Capitol to Capitol | March 18, 2019

Congress in Recess

This week, Congress is in recess and the second portion of President Donald Trump’s budget, which will include detailed supplemental tables, is scheduled to be released. Access NCSL’s current summary of the president’s budget proposal here. Stay tuned for updates.

President’s Budget Marks First Step in FY 2020 Appropriations Battle

Trump’s $4.7 trillion budget proposal officially begins the fiscal year 2020 appropriations process—one that will be fraught with battles along the way. The blueprint, which aims to cut non-defense discretionary spending by 9 percent while increasing defense spending by 5 percent, or $33.4 billion from fiscal year 2019 levels, has already been met with criticism by both the Senate and House.

Both chambers have stated that spending reductions to domestic programs are too drastic and that the president’s strategy for characterizing the defense increases as cap-exempt contingency funds will balloon the deficit. Experts have also disputed the president’s assumptions about the strength of the economy, a forecast more optimistic than what has been proposed by the Congressional Budget Office report

Formulation of a strategic—and unified—response by appropriators in both houses during the next month will be critical to avoid another government shutdown. While both the House and Senate are required to agree to a non-binding resolution that sets top-line spending figures by April 15 (a deadline often missed), lawmakers may be more focused on an agreement to raise the austere limits of the Budget Control Act. The latter strategy may be more useful as it would serve the dual purpose of setting fiscal year 2020 spending limits while concurrently addressing the looming issue of the restrictions that are set to expire in fiscal year 2021. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Senate Passes National Emergency Resolution of Disapproval, President Vetoes the Measure

Last Thursday, 12 Senate Republicans joined all Senate Democrats on a vote to pass (59 to 41) a resolution (HJ Res. 46) blocking the president's national security declaration. This follows the measure’s earlier passage (245 to 182) in the House, sending the measure to the president. Trump vetoed the measure on Friday, the first time he has used the veto power during his presidency. It appears clear at this point that Congress doesn't have the supermajority votes for an override. Although the emergency declaration is therefore likely to stay in place, it faces months or years of court proceedings in the face of numerous legal challenges. For more on the National Emergency Act and the procedures surrounding a presidential declaration, read NCSL's Blog. Learn more about the presidential veto process here.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick and Lucia Bragg

EPA Will Revoke California’s Motor Vehicle Emissions Waiver

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler noted in an interview with the Washington Examiner that the agency plans to revoke California’s waiver to issue motor vehicle greenhouse house gas emissions standards that are stricter than federal standards as part of the administration’s push to undo the current standards. In 2012, the federal government issued new emission standards, matching California’s, to bring about one national standard. Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., currently have specifically adopted California’s motor vehicle emission standards.   

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Visits Capitol Hill

On March 13, following an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer visited with the House Democratic Caucus to discuss the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Lighthizer previously met with the New Democrat Coalition and mentioned that while the Trump administration would like to submit USMCA legislation as soon as possible, its timing would depend on Pelosi. He also emphasized that the U.S. would not reopen negotiations with Mexico and Canada. In addition to USMCA, Lighthizer gave an update on U.S.-China trade negotiations, noting that both sides are “either going to have a good result or…a bad result before too long.” When asked whether the U.S. would remove its Section 301 tariffs valued at $250 billion against China, Lighthizer said, “that’s the subject of the negotiation, so I’m not going to get into it here in public.” Find more on Section 301 in the Reading Room.

NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald

FCC Updates

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Friday to open up previously unregulated wave spectrum above 95 GHz that could be used in new and experimental communications technology. The FCC also moved forward with its second 5G wireless auction despite criticism from some members of Congress and federal agencies concerned about the impact on weather data gathering. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee had requested a delay in the auction.

NCSL Contact: Abbie Gruwell

House Holds Hearing on Cost of College

On March 13, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the cost of college. Watch the full hearing here. Read opening remarks from Chairman Robert C. Scott (D-Va.) and Ranking Member Virginia Fox (R-N.C.).

NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska

FDA Approves Sale of Genetically Engineered Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. for the first time since it had previously approved it for human consumption in 2015.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

SLLC Supreme Court Midterm Webinar

This term’s docket is now set. Don’t miss the State and Local Legal Center’s Supreme Court Midterm Webinar to learn more.

Date: March 20, 2019

Time: 1–2 p.m. EDT

Register here.

The Reading Room 

Read the March 11 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
  • Erlinda Doherty | 202-624-8698 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Commerce and Financial 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 and Human Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education