Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
Last week, the House passed a resolution blocking the president’s national security declaration by a vote of 245-182. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated that a vote on the resolution will take place in the Senate before March 18. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have publicly confirmed their votes in favor. Four Senate Republicans and all Senate Democrats would be required for the resolution to pass the Senate. President Donald Trump has stated previously that, given the opportunity, he will veto the measure, and it appears clear at this point that Congress doesn’t have the supermajority votes for an override. For more on the National Emergency Act and the procedures surrounding a presidential declaration, read NCSL’s Blog.
NCSL Contacts: Susan Parnas Frederick and Lucia Bragg
A year wasn’t always 12 months long. The earliest Roman calendar had only 10 months and began with Martius (March). The month of March was named after Mars, the Roman god of war.
The Pentagon will not cancel, but may defer, any approved military construction (MILCON) projects to provide additional funding for the administration’s emergency-declared border wall, according to testimony from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment Robert McMahon before the House Appropriations Military Construction Subcommittee last week. States are concerned about the $3.6 billion the president planned to take from the MILCON account, which would require the Department of Defense to identify projects that could be delayed.
The projects at risk are those using “unobligated funds,” or those that have already been approved and funded by Congress but are not yet underway. Approximately $21 billion in projects fall in this category. Full testimony from all service officials can be found here.
NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty
On Feb. 26, Congress passed the Natural Resources Management Act, 363-62 in the House and 92-8 in the Senate. The package is a combination of more than 100 individual lands bills, including legislation to improve public lands management, protect landscapes and increase access to recreation. A major component of the bill is also the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For more information, read NCSL’s Info Alert.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
While House and Senate committees of jurisdiction over Department of In 1982 the passage of Pub. L. 100-9 designated the month of March as American Women’s History Month. Each year, by presidential proclamation, March is set aside to honor and amplify women’s voices, and to deepen the understanding of women’s contributions to American history.
On Feb. 28, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) announced that the surface transportation bill his committee will develop during the 116th Congress will maintain the current process of distributing funds by formula. Formula funds are primarily directed to state departments of transportation, thus guaranteeing states a stable and certain level of federal investment, as compared to competitive grants where the U.S. Department of Transportation determines which state, locality or region is awarded a grant. Four major highway programs receive a majority share of total federal allocations that are then sub-allocated to states based on the program’s rules.
Additionally, Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced that he intends to bring back earmarks, rebranded as "Article I projects," to help build support for an increase in user fees, i.e. the federal gas tax, to pass a surface transportation bill during the 116th Congress. Congress previously banned earmarks in 2011. However, on Thursday House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to colleagues that Congress will not restore earmarks this year as part of spending bills, even though she is a strong proponent of "Congressionally-directed spending."
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
The original mission of the U.S. Secret Service, created by President Abraham Lincoln, was not to protect the president, but to prevent the illegal production or counterfeiting of money. States, through individual banks, issued their own bills and coins, and with many types of legal currency it was easy for people to counterfeit money. The Secret Service was created April 14, 1865; that evening Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
The House passed HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, on Feb. 27 and HR 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Bill of 2019, on Feb. 28. While both are bipartisan, the votes were largely along party lines. HR 8, will require a background check for every firearm sale, including private transactions. HR 1112 will extend the background check review period for the purchase of firearms from three to 10 business days before a federal firearms seller can transfer a firearm to a purchaser. It also seeks to close the “Charleston loophole,” which references the case of Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African-Americans during a bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 17, 2015.
Roof was able to purchase a firearm despite being ineligible due to a felony drug conviction because the firearms seller had not received information regarding Roof’s ineligibility within three business days due to a federal system failure. If the seller does not receive negative background check results within the three-day period, the gun purchaser is presumed eligible to purchase a firearm. HR 1112 would give the FBI more time to complete the required background check. Both bills represent the first high-profile gun control bills to move in decades; it is unclear whether the Senate will schedule a vote on either.
Last week, Democrats in both chambers introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act. The bill would make many changes to the Head Start Act and Child Care Development Block Grant, including offering a full day of Head Start, incentivizing states to offer high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and sharing costs between state and federal governments for child care from birth to age 13. Read the bill text here.
NCSL Contact: Joan Wodiska
On Feb. 26, the House Education and Labor Committee approved Rebuild America’s School Act of 2019 (HR 865), a bill to provide $100 billion ($70 billion direct aid and $30 billion tax credits) to improve school infrastructure.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, outlined her vision for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, including a federal-state partnership to promote state investment into higher education. View the full address here.
On Feb. 28, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, joined by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), released a proposal for Education Freedom Scholarships, a $5 billion federal tax credit for voluntary taxpayer contributions to state-identified Scholarship Granting Organizations. Congressional action will be needed.
Read the Feb. 25 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.