Capitol Hill Update: January 6, 2020


The Senate and House are in session this week.


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

  • H.R. 5078, Prison to Proprietorship Act
  • H.R. 5065, Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act
  • H.R. 5130, Capturing All Small Businesses Act
  • H.R. 5146, Unlocking Opportunities for Small Businesses Act
  • H.Res. 575, Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that all stakeholders in the deployment of 5G communications infrastructure should carefully consider and adhere to the recommendations of "The Prague Proposals”
  • H.R. 2881, Secure 5G and Beyond Act
  • H.R. 4500, Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act
  • H.R. 3763, Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act

As a reminder, bills that come to the floor under the suspension of the rules require two-thirds of members present and voting for passage. This the most common way that bills considered by the House come to the floor. Some of these bills may be passed by a voice vote, rather than a roll call vote. Most bills that come to the floor under suspension aren’t widely considered controversial, although leadership may occasionally test a bill under suspension to gauge opposition or sneak a bill through the chamber.

The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 5:00 pm to consider the rule and amendments to the PFAS Action Act, H.R. 535. It’s possible that more legislation could be added to the calendar.

H.R. 535 would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to place perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and its salts as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) within one year of enactment. These are known as “forever chemicals” that can pose health problems. The bill would also require the EPA to determine whether all perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances should be designated as hazardous substances. This determination is required to occur within five years of enactment. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee noted concerns about the bill, including CERCLA’s strict and retroactive liability provisions, the likelihood of the designation becoming a de facto ban, and the unlikelihood that the bill can become law. The House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2020, H.R. 2500, included three provisions — sections 330A, 330B, and 330C — that would have addressed PFAS even more directly. Those provisions weren’t included in the final version of NDAA.

Speaker Pelosi invited President Trump to give the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, February 4. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution states that the president “shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The House and Senate must still pass a concurrent resolution to formally authorize the address. For example, H.Con.Res. 9 authorized the 2019 State of the Union address.

The committee schedule for the week is here.


The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm. The Senate was briefly in session on Friday, January 3, as required by the Constitution. Majority Leader McConnell filed cloture on the nomination of Jovita Carranza to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Senate returns today at 3:00 pm and will resume consideration of Carranza’s nomination a vote on cloture is expected around 5:30 pm. A vote on confirmation hasn’t been set yet, but it could happen tomorrow. With an impeachment trial looming, the Senate’s business is a little unpredictable. Nominations will be a priority. Legislation may be considered. “[F]or now,” McConnell said on Friday, “we are content to continue the ordinary business of the Senate while House Democrats continue to flounder.”

Rule XXXI, Clause 6 of the Rules of the Senate requires that nominations not considered during the session in which they were submitted to the Senate must be returned to the White House. President Trump may renominate such individuals if he chooses. Before adjourning on December 19, the Senate agreed to preserve the status of dozens of nominations, keeping them for consideration in the next session, which officially began on Friday. The list of those nominees is available here.

The only real committee activity of note in this week is the markup of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Implementation Act, H.R. 5430, in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday at 9:30 am. H.R. 5430 passed the House before the Christmas recess by a vote of 385 to 41. One member to watch on the committee is Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who has been very outspoken in his opposition to USMCA, which he calls “the only trade pact ever meant to diminish trade.” It’s worth noting that USMCA amounts to a $3 billion tax increase, according to the CBO.

The committee schedule for the week is here.