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12.02.2020 Washinton Update

House and Senate Legislative Update – The Senate returns this week to continue negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a potential end-of-year spending package, and to confirm nominees. Senator-elect Mark Kelly (D-AZ) will also be sworn into the Senate this week, giving Republicans a 52-48 majority. As we saw when the Senate was last in session, Covid-19-related attendance issues could impact some Senate Republican priorities, such as the consideration of nominations.

On Monday, members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees worked through their differences on a final NDAA. They plan on producing legislative text soon. The debate over military bases named after Confederate military figures continues to be a prominent stumbling block. President Trump has maintained his opposition to any language that would require, over time, changing the names of those bases, and could veto NDAA over this issue.

Leaders of both parties, on both sides of the Capitol, have given appropriators plenty of negotiating room to reach a spending deal. But fracturing is already occurring, as House Minority leadership announced its opposition to the top-line spending agreement hatched by leaders of the House and Senate spending panels. As is the case with the NDAA, it is unknown what President Trump’s position will be on a final negotiated funding package.

Moreover, discussions on additional COVID-19 provisions, namely extending unemployment insurance, small business relief, and potentially other measures, will also influence spending talks. As of now, it’s hard to see a massive spending deal, replete with COVID-19 relief, coming together. A straight continuing resolution (CR), a “cromnibus,” or a CR (with some riders) is certainly possible. With the Georgia runoffs looming over negotiations, anything at this point seems possible, and the political stakes couldn’t be any higher.

It’s also worth noting that some Democratic House members are considering eliminating the motion to recommit, for obvious reasons. With such a slim majority (the latest count by the Associated Press has Republicans at 206, with the likelihood of gaining three additional seats and the possibility of 213, in the next Congress), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has very little margin for error. This is likely to make “calling the previous question” – generally used as a motion to end debate on a pending proposal and bring it to an immediate vote – and discharge petitions more common in the next Congress. House GOP and Democratic Steering Committees are meeting this week. There will be presentations and votes on chairmen, ranking members, as well as discussion around new members of every committee. The process will begin with uncontested votes and then move to contested. Notably, votes on the House Committee on Armed Services took place yesterday, and votes on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will take place today.

Additionally, we have compiled a list of expiring tax and legislative provisions and programs through 2021.

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