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Capitol Hill Update: January 13, 2020

01/13/2020

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

In case you missed it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Friday that she has asked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to prepare a resolution that names impeachment managers for the trial in the Senate. The impeachment managers are responsible for transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate and prosecuting the House’s case. It’s not clear when the House will vote on the impeachment managers, but Pelosi plans to discuss next steps with her caucus on Tuesday.

The House returns on today and will be in session through Thursday. Legislative business in the House today begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are eight bills coming to the floor under suspension of the rules. It’s possible that more legislation could be added. Suspensions will likely be considered today and tomorrow.

  • H.J.Res.80, Approving the request of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for a waiver under section 1703E(f) of title 38, United States Code
  • H.R. 4302, Homeless Assistance Act
  • H.R. 4335, 8-K Trading Gap Act
  • H.R. 4841, Prudential Regulators Oversight Act
  • H.R. 5315, Expanding Opportunities for MDIs Act
  • H.R. 4458, Cybersecurity and Financial System Resilience Act
  • H.R. 2398, Veteran HOUSE Act
  • S. 457, President George H.W. Bush and First Spouse Barbara Bush Coin Act

The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday at 5:30 pm to consider the rule(s) for the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, H.R. 1230, and the Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability Rule CRA, H.J.Res. 76. Nine amendments have been filed for H.R. 1230. H.J.Res. 76 will come out under a closed rule, meaning no amendments will be allowed, which is standard practice for disapproval resolutions under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The resolution for impeachment managers could also come up this week.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, H.R. 1230, would, according to the Congressional Research Service description of the bill, “establish an unlawful employment practice when the complaining party demonstrates that age or participation in investigations, proceedings, or litigation under such Act was a motivating factor for any unlawful employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice (thereby allowing what are commonly known as ‘mixed motive’ claims).” The legislation is a response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. (2009) in which the majority ruled that a petitioner in an age discrimination case must prove by a preponderance of the evidence “that age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the employer’s adverse action.” Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee argue that H.R. 1230 does more to help trial lawyers than older workers.

The Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability CRA, H.J.Res. 76, would nullify the Department of Education’s Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability Rule, 84 Fed. Reg. 49788. House Democrats say that the rule leaves students who claim to have been defrauded by a college or university without recourse. In reality, the rule cuts in half the time for a student to file a claim, to three years from six years, and more evidence to back up the claim. According to the Department of Education, the rule will save $11.1 billion over ten years.

During a colloquy on Friday with Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the House could consider a repeal of the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq, H.R. 2456, and the No War Against Iran Act, H.R. 5543. Both bills are based on amendments that were included in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020, H.R. 2500. Neither amendment made it in the conference report that became law. Still, the amendments on which these bills were based got bipartisan support, and I’m not talking about a few squishy, moderate Republicans voting for them; some very conservative members supported both. See roll call vote 463 for funding prohibition against an unauthorized war with Iran and roll call vote 464 for the Iraq AUMF repeal.

The committee schedule for the week is here.

Senate:

The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm and will be in session through at least Thursday. On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of Peter Gaynor to serve as the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A roll call vote on the cloture motion is expected around 5:30 pm. Gaynor has served as acting administrator of FEMA since March 2019. He was confirmed by voice vote in October 2018 to serve as the deputy administrator. Because of the looming impeachment trial, the rest of the week is up in the air, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see McConnell try to sneak in another nomination before House impeachment managers present the articles of impeachment.

A vote on a war powers resolution, S.J.Res. 68, could happen as soon as today. The joint resolution directs President Trump to remove the military from hostilities against Iran unless Congress formally declares war or authorizes the use of military force. A rule of construction does allow President Trump to defend the United States against an imminent attack. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters last week that they would vote for the resolution, which requires only a simple majority for passage, after a subpar briefing from administration officials in which they said told members of Congress not to discuss or debate policy towards Iran.

Although he supports the strike against Qasem Soleimani, Lee described it as “probably the worst briefing [he has] seen, at least on a military issue, in the nine years [he has] served in the United States Senate.” (He has said that the Benghazi briefing from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was worse.) Lee negotiated changes to the resolution with its sponsor, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), to secure his vote. The original resolution, S.J.Res. 63, had some language aimed at President Trump. That language is not in the new resolution, S.J.Res. 68. Unlike the House version, H.Con.Res. 83, which passed last week, S.J.Res. 68 is a binding resolution. Assuming it passes both chambers, the joint resolution would be sent to President Trump’s desk for his signature or veto. H.Con.Res. 83 is a concurrent resolution, would not be sent to the President for approval or veto, and, therefore, does not carry the force of law.

Business in the Senate will come to a sudden stop when the impeachment managers arrive and present the articles of impeachment. Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) comes to an agreement with his counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), or has 51 votes to set a date and time, the trial will begin at 1:00 pm the following day. McConnell has said that he does have 51 votes to pass the supplemental rules for the first phase of the trial, which, he says, is similar to the supplemental rules, S.Res. 16, passed during the impeachment trial of President Clinton. As noted in last week’s newsletter, witnesses and the parameters for how they would testify in the Clinton impeachment trial were established later, in S.Res. 30. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that she is working with unnamed Republican senators to allow impeachment witnesses.

The committee schedule for the week is here.