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Capitol Hill Update: November 12, 2018

11/12/2018

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session.

House:

There several special elections for vacant congressional seats during the midterm. We’ll provide an update on those next week. Obviously, these seats will slightly change the composition of the House during the lame-duck session. The House is back in session on Tuesday. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are 15 bills on the suspension calendar.

  • H.R. 2740, Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2017
  • H.R. 4033, National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization Act
  • H.R. 5787, Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6064, To rename the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge as the Congressman Lester Wolff National Wildlife Refuge
  • H.R. 5636, Flatside Wilderness Enhancement Act
  • S. 440, To establish a procedure for the conveyance of certain federal property around the Dickinson Reservoir in the State of North Dakota
  • S. 2074, To establish a procedure for the conveyance of certain Federal property around the Jamestown Reservoir in the State of North Dakota, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 6146, Cottonwood Land Exchange Act of 2018
  • Concurring in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2615, Gulf Islands National Seashore Land Exchange Act
  • H.R. 5706, World War II Pacific Sites Establishment Act
  • H.R. 6666, To authorize the Secretary of the Interior to grant to States and local governments easements and rights-of-way over Federal land within Gateway National Recreation Area for construction, operation, and maintenance of projects for control and prevention of flooding and shoreline erosion
  • H.R. 6651, PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018
  • H.Res. 1055, To affirm strong United States-Liberia ties and support for democratic principles, and call for full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including the establishment of an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia
  • H.Res. 1052, Affirming United States-Australia cooperation on space research, exploration, and utilization
  • H.R. 6018, Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2018

There’s only one this week, and it’s the Manage our Wolves Act, H.R. 6784. The bill would direct the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list and reinstate a 2011 rule that took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in the Western Great Lakes. The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 5:00 pm to consider the rule governing the Manage our Wolves Act.

House Republicans will hold leadership elections on Wednesday. Current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are running for minority leader. McCarthy says he has the votes. Rep. Jordan sent a “dear colleague” letter to House Republicans on Friday laying out his vision for the conference. FreedomWorks is obviously backing Rep. Jordan. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) is running for minority whip. It appears that he will not be challenged. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is running for Republican Conference chair. The current conference chair, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), is seeking a ranking member slot on an Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) is running for conference vice chair. We’re heard Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) may also run for that post. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ala.) and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) are seeking to become the next Republican Policy Committee chairman. We endorsed Rep. Schweikert on Friday.

In non-leadership races, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) are the only two candidates who have filed to run for chairman of the Republican Study Committee. FreedomWorks endorsed Rep. McClintock last week. Who will be the next House Freedom Caucus chairman is somewhat of a mystery at the moment. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) could continue as chairman for a second term.

Politico obtained the proposed House Republican Conference rules for the 116th Congress. We read them and noticed a few things. It’s probably more accurate to call this document a draft because of the references to “the 115th Congress” and at the beginning of the document and “the Speaker” in other parts. Still, we wanted to note some things about the document.

The new Rule 25 would require a member of the conference who has been indicted for a felony that comes with a prison term of at least two years to step down from all committee assignments. If the member is acquitted, he or she will be allowed to resume his or her previous committee assignments. The rule may be waived by a majority vote of the conference.

The earmark moratorium remains in the proposed rules, although there will likely be internal fighting over that when the conference debates the rules. An amendment to rules last Congress would have almost certainly passed had it been offered. With Democrats taking the chamber, earmarks are definitely coming back. Republican members will want to take advantage of that. We hope to be surprised and this not happen, but we do expect an amendment to strike or amend the language. It’ll most likely pass.

A controversial rule change proposed by Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) to punish members who voted against the conference position on rules and sign discharge petitions against the wishes of leadership didn’t make it in the rules. That’s probably because Republicans lost the majority, and it’s hard to imagine Republicans voting for rules on legislation pushed by a Democratic majority. For the uninitiated, rules governing legislation that comes to the floor are divided on party lines. There were some instances in this Congress in which a member or a group of members bucked the party and voted against the rules. Most notably, 25 House Freedom Caucus members and other House conservatives voted against the rule for the omnibus, H.R. 1625, on very reasonable process concerns. Republican leadership relied on Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to vote for the rule to advance to consideration of the omnibus. She was the only Democrat to vote for the rule. There was also the discharge petition on immigration legislation that was signed by several Republicans against leadership’s wishes. Although Rep. Scott’s proposal didn’t make it into rules, don’t be surprised if there are stories about some form of the proposal being pushed as an amendment. Leadership, though, realizes this is toxic and doesn’t need the headache that it would cause.

Congress has still yet to pass a new Farm Bill, despite the fact that the September 30 deadline has come and gone. Many in Washington speculated that a clean, one-year reauthorization might be passed to allow the new, divided Congress to come to a compromise. However, last week, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the man set to be the next chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he is confident a deal will be worked out before the 116th Congress is seated.

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

Senate:

The Senate will return on Tuesday at 3:00 pm and will begin consideration of S. 140, which will serve as the vehicle for reauthorization of the Coast Guard. The nomination of Michelle Bowman to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System will also be on the calendar. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on S. 140 and the Bowman nomination before the Senate adjourned for the recess.

On Friday, the National Fraternal Order of Police endorsed the FIRST STEP Act. Obviously, this is a big development that helps as the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee inch closers to publicly unveiling the text, which should happen this week.

President Trump recently dismissed his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. Rumored candidates for his replacement are Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Leader McConnell hasn’t said much on moving another nominee other than he believes that interim attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, “will be a very interim AG.”

The committee schedule for the week can be found here.

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