Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Daniel Webster, who ran for president and lost three times, declined the vice presidency twice, thinking it a worthless office. Both presidents who offered it later died in office, meaning that if he had accepted, he would’ve become president after all.
The 115th Congress has indeed been newsworthy. Highlights to date include a contentious debate on health care and the passage of the largest rewrite of the federal tax code in 30 years. In addition, President Donald Trump has kept his campaign promise of shaking up Washington. But, there is still a lot that Republican-controlled Washington wants to accomplish in 2018, especially as Democrats are expected to have the momentum when voters head to the polls in November. As Congress is on recess this week and Capitol-to-Capitol will not be publishing on May 7, we thought we would briefly summarize the major issues that it will look to address the remainder of this year.
At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Trump is supposed to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum to every country that received a temporary exemption in March, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico. Administration officials remain divided on whether to extend the temporary exemptions, or to enforce sanctions against allied countries, such as the entire European Union. South Korea is the only country that has earned a permanent exemption because it agreed to cap its exports of both materials. Canada and Mexico, the U.S.'s two partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have both made it clear that they expect a full exemption without having to agree to a quota or other restrictions. Regardless of the president’s decision, it will likely have an impact on global markets and could set the tone for trade negotiations going forward.
NAFTA: Top U.S., Canadian, and Mexican NAFTA negotiators will take a week break and return to the negotiating table May 7.
Both House and Senate appropriators are moving forward on spending bills to fund the government when the 2019 fiscal year begins Oct. 1. In March, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that keeps the government open through Sept. 30, and also sets the budgetary guidelines that the appropriators must follow for fiscal year 2019. However, passing each of the 12 appropriations bills through both chambers is no small task. In the House, noncontroversial fiscal 2019 appropriations bills, such as military construction-VA, energy-water and legislative branch, will move relatively easily, while more controversial bills that deal with education, health care, and transportation, will likely need support from Democrats to pass.
In the Senate, moving any of the individual spending bills will be much more difficult. While Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has said that he hopes the Senate will begin passing individual spending bills by June, he may be overly optimistic considering that the chamber has not passed an individual spending bill since 2016. And as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to reserve most of the floor time for judicial and executive confirmations, it remains a question if the Senate will have enough time.
In the end, if Congress cannot pass the appropriations bills through regular order, expect another funding battle to take place in September, just weeks before the 2018 midterms.
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle created by the Roman Catholic Church stating that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Catholic teachings argue that subsidiarity is an ethic to apply even to political governance. Essentially stating that political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. Subsidiarity is perhaps presently best known as a general principle of European Union law, stating “the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at a central level or at regional and local level.”
The farm bill is the primary legislation Congress usually passes every five years to address agriculture and nutrition programs at the federal level. The last farm bill passed in 2014 and is set to expire on Sept. 30. The agriculture committees on both sides of Capitol Hill are working to pass a final bill before October. Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill along party line votes, as every Democrat on the committee opposed the changes that added work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The committee’s farm bill, and the changes to the SNAP program, however, may not have the votes to pass the full House. Even so, the legislation is unlikely to be considered in the more closely divided Senate. The Senate appears to be moving forward in a more bipartisan fashion and a final bill, in all likelihood, will more closely resemble the Senate legislation. However, if a new farm bill isn’t enacted by the end of September, it is quite likely that the current legislation will be extended.
On April 27, the House of Representatives approved, 393-13, H.R. 4, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018. The bill would reauthorize FAA programs and the federal aviation taxes that fund FAA programs and operations for five years through Sept. 30, 2023. The prior reauthorization expired in September 2015, which has resulted in five short-term extensions, the latest of which extends through Sept. 30. Among other provisions, the legislation includes an NCSL-supported amendment that would codify a drone pilot program, recently announced by the Department of Transportation. The full legislation now moves to the Senate, which is likely to take up its own version later this spring.
NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure (NRI) Committee’s Information Alert
In May 2017, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel in the investigation to examine Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, including exploring any links or coordination between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government. Mueller investigation, which has been regularly attacked by the administration and its allies, could have a profound impact on the 2018 elections, depending on its findings and when it is released. Expect this storyline to continue to grow and intensify in the coming months.
On April 26, the Education Commission of the States gathered federal, state, and local entities to discuss prioritizing accessibility, affordability, and accountability as the Higher Education Act awaits reauthorization.
During a panel centered on affordability, NCSL Senior Federal Affairs Counsel for Education Joan Wodiska discussed the advancements made at the state level in support of college affordability. Tuition freezes, tuition guarantees and free community college were all noted as methods states have instituted. While more than 35 states now use performance-based funding, 16 states also offer performance-based scholarships. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia also use their respective tax codes to help families save for college; 25 percent more investment is made using this method compared to direct aid. Wodiska also noted the necessary independence of states and institutions to have “room to grow, learn and innovate.”
NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald
On April 26, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration joined to host a webinar on the opioid crisis and its impact on K-12 schools. ED Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Botel, recognized the “responsibility of states, districts and neighborhoods to resolve this issue by training staff to identify drug use while fostering safe learning environments for youth today and future generations.”
Read ED’s current guidance on tackling the opioid crisis in schools.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has produced an updated publication, “Growing Up Drug-Free: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention.”
NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald
On April 27, ED Secretary Betsy Devos hosted a conversation among financial representatives, elected and state education officials on the issue of financial literacy among students. DeVos and ED Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jason Botel opened with discussions on the states’ and localities’ role in ensuring students are financially trained to compete in the global economy. “Those closest to the problem are those best to solve the problem, but parents and families should be included,” Botel stated. To date, 17 states have passed financial literacy laws and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission has launched reform initiatives.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) representative, Meina Banh, offered financial advice on how students could be better prepared to participate in the global economy: “Leaders need evidence to prove why this should be a priority at home and building blocks of education are continuous.” Eight-nine percent of Americans believe financial education should be taught in schools. However, 63 percent of teachers feel unqualified to use their state’s financial literacy standards. Banh referenced a CFPB report, “Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability,” which includes the Building Blocks Measurement Guide and suggests opportunities to learn from other state and local initiatives.
On this day, April 30, in…
After hearings about the use of Facebook’s user information by third parties, legislation was introduced last week by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) that would provide users of social media sites more control over how their information is used. The Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act, S. 2728, would give users the right to opt out of having their data collected and require websites to inform users of privacy breaches within 72 hours of such a breach.
While NCSL asked Congress 12 years ago to enact a national framework for protecting the privacy of internet users, Congress has yet to get legislation cleared through both Houses. Prospects for this legislation are not high.
NCSL Contact: Danielle Dean
On Sunday, T-Mobile and Sprint announced they would merge to become the third largest wireless provider. The combined company, T-Mobile, will have more than 127 million customers and rival the industry leaders Verizon Communications and AT&T. All three are racing to offer 5G wireless technology.
The two companies tried to merge last November but talks fell through. In 2014 the first round of merger talks between T-Mobile and Sprint fell through after President Barack Obama’s administration expressed antitrust concerns about the merger.
Read the April 23, 2018, Capitol-to-Capitol.
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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.