Capitol Hill Update: December 17, 2018


The House and Senate are in session this week.


The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on Friday at midnight. Congress must pass another stop-gap measure, an omnibus spending bill, or hybrid to avoid a partial government shutdown. Again, we’ll note that five of the 12 appropriations bills are already law. These are generally the bigger discretionary appropriations bills like Defense and Labor-HHS-Education. Basically, almost 75 percent of discretionary spending is already appropriated for FY 2019. Although seven appropriations bills haven’t been passed, these bills together would fund about 25 percent of remaining discretionary spending. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) pointed out that only 8 percent of all federal spending, including mandatory spending and net interest, isn’t funded. Mandatory spending and net interest aren’t subject to the appropriations process.

The House will be back in session on Wednesday. Legislative business will begin at 2:00 pm, with first votes happening at 6:30 pm. There are eight bills on the suspension calendar, but more could be added during the week.

  • S. 1333, Tribal HUD-VASH Act
  • S. 2765, RBIC Advisers Relief Act
  • Concurring in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6227, National Quantum Initiative Act
  • H.R. ____, SECURE Technology Act
  • H.R. 6602, To reauthorize the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route, and for other purposes
  • Concurring in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2606, Stigler Act Amendments
  • H.R. 6652, To direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey certain facilities, easements, and rights-of-way to the Kennewick Irrigation District, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 7279, Water Infrastructure Improvement Act

The rule bills for the week are the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 88. The amendment is the text of the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018 and the Taxpayer First Act, which is the tax extenders bill. Consideration of the First Step Act, S. 756, is a possibility if the Senate passes the bill. Obviously, a government funding bill is a possibility.

The committee schedule for the week is available here.

This section was updated on Tuesday, December 18.


The Senate will return on Monday at 3:00 pm to resume consideration of the House message to S. 756, which is the vehicle for the First Step Act. Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on S. 756 on Thursday. The vote on the cloture motion is expected around 5:30 pm. Obviously, this is a critical test vote to limit debate to up to 30 hours. If all goes according to plan, the Senate is expected to concur with the House amendment to S. 756 and further amend the bill with the text of the First Step Act. But there will be amendments. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Some are probably wondering why this path was chosen to bring the First Step Act to the floor. Well, it’s because Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) or John Kennedy (R-La.) would have blocked unanimous consent on the motion to proceed, delaying action by more than a day. Using a bill with a message from the House saves critical time, as CPI’s Rachel Bovard explains. After cloture is invoked and all amendments are dispensed with, the Senate will vote on final passage, probably Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Consideration in the House will follow, most likely on Thursday, but that’s up in the air.

As expected Sens. Cotton and Kennedy have offered a trio of amendments to the First Step Act that are designed to kill the bill. These amendments may seem innocuous, but they are parts of them that will shatter the bipartisan coalition in the Senate. It’s more likely than not that the amendments will be defeated on the floor, but no one should take that to the bank just yet.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will resign from the Senate on December 31. It was generally known that Sen. Kyl, who was appointed in August to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would serve only temporarily. Gov. Doug Ducey will appoint Sen. Kyl’s replacement soon after the resignation is official.

The committee schedule for the week is available here.