Homeland Security.

Details were made available mid-afternoon yesterday -- once again House leadership is violating the rule that legislation should be made available for three days before being voted on.

The bill increases spending by $49 billion dollars to a total of $1.4 trillion. It increases “defense” spending by $22 billion to a total of $738 billion and non-defense spending by $27 billion for a total of $632 billion. The deal would add at least $2 trillion to the already record-high deficit.

The deal also imposes a new federal mandate restricting the sale of tobacco products (including e-cigarettes) to anyone under 21.

It also funds “medical” research into gun violence, which is an attempt to build a case for gun control by treating it as a “public health” issue.

Some good news is the bill contains the SECURE Act, which makes it easier for small employers to pull together to form joint 401(k) plans. It also repeals ObamaCare’s Cadillac tax plan, medical device tax plan, and health insurance tax.

Any other week, the budget deal would be the big story coming out of Congress, but this is not any week. After the House votes on the bipartisan budget deal reached with President Trump, the House will then vote on H.Res. 755, impeaching President Trump. For more on that see here and here.

The House will also vote on the new “free trade” deal with Canada and Mexico. This deal is managed trade, as it dictates environmental and labor standards to the three countries. The original deal was horrible, but the deal made last week, strengthening enforcement of the labor protections, makes it worse. But the deal is expected to pass.

The House will also consider H.R. 5377, which reverses the 2017 tax reform’s limitations on deductibility of state and local taxes and increases taxes on highest rate payers.

The House will also consider suspensions, including:

  1. H.R. 2726—Bans smoking (including use of e-cigarettes) on Amtrak trains.

  2. H.R. 4719—Increases the federal share of state-federal grant programs for fishery safety from below 40% to almost 80%.

  3. H.R. 4998—Prohibits the purchasing of communication equipment from Huawei Technologies Co. Limited, Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation, or any subsidiary or affiliate of either such entity, and creates a grant program to help businesses pushing new equipment to replace Huawei equipment. Huawei is a Chinese company accused of being a security threat.

  4. H.R. 3362—Requires that small hub airports have lactation rooms and changing tables in bathrooms. (Good idea but should not be mandated.)

  5. H.R. 4227—Makes it a federal crime to knowingly submit inaccurate data regarding broadband coverage to the Federal Communications Commission.

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