Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 13, 2018

Is It Almost Mueller Time?

DYK?

Roughly two-thirds of all U.S. $100 bills are held outside the U.S.?

This week in Washington will likely be uneventful. The House is in the middle of its summer recess and the Senate reconvenes Wednesday to continue the task of confirming judges. However, members of Congress know their time of respite is about to come to an end.

This is an election year, which usually means that September and October will be focused more on the campaign trail than on the happenings in the nation’s capital. However, when the full Congress reconvenes in September, lawmakers will have to grapple with passing a funding bill to keep the government open past Sept. 30, which could be a contentious fight. Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Sept. 4. While those events are quite newsworthy, a report from Robert Mueller could turn Washington and campaign season on its head.

Yesterday, the head of Trump’s personal legal team, Rudy Giuliani, said on CNN’s State of the Union that the probe may soon be nearing its conclusion, saying that "Sept. 1 was the date that Bob Mueller gave me back two months ago … When we were talking about getting his report done, he threw out the date Sept. 1 as a reasonable date to get it done." So, should we expect the end of the investigation soon? That may depend on the president and whether he decides to testify before Mueller’s team and/or if he is subpoenaed to do so. However, at some point soon, the president will have to say yes or no to an interview with Mueller.

How Will the Mueller Investigation End?

If Trump agrees to the in-person interview as well as the questions he would be asked (full list of proposed questions from earlier this year), the investigation would likely conclude soon thereafter.

If the president declines to testify, what happens afterward is anyone’s guess. One scenario is that Mueller moves forward with his report without the president’s testimony. The converse is that the special counsel issues an unprecedented subpoena of a sitting president to compel testimony. Should that occur, Trump’s legal team would likely challenge the subpoena’s legality. However, Mueller has Supreme Court precedent on his side. In United States v. Nixon, the Supreme Court held that the president is not a king and that he, like any other citizen, is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts. Needless to say, either scenario would dominate not only congressional attention but also the news cycle for some time.

When Will It End?

If Mueller does not issue his report by Labor Day, he may wait until after the Nov. 6 vote as prosecutors prefer to avoid taking actions that could be seen as affecting an election. That said, whenever the investigation concludes, Mueller will first issue a confidential report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that explains his decisions to prosecute or not to prosecute. Rosenstein would then have to report to Congress on whether the Justice Department plans to pursue a case on Mueller’s recommendations.

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State’s Agenda Adopted at NCSL Legislative Summit

On Aug. 1, legislators from across the country met during NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Los Angeles to consider almost 50 policy directives and resolutions. To be included in NCSL’s States’ Agenda, policy directives and resolutions needed to be adopted by at least three-fourths of the states during the business meeting. The adopted policy directives and resolutions guide NCSL’s advocacy efforts before Congress and the administration. Read the full list of policy directives and resolutions adopted in Los Angeles.

Read more on the NCSL Policy Process.

NCSL leadership also changed at the Legislative Summit. Senator Toi Hutchinson of Illinois became the 46th president of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hutchinson, a Democrat, succeeds Republican Senator Deb Peters of South Dakota, who became NCSL’s immediate past president.

Jon Heining, general counsel of the Texas Legislative Council, was elected to the position of NCSL staff chair. Heining succeeds Chuck Truesdell, a fiscal analyst for the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, transitioned to the position of immediate past staff chair.

Additionally, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Wis.) was elected as NCSL’s president-elect, Speaker Scott Saiki (D-Hawaii) was elected as vice-president, and Martha Wigton, director of the Georgia House Budget and Research Office, was elected as staff vice chair.

Read the full list of NCSL’s officers.

Legislator and legislative staff were also elected to NSCL’s Executive Committee. Read the full list of Executive Committee members.

NCSL ContactsNeal OstenMolly Ramsdell

EPA Proposes New Rule to Change Vehicle Fuel Economy Standards

DYK?

That no U.S. president has been an only child? Every single U.S. president has had, at the very least, a half-sibling. The four U.S. presidents who had half-siblings, not full siblings, were Franklin Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. The president with the most siblings was James Buchanan, the 15th president, who had six sisters and four brothers. 

On Aug. 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rulemaking, the “Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years (MY) 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” to amend existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and motor vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emission requirements.

