Capitol to Capitol | May 14, 2019








Congress continues to try to find agreement on a disaster aid package. Last week the House passed a revamped disaster aid package, which is still not the solution. The Senate continues to move the backlog of nominations. News on House discretionary spending levels were leaked (more below).

FY 2020 Discretionary Spending Levels

The House discretionary spending levels were leaked last week. The NCSL Agriculture, Transportation and Energy staff are tracking the bills affecting NRI: Energy-Water: $46.4 billion, a $1.8 billion or a 4% increase over current levels. Interior-Environment: $37.3 billion, a $1.7 billion or a 5% increase over current levels. Transportation-HUD: $75.8 billion, a $4.7 billion or 7% increase over current levels.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Maternal Mortality Legislation Introduced

Last week Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Ayana Pressley (D-Maine) introduced (S 1343/HR 2602) or the MOMMIES Act. This legislation is the latest bill introduced to address high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. Earlier this session Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) introduced similar legislation (S 916/ HR 1897) or the MOMMA’s Act.

Also last week, the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education released its proposed fiscal bill for 2020, HR 116, with level funding for programs that continue to address this issue, including $58 million for a Safe Motherhood Initiative with $12 million for maternal mortality review committees, and $10 million for the Emerging Threats to Mothers and Babies.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile


U.S. presidents’ claims of executive privilege are more common than most may think. Every president has invoked executive privilege in one form or another, from George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower (the first president to coin the phrase executive privilege) to Richard Nixon, and, more recently, Donald Trump. Although not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, it’s an implied principle that a president can receive candid advice from advisors and experts in governing with the right to preserve the confidentiality of that information. More on presidential claims of executive privilege can be found here.

DOJ Files Full ACA Repeal Argument

Earlier this month the administrationsubmitted a full argument to a federal appeals court on invalidating the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The argument looks at congressional intent of the law and argues if the ACA individual mandate is unconstitutional, how can other aspects of the law work as Congress intended when it was passed? Parts of the law have been repealed, including the individual tax penalty for being uninsured, but that did not strike down the overall law. The brief also recognizes some provisions could still function as Congress intended despite other reforms within the law being struck down.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile

Bipartisan Movement on Prescription Drug Patents

Last week the House passed two bills, HR 1503 and HR 1520, on bipartisan lines requiring the FDA to move to increase accuracy on documents listing prescription drugs and biologics patents, known as the Orange Book and the Purple Book. The legislation was included in a marked-up prescription drug legislative package passed in the House, and after a Senate Judiciary Committee on patent protections for prescription drugs. The regulations and protections for prescription drugs and biologics has continued to come up as way to address affordability and transparency in the larger prescription drug reform conversation in Congress.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margret Wile

Administration Implements Tariffs on Mexican Tomatoes

Mexico and the United States were unable to reach a new tomato trade agreement, which will result in the re-imposition of a 17.5% tariff.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

NCSL Policy Deadline for Legislative Summit Is July 9

All new policy directives and resolutions, as well as amendments to existing directives, must be submitted to the attention of the NCSL Washington Office Director Molly Ramsdell ( by the close of business on July 9, 2019—30 days before the NCSL Annual Business Meeting.

Upcoming Legislative Summit Dates:

  • July 9, 2019: Deadline for legislators to submit new policies or amendments to existing policies for consideration at the 2019 Summit. NCSL Policy Directives and Resolutions
  • May 29: Early bird registration rate ends.
  • July 15: Hotel reservations must be completed to take advantage of NCSL’s discount room rates.

NCSL’s 2019 Legislative Summit will take place Aug. 5-8 in Nashville, Tenn.

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell


The commanding rap of a gavel plays an important role in congressional and state meetings, such as bringing order and attention, beginning and ending sessions and putting decisions into effect. Gavels are also collected as souvenirs. Gavel wielders have been known to bang gavels hard enough for them to break, such is the case of Speaker of the House John Nance Garner (D-Texas) whose total breakage was three gavels early in his speakership. He reportedly ordered an unbreakable gavel to be made of special hard wood. He also received a 400-pound gavel from his constituents as a souvenir.

The Reading Room 

Read the May 6, 2019, 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