The New Congress Convenes

On January 3, the 116th Congress convened, with Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. The House elected Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker, returning her to the office she held from 2007 through 2011. The U.S. Senate also gaveled in the new session at noon last Thursday, with Republicans maintaining control of the body following last November’s elections.

The House last week began consideration of a rules package (H.Res. 6), which includes a range of procedural and organizational provisions that will govern that chamber for the next two years. A section-by-section summary describes the rule changes that include:

  • Establishing a new “Consensus Calendar” for expedited House floor consideration of bipartisan legislation with 290 or more cosponsors;
  • Eliminating a “requirement that the House agree by at least a 3/5 supermajority in order to raise revenue through additional Federal income taxes”;
  • Prohibiting any House Member or staff “from serving as an officer or director of any public company, effective January 1, 2020”;
  • Requiring “each standing committee…to hold a Member Day Hearing during the first session of the 116th Congress to hear testimony from Members…whether or not they are a member of the committee – on proposed legislation within its jurisdiction”;
  • Authorizing the Speaker of the House “to intervene, otherwise appear, or take any other steps in…any…case involving the constitutionality or legality of any provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”;
  • Modifying the requirements for Congressional Member Organizations, including caucuses;
  • Establishing a House Office of Diversity and Inclusion; and
  • Establishing a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

While the House has yet to set assignments for its committees, Senate Democrats announced their committee rosters on December 13. Republicans announced their assignments last week, which include:

Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee:

  • Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS);
  • John Thune (R-SD);
  • Roy Blunt (R-MO);
  • Ted Cruz (R-TX);
  • Deb Fischer (R-NE);
  • Jerry Moran (R-KS);
  • Dan Sullivan (R-AK);
  • Cory Gardner (R-CO);
  • Marsha Blackburn (R-TN);
  • Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV);
  • Mike Lee (R-UT);
  • Ron Johnson (R-WI);
  • Todd Young (R-IN); and
  • Rick Scott (R-FL).

Finance:

  • Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA);
  • Mike Crapo (R-ID);
  • Pat Roberts (R-KS);
  • Mike Enzi (R-WY);
  • John Cornyn (R-TX);
  • John Thune (R-SD);
  • Richard Burr (R-NC);
  • Johnny Isakson (R-GA);
  • Rob Portman (R-OH);
  • Pat Toomey (R-PA);
  • Tim Scott (R-SC);
  • Bill Cassidy (R-LA);
  • James Lankford (R-OK);
  • Steve Daines (R-MT); and
  • Todd Young (R-IN).

House Floor This Week

This week’s House floor schedule includes:

  • The “Medicaid Extenders Act” (H.R.__),  which would “extend the Medicaid Money Follows the Person Rebalancing demonstration…[and] protection for Medicaid recipients of home and community-based services against spousal impoverishment…”
  • The “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019’’ (H.R.__).

The House may also potentially consider Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations legislation.

Government Shutdown

The partial federal government shutdown has entered its third week as the Trump Administration and Democrats remain at odds over funding construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. The new Democratic majority in the House last week passed a bill to fund most remaining unfunded agencies (including the U.S. Department of Transportation) through September 30, 2019 (H.R. 21) and a temporary funding bill through February 8, (H.J.Res 1) for the Department of Homeland Security. House Democrats indicated that enacting a short-term Homeland Security appropriations bill would have provided time for further negotiations over border security issues. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that the Senate would not consider these House-passed measures, emphasizing in a floor speech that “any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the President before it receives a vote…” Congressional and Administration negotiators began meeting on Saturday, January 5, to try to resolve the impasse.