The House and Senate are in session this week.
The Senate returns today at 11:00 am and will be in session, presumably, through Thursday.
The bad news is that the Senate didn’t finish the impeachment trial last week. The speculation until Friday morning was that the votes on the articles of impeachment would take place sometime Saturday morning. Apparently, the impeachment managers and the President’s counsel wanted time to make closing arguments and senators wanted time to speak. The good news is that there are only a few more days of this. Just in case everyone hasn’t kept up with the drama. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) broke ranks and voted to make consideration of additional witnesses and documents in order. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) didn’t. After the drama around the motion on whether or not it was in order to consider witnesses and documents failed by a vote of 49 to 51, the Senate considered a resolution, S.Res. 488, which outlines the procedure for the rest of the impeachment trial. There were four proposed amendments to S.Res. 488, two of which involved subpoenas for John Bolton and another would have required Chief Justice John Roberts to rule on motions and subpoenas, but each of those amendments was tabled.
Per S.Res. 488, the Senate will return on Monday at 11:00 am to begin closing arguments on the articles of impeachment. Each side will have two hours to make their closing arguments. At the conclusion of the closing arguments, between Tuesday and Wednesday, each senator will have up to ten minutes to speak. Senators will speak during a period of morning business in legislative session, not as a court of impeachment. This means that Chief Justice Roberts won’t have to preside over the Senate during these speeches and senators don’t all have to be in the same room for hours. The court of impeachment will stand adjourned at 4:00 pm on Wednesday and vote on the articles of impeachment.
The committee schedule for the week can be found here.
The House returns tomorrow and will be in session through Friday. There are 19 bills coming to the floor under suspension of the rules, including six federal office building namings. (We’ve excluded all of those bills from the list below.) Some suspensions could be considered on Tuesday, although the State of the Union may prevent that. More likely than not, suspensions will be considered on Wednesday and may carry over to Thursday.
- H.R. 4305, PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act
- H.R. 4044, Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act
- H.R. 1132, San Francisco Bay Restoration Program
- H.R. 2247, PUGET SOS Act
- H.R. 1620, Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act
- H.R. 4031, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act
- H.R. 4275, To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program, and for other purposes
- H.R. 2382, USPS Fairness Act
- H.R. 3830, Taxpayer Right-to-Know Act
- H.R. 3941, FedRAMP Authorization Act
- H.R. 5214, Representative Payee Fraud Protection Act
- S. 375, Payment Information Integrity Act
- S. 394, Presidential Transition Act Enhancement Act
The House Rules Committee will meet at 5:00 pm on Wednesday to consider the amendments and rule for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, H.R. 5687, and the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 2474.
The additional appropriations in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act, H.R. 5687, would spend an additional $4.67 billion in FY 2020. While we understand that this is for emergency disaster relief, question both whether it is necessary to appropriate new funds whether they will even be put to good use. As of the end of December, there was $34.846 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund. It also recently came to light that unused resources provided after Hurricane Maria in September 2017 were discovered in a warehouse in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Apart from unnecessary spending, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act also includes provisions that have little to do with aid to Puerto Rico. Division B would encourage Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and other territories of the United States to expand their child tax credit (CTC) and earned income tax credit (EITC). The bill includes other provisions that have nothing to do with disaster relief.
The other rule bill, Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, H.R. 2474, is one that we’ve been warning about for some time. The PRO Act is one of the worst bills advanced by House Democrats since they took over the chamber in January 2019. The PRO Act is a big boost to labor unions, whose membership has fallen to a record low, more than anything else. The bill would expand unfair labor practices to include replacement of workers who participate in labor strikes and requirements of workers to attend meetings that would discourage unionization or union membership. It would also allow workers to participate in class-action lawsuits, allow injunctions against firing workers, and expand penalties for labor law violations. The 27 states with right-to-work laws would essentially be preempted by the PRO Act. The impact of the PRO Act would be the end of secret ballots in union elections in favor of ballots being cast publicly, also known as “card check.” Employers would be required to turn over employee information to labor unions, diminishing worker privacy. And, as FreedomWorks’ Sarah Anderson explained, “[T]he PRO Act would also codify California’s version of the ‘ABC’ test that determines whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.” This will severely impact the gig economy, discouraging more innovation.
The committee schedule for the week can be found here.