Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
In 1789, President George Washington proclaimed that Nov. 26 be observed as a national holiday of “sincere and humble thanks” at the request of Congress. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation for the Thanksgiving celebration to extend nationwide, commemorated each year on the last Thursday in November. However, in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the second to the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Members return to the Senate today, and to the House on Tuesday, with House Democrats set to begin leadership elections on Wednesday. Although current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appears to have the votes in caucus to become the Democratic speaker nominee, uncertainty surrounds her ability to secure the necessary floor votes on Jan. 3, 2019.
Some House Democrats, newly elected and continuing, are calling for new leadership, while others are demanding her commitment to the “Break the Gridlock” rules change. Introduced by the House Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), the proposed rule changes include encouraging and rewarding consensus-driven governing, establishing a fast-track process for bipartisan legislation and modifications to the speaker election process. Pelosi and the Problem Solvers Caucus are in negotiations and, according to some sources, there is plenty of time to reach an agreement.
At the same time, the laundry list of “to do’s” we reported on Nov. 14 remains unchanged (click here for a reminder) except for the fact that there are two fewer weeks to get things done. Funding for several federal agencies expires in less than two weeks, the National Flood Insurance Program ends at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, and the future of the Farm Bill and criminal justice reform remain uncertain.
On the latter, last week President Donald Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to move legislation which packages together several House bills that address prison reform and makes changes to sentencing laws. McConnell has concerns there isn’t enough time to consider the legislation, since the bill is unlikely to move on consent, and, as a result, could take more than a week of floor time. Some Senate Republicans oppose the bill, saying it makes the GOP look soft on crime.
NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell
The EPA released a draft toxicity assessment for two nonstick chemicals, GenX and PFBS, that recently have been found in drinking water supplies across the country, concluding they both pose threats to human health. Both are part of a larger class of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The assessments identify the exposure levels at which a chemical can cause health problems, but do not set suggested limits for their presence in drinking water or other avenues of exposure, as the agency has done for PFOA and PFOS, two better-known PFAS. In a fact sheet released Nov. 19, the EPA agreed the two chemicals are less toxic than PFOA and PFOS, but found that GenX has been linked with kidney, blood, immune system and liver problems, as well as harm to developing fetuses. The toxicity assessments for GenX and PFBS will be open for public comment for 60 days.
Additional resource: PFAS: What You Need to Know infographic
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
President Donald Trump announced that he will nominate Neomi Rao, head of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals seat vacated by Brett Kavanaugh's ascension to the Supreme Court. Rao has lead OIRA since July 2017, during which time the office within the larger Office of Management and Budget has led the president’s deregulatory effort.
OIRA is the White House office responsible for final review of all rules and regulations by federal agencies. Due to its purview, it is possible that Rao may have to recuse herself from cases that cover issues OIRA dealt with while she led the office. Rao formerly was a constitutional and administrative law professor at George Mason University. She was an associate White House counsel under George W. Bush and clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth
This is why the president pardons a turkey every Thanksgiving.
With Congress back, health policy experts are discussing which issues could be taken up during the lame duck session. One potential area which has generally received bipartisan support is a further delay of the effective date of the Affordable Care Act’s medical device tax, currently set to take effect in 2019. While the House has passed legislation to delay the tax to 2021, the Senate has yet to act. The cost to further delay the tax and limited Senate floor time are potential road blocks to the delay.
There has also been pressure from pharmaceutical companies trying to undo a Medicare Part D program change made in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA). The BBA included an increase in prescription drug company and insurance company payments for beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap. There was an effort to include a repeal of the increased payments in the recently passed opioids legislative package, but it did not gain enough support for inclusion in the final bill.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Abbie Gruwell
On Nov. 15, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) delivered remarks on the House floor celebrating National Apprenticeship Week. Observed Nov. 12-18, the week is a national event in which business leaders and labor and education stakeholders may show support for apprenticeship programs by hosting events such as career fairs, skills competitions, business open houses and apprentice graduations. In her remarks, Foxx applauded the bipartisan efforts to improve apprenticeships, including the recent reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, signed into law on July 31. Foxx said: "The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act was the first legislation in more than a decade to modernize our nation’s CTE programs. The law will create innovative community partnerships while connecting Americans with programs to grow their skills and land in-demand industry jobs.”
Foxx’s full remarks may be found here. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s official apprenticeship webpage for more information on National Apprenticeship Week.
NCSL Contacts: Jon Jukuri and Miranda McDonald
On Nov. 13, the U.S. Department of Education released information detailing its process for states to submit amendments to the consolidated state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans. To be considered for approval, states must submit a redlined version of the approved consolidated state plan that reflects all proposed changes; a cover letter describing the proposed changes; the signature of the chief state school officer or authorized representative; and a description of how the state provided the public a reasonable opportunity to comment on the plan.
The full letter is available. The deadline for proposed amendment submissions is March 1, 2019. Visit the official ESSA webpage for more information.
NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska and Miranda McDonald
On Nov. 16, the Federal Register issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from the U.S. Department of Education, which would replace Obama-era guidelines pertaining to Title IX and college campus sexual misconduct. Read the full NPRM.
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NCSL’s 2018 Capitol Forum will take place Dec. 5- 7 in Washington, D.C., at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.
Looking for more detailed information about federal issues that could affect states? NCSL’s committee newsletters released every month give you up-to-date insight on:
****Correction for the Nov. 14 Capitol to Capitol: On this Day, Nov. 14, in 1965: The U.S. government sends 90,000 soldiers to Vietnam.
Read the Nov. 14 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.