“July 24, 2020 Washington Update: Key Dates and Deadlines, COVID Package, and Appropriations”
Senate – The Senate will wrap up business this week before the Thanksgiving break. On the list are confirmation votes for judicial nominees and potentially Judy Shelton, an informal economic advisor to President Trump, to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Government funding talks between Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and House Democrats will also continue throughout the week. The current goal is an agreement on an omnibus spending bill. One major hurdle is reaching consensus on what constitutes “emergency” and “non-emergency” spending. But with the December 11 funding deadline approaching, a short-term continuing resolution appears more likely.
Negotiations on another COVID-19 relief package are deadlocked, as House Democrats and Senate Republicans are steadfast in their opposing positions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has replaced top Trump Administration officials as the primary negotiator for Republicans. It is still unknown if President Trump would support signing into law any potential agreement made between Congressional leaders.
House – Republican leaders, in addition to beginning discussions around some end-of-year policy, are largely focused on organizational meetings, most notably on leadership elections. Republicans are also beginning the Steering Committee process for current members, which now includes a very large freshman class. They will then focus on committee ranking members during the first week of December.
NDAA, etc. – Meanwhile, negotiations between the House and Senate continue on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). A motion to commence the formal conference committee is possible as soon as this week. Committee leaders are hoping to finish remaining work on NDAA before Thanksgiving, with a desire to put it on the House and Senate floors in early December. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) strongly favors keeping extraneous items out the bill, focusing on troops and fundamental defense needs. President Trump’s expected announcement to reduce troops from Afghanistan and Iraq could complicate final negotiations.
We are also watching discussions around the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and an energy bill, though we think the former is far more likely to pass in the lame-duck than the latter. WRDA enjoys broad bipartisan support and appears ready for prime time. The energy bill is more complicated: even though discussions are occurring, especially around a series of bipartisan bills that have already cleared House committees, supporters would likely need unanimous consent to pass a final package in the Senate, which could be difficult to obtain.
White House – The Trump administration is racing to finalize regulations prior to January 20, 2021. Trade, immigration, environment, health care, and other economic policies are a major focus. There will be enormous pressure on the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to complete reviews in time for agencies to issue rules in the Federal Register. Also, expect more executive orders on a range of issues, including most prominently on China. The administration has already issued an executive order prohibiting U.S. investment in certain companies with ties to the Chinese military. Expect more along these lines in the coming days.