If you missed the fireworks on Independence Day, don't worry because they will continue for the entire month of July on Capitol Hill. The July calendar is full of legislative priorities and political debates pressuring congressional leaders to clear the plate as much as possible before the month long District Work Period in August.
The Democratic Majority in the House made significant progress on Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations in June, passing two minibus packages to fund all but two of the appropriations bills. The remaining two bills (Homeland Security and Legislative Branch) are not expected to be considered in the House until September. While appropriations progress in the House has been steady, the Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to begin markups due to the lack of agreement on the overall spending level for FY '20, which is currently set for a dramatic reduction thanks to the Budget Control Act of 2011. Budget cap negotiations are ongoing, but have largely remained at an impasse. With no sign of a deal on the horizon, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (RAL) announced that his committee would not begin markups until progress has been made which may help to jumpstart the talks. At some point this fall, the difference in funding levels will create a critical moment for congressional leaders and the White House to reach a consensus or find themselves defending large sequester cuts to federal programs prior to an election season that will entrench both parties even further. The budget caps deal is also likely to address the debt ceiling, which will need to be suspended again in the coming months, possibly as early as midSeptember according to new analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center.
On June 27, the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the Senate 868. The House Armed Services Committee completed its markup in June and will take the bill to the House floor this week. It is possible that NDAA will move to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills before this work period adjourns. Spending levels and limiting the President's authority to use military force against adversaries will be the drivers of the anticipated conference negotiations. In addition, House Democrats reluctantly approved a Senatepassed bill to provide $4.8 billion in border aid. Immigration reform remains mostly an untouched third rail among party officials, but the dire humanitarian crisis at the southern border forced Congress to act despite concerns from many House Democrats leading up to the vote.
Progress was also made in June on tax extenders, health extenders, drug pricing, and surprise medical billing legislation, all of which are expected to see further action in Committees and/or on the House or Senate floor in July.
The limited July calendar allows for a narrow window for Congress to move on a number of legislative items before the August recess. In addition to NDAA, the House is expected to consider the Intelligence Authorization Act and legislation to increase the minimum wage, as well as legislation to continue funding of the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, address arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and bolster election security. The House is also likely to act on a bill to repeal the Cadillac Tax after the bill crossed the 290 cosponsors threshold for consideration via the new House Consensus Calendar rules. In the Senate, we expect continued confirmation of nominees, possible consideration of several tax treaties approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in June, and, per a statement by Leader Mitch McConnell (RKY), a vote related to funding for the September 11 Fund.
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