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The House and Senate are in session this week. Although this was a scheduled week-long recess, time away from Washington, D.C. was a bad look during the continued impasse over funding for border security that has resulted in the longest government shutdown on record.
On Saturday, President Trump made an offer to reopen departments and agencies affected by the partial government shutdown. The offer includes a three-year extension of deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status. This would cover approximately 1 million people, including 700,000 undocumented immigrants. We don’t work on immigration, but we’re pretty sure that sounds like the BRIDGE Act. In exchange, the White House would get $5.7 billion in funding for physical barriers at the southern border, $800 million for humanitarian assistance, $782 million to hire more border agents and law enforcement, $675 million for drug detection, $563 million for the immigration court system, and $130 million for canine units.
Congressional Democrats have rejected the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to bring the deal to the floor, although Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who was a cosponsor of the BRIDGE Act in the 115th Congress, “do[es] not believe it can pass.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter.” The House version of the BRIDGE Act in the 115th Congress, which, like the Senate version, had bipartisan support, wasn’t considered on the floor.
With the resignation of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), which is effective on January 23, the party divisions in the House will be 235 Democrats and 198 Republicans. Rep. Marino represented Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) has ten days from the date of Rep. Marino’s resignation to call a special election. The election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District was contested, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to that sordid situation.
The House will return on Tuesday. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are expected at 6:30 pm. Legislative business on Wednesday and Thursday begins at 12:00 pm. There are 16 bills that will be considered under the suspension of the rules.
Although more bills could be added, there are currently two rule bills current on the calendar for the week, both of which are government funding bills. The first is Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, H.J.Res. 28. The bill is a continuing resolution (CR) for the Department of Homeland Security through February 28. This bill was actually passed by voice on Thursday. Republicans, however, insist that a roll call vote was requested and not recognized by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who was presiding over the chamber. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) asked unanimous consent to vacate the vote and scheduled a roll call vote for Wednesday, January 23. The rule for H.J.Res. 28 is closed. The other rule bill for the week is a 1,103-page omnibus appropriations bill, H.R. 648, to fund the six remaining appropriations bills through the end of FY 2019 on September 30. The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 5:00 pm to consider the rule governing the consideration of the bill.
The committee schedule for the week is here.
The Senate returns on Tuesday at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, S. 1. The bill has been subject to three separation cloture votes on motions to proceed, each of which was rejected. This will be the fourth motion to proceed on the bill, and a different result is not expected. Last week, the Senate considered the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, S. 109. Cloture on the motion to proceed was rejected by a vote of 48 to 47.
Some have voiced frustration about the lack of judicial nominees in the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). Well, the White House has to resubmit any nominee not confirmed during the previous Congress. This is required under Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate. The rule can be waived by unanimous consent, but we’re not aware of that happening for any nominee. As of January 16, there are 141 nominations pending in Senate committees. Only five were pending in SJC, including the nomination of William Barr to serve as attorney general.
The Institute for Free Speech calls H.R. 1 the “For the Politicians Act.” The Wall Street Journal has dubbed it the “Majority Protection Act.” We’ve called it the “Incumbent Protection Act.” In his Washington Post op-ed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled H.R. 1 the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.” Needless to say, he doesn't hide his feelings about the bill. “[House Democrats are] trying to clothe this power grab with cliches about “restoring democracy” and doing it ‘For the People,’ but their proposal is simply a naked attempt to change the rules of American politics to benefit one party,” wrote Leader McConnell. He noted that the bill would make the currently evenly-divided Federal Election Commission a partisan body, spend more taxpayer dollars through publicly-funded elections, and federalize elections.
“The whole package seems tailor-made by Washington Democrats to help their D.C. attorneys descend on local communities, exploit confusion and try to swing elections. The antics we saw in Florida in November would be only the beginning,” Leader McConnell explained. “From the First Amendment to your ballot box, Democrats want to rewrite the rules to favor themselves and their friends. Upending the FEC, squeezing taxpayers, attacking privacy and jeopardizing our elections are a price they’ll happily pay for this partisan power grab.”
The committee schedule for the week is here.