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Capitol Hill Update: October 21, 2019

10/21/2019

Schedule:

The House and Senate are in session this week.

House:

The House returns today. Legislative business begins at 2:00 pm. Votes are postponed until 6:30 pm. There are 12 bills coming to the floor under suspension of the rules. The suspensions are listed below.

  • H.R. 4406, Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act
  • H.R. 4405, Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act
  • H.R. 4407, SCORE for Small Business Act
  • H.R. 4387, To establish Growth Accelerator Fund Competition within the Small Business Administration, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 835, Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act
  • H.R. 2426, CASE Act
  • S. 693, National POW/MIA Flag Act
  • H.R. 724, PACT Act
  • H.R. 1123, Divisional Realignment for the Eastern District of Arkansas Act
  • H.R. 598, Georgia Support Act
  • H.Res. 552, Calling on the Government of the Russian Federation to provide evidence of wrongdoing or to release United States citizen Paul Whelan
  • H.Con.Res. 32, Expressing the sense of Congress regarding the execution-style murders of United States citizens Ylli, Agron, and Mehmet Bytyqi in the Republic of Serbia in July 1999

Technically, there are three rule bills on the House floor this week. Those bills are the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, H.R. 4617; the Corporate Transparency Act, H.R. 2513; a yet-to-be numbered resolution opposing the selection of Trump National Doral to host the 2020 G7 Summit. The text of the latter also isn’t available. The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday at 5:00 pm to consider the rule and amendments for H.R. 2513. The committee will meet again on Tuesday at 3:00 pm for H.R. 4617 and the resolution opposing Trump National Doral as the location for the 2020 G7 Summit. H.Res. 630, the resolution censuring Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, will be considered on the House floor on Monday. We should note that there won’t be any votes in the House on Thursday and Friday.

The SHIELD Act is aimed at foreign influence in elections, but it has problematic provisions. The bill would require campaigns to report contacts, in detail, with a “covered foreign national,” who would be defined as an office of a foreign government or political party, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Election Commission. The bill establishes a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine if someone willfully fails to comply and up to five years and/or a $1 million fine if someone knowingly or willfully destroys of documents related to a foreign contact.

The SHIELD Act also includes a version of the Honest Ads Act, which was part of H.R. 1. The Honest Ads Act is framed as combating foreign influence, but it goes much further. The bill would expand the definition of a “qualified political advertisement” to include “a message relating to any political matter of national importance,” such as mentioning “a candidate” or “a national legislative issue of public importance.” It would require digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter to maintain, and make publicly available, a database of any request to purchase a “qualified political advertisement” that exceeds $500. This would include advertisements on legislative issues pending before Congress, which may not even mention a candidate. This public file would also include the contact information of the purchaser, which could have privacy implications. Finally, the SHIELD Act would require businesses to certify that contributions didn’t derive from a foreign source or have a foreign influence. Business-run PACs would also have to certify that foreign nationals had no influence in the decision-making process, that the individual who runs the PAC is an American citizen, and any board member who is a foreign national abstained from any decision-making on a contribution, independent expenditure, and so on. There’s more to the SHIELD Act. You can read the section-by-section here. The American Civil Liberties Union has come out in opposition to the bill.

We anticipated that the Corporate Transparency Act would come to the floor as a suspension, but House Democratic leadership decided to bring it out as a rule bill. The bill is framed as legislation that would crack down on fraudulent shell companies and money laundering, but the bill would actually do little to do this, instead simply creating five new federal crimes for paperwork violations for all companies in America, unduly burdening perfectly legitimate businesses. Additionally, the bill may have long-term privacy implications. In May, FreedomWorks put out a letter of opposition against the Corporate Transparency Act that highlighted our concerns about the bill.

The resolution opposing Trump National Doral as the location for the 2020 G7 Summit may no longer serve a purpose. On Saturday, President Trump tweeted, “[W]e will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately.” The selection of the site was immediately criticized by Democrats, who said that it was a violation of the Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

We thought that this would come up last week, but Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the sponsor of H.Res. 630, asked to delay a vote out of respect for Rep. Cummings. As we mentioned last week, the resolution, which was reintroduced last week, would censure Rep. Schiff for lying about the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A censure is a formal and severe reprimand in which the member subject to the censure standing in the well of the House while the Speaker or Speaker-designate reads the resolution.

On Tuesday at 9:30 am, the House Ways and Means Committee will markup five bills, including the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, H.R. 3. As we noted last week, H.R. 3 would import foreign price controls from nations with single-payer healthcare and, ultimately, will harm innovation and leadership in the United States on the development and manufacture of prescription drugs. The bill was marked up last week by the Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor committees. Ranking Members Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Greg Walden (R-Oregon), and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) recently wrote about their concerns with H.R. 3. During the business meeting at which H.R. 3 will be marked up, Ways and Means will also mark up three bills to expand Medicare benefits under Part B. The bills are the Medicare Dental Act, H.R. 4650; the Medicare Vision Act, H.R. 4665; and the Medicare Hearing Act, H.R. 4618. The bills were marked up last week by Energy and Commerce. Medicare faces unfunded liabilities of $42.3 trillion. Part B alone faces a $28.8 trillion shortfall.

The committee schedule for the week is here.

Senate:

The Senate will return at 3:00 pm today and will consider Treaty Document 116-1, Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 on the Accession of the Republic of North Macedonia. A vote on the cloture motion is expected around 5:30 pm. This week, the Senate will also consider the nomination of Andrew Bremberg to serve as the Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. Appropriations will consume time this week. Leader McConnell filed cloture on H.R. 3055 and H.R. 2740. These are essentially shells that will be used for the Senate substitutes. The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on ten of the regular appropriations bills for FY 2020. The bills that the committee hasn’t completed are Labor-Health and Human Services, and Education and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The current continuing resolution (CR) runs through November 21.

The committee schedule for the week is here.