Specifically, NHTSA is tasked with promulgating CAFE standards, while EPA is tasked with regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. The proposal requests comments on various options to amend the existing standards, including a “preferred scenario” that would freeze fuel economy standards at 2020 levels for vehicle model years 2021-2027 at an average of 37 mpg, as well as a revocation of California’s Clean Air Act Section 209 waiver.

California’s waiver allows the state to set more stringent GHG emission standards than the federal government for light-duty vehicles. If such a revocation were finalized, it would likely lead to a lengthy legal dispute and would also directly impact the 12 states and the District of Columbia, which have also adopted California’s GHG emission standards per CAA Section 17. In response, California’s Air Resources Board proposed requiring automakers to meet California’s existing standards on car and truck emission standards, even if weaker ones are adopted by the Trump administration.

Once EPA and NHTSA’s proposal is published in the Federal Register it will be open for comment for 60 days, public hearings will also be held in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Mich. and Los Angeles, Calif.

NCSL’s Information Alert on the proposed changes to CAFÉ Standards.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

Trump Signs CTE Reauthorization into Law

On July 31, Trump signed H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law, reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. The bill’s reauthorization includes $1 billion to support states’ efforts for secondary and post-secondary skill training. On the reauthorization, Trump said “we will continue to prepare students for today’s constantly shifting job market, and we will help employers find the workers they need to compete.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos applauded the reauthorization, as well: “This is an important day for America’s students, workers, and our economy. Congress came together to expand educational pathways and opportunities and give local communities greater flexibility in how best to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

NCSL Contacts: Neal Osten, Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) Convenes in Wisconsin, Arkansas and Hosts Third Listening Session

On July 24, DeVos, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and other Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) representatives visited Adams County, Wis., to observe the implementation of behavioral health frameworks. Following a tour of Adams-Friendship Middle School the Commission, the group held a roundtable discussion. The roundtable discussion livestream may be found here.

On Aug. 1, Attorney General Jeff Sessions led the Federal Commission on School Safety in hosting a meeting in Pearcy, Ark, on Proactively Protecting Our Schools. DeVos did not attend the meeting, but Deputy Secretary Mick Zais attended in her stead. The convening consisted of two roundtable discussions to address the coordination between the school district and local law enforcement, training and response protocols. Sessions was joined by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R), Representative Bruce Westerman (R) and representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security. A livestream of the meeting may be found here.

On Aug. 7, FCSS held its third listening session in Cheyenne, Wyo. Led by Zais, the listening session presented state and local officials with the opportunity to share views on how respective entities might be able to improve school safety. A livestream of the listening session may be found here.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

On This Day, Aug. 13, in …

DYK?

Can you name the nine capitals of the United States? Read how well you did here

  • 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts enjoy a ticker tape parade in New York City. That evening, at a state dinner in Los Angeles, they were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.
  • 1918, women enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for the first time. Opha May Johnson was the first woman to enlist.

Also of Note

  • The Rise and Fall of Paul Manafort: Greed, Deception and Ego (New York Times)

The arc of Paul Manafort’s life has taken him from the son of a small-town mayor to a jet-setting international political consultant to Trump campaign chairman, and now to prisoner in a Virginia jail awaiting a jury verdict.

  • CBO: Debt Will Rise to ‘Unsustainable’ Levels if Congress Extends Tax Cuts, Maintains Spending (Wall Street Journal)

Extending recently approved spending increases and tax cuts would create an “unsustainable” fiscal outlook, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report published Wednesday.

  • FBI fires Peter Strzok, months after anti-Trump texts revealed (Fox News)

FBI official Peter Strzok, who played a lead role in both the Russian meddling and Hillary Clinton email probes but became a political lightning rod after the revelation of anti-Trump text messages, has been fired.

  • The Women Candidate Tracker (POLITICO)

POLITICO is tracking how women’s political representation is changing—or isn’t changing—in the 2018 midterm elections. The Women Rule Candidate Tracker is a research collaboration with the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers-New Brunswick and the Women in Public Service Project at The Wilson Center.

Read the July 23 Capitol-to-Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Jake Lestock| 202-624-8171 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Human Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education