Capitol to Capitol is NCSL's state-federal newsletter.
The Constitution spells out age, citizenship and residency requirements for becoming president of the United States or a member of Congress but contains no rules for joining the nation’s highest court. To date, six justices have been foreign born, the youngest justice appointed was Joseph Story at 32, and the oldest, Oliver Wendell Homes Jr., retired at 90. Although justices do not have to be lawyers or law school graduates, all serving justices were lawyers prior to joining the court.
A new round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods went into effect today. China responded by imposing taxes on more than 5,000 kinds of U.S. products. As trade negotiations continue with no end in sight, the U.S tariffs are set to rise to 25 percent in 2019, and President Donald Trump has even floated the idea of placing tariffs on an additional $500 billion in imports from China. Unlike the first $50 billion wave in tariffs on Chinese products, which fell mainly on industrial goods, this second round of tariffs could affect many consumer products. Giant retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target are warning of price increases for manufactured goods, and other small businesses are complaining about big hits to their exports.
With midterm elections just around the corner, this could prove to be a large obstacle for Republicans. Economists expect that these tariffs will translate into higher prices for consumers across the country, particularly for low- to middle-income voters who make up much of Trump’s base. Consumers and businesses are growing increasingly nervous about Trump’s trade policy. The White House has said it is sensitive to consumers seeing higher prices and has tried to fashion the tariffs to produce the least pain possible. But you can bet Democrats will be seizing on trade issues in tight races across the country, especially in states with a large amount of exports. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted that “nobody is going to actually notice [price increases] at the end of the day” because the hikes will be “spread over thousands and thousands of products.” While the new tariffs on Chinese imports begin taking effect today, time will tell if there will be consequences for consumers just as the midterms and holiday spending season approach.
NCSL Contact: Neal Osten
While controversy over the Supreme Court nomination continues to dominate the news on the Hill, House Republicans are quietly trying to finalize funding before the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. The Senate signed off last week on H.R. 6157, a colossal funding package that would lay out the updated spending levels for the departments of Defense, Education, Labor and Health and Human Services for FY 2019. The House is set to vote on the $855 billion measure this week and while several conservatives in the chamber have been urging Republican leaders to decouple the military spending bill from the nondefense spending measure, it is expected to pass and be sent to the president’s desk. To give incentive for the president to sign the funding compromise, congressional leaders added language that would extend funding at current levels until Dec. 7 for any appropriations bills that are not agreed upon by the Sept. 30 deadline.
Republican leaders grew concerned last week when Trump criticized the compromise bill for not including funding for a wall along the southern border in tweets stating, “I want to know, where is the money for Border Security and the WALL in this ridiculous Spending Bill, and where will it come from after the Midterms?” Although by Sept. 21, the president appeared to be reassured by GOP leaders that his wall funding would get approved after the midterm elections. The president will have until midnight on Sept. 30 to sign the package or risk a partial government shutdown. If the House is successful in passing H.R. 6157 and a presidential veto is avoided, the chamber is expected to adjourn until after midterm elections.
Other spending issues expected to be addressed this week include:
NCSL Contact: Jake Lestock
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that the United States has surpassed Russia to become the world's largest oil producer. The milestone comes more than a decade since the start of the shale boom, when companies combined hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology to tap into oil and gas from shale formations. The EIA estimates that U.S. oil output will likely lead the world in oil production through 2019.
After several weeks of debate, the Senate passed a sweeping opioids package, voting 99 to 1 in a rare show of bipartisanship. The bill was passed earlier this summer in the House. The Senate stalled on a vote until several pieces were agreed upon. The legislation is largely the same as the House version with a few notable exceptions including:
The bill now goes to a conference between the House and Senate, where additional programs and provisions are expected to be proposed.
NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson, Abbie Gruwell
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) renewed a five-year grant with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to continue to help states and tribal nations understand the policies, programs and activities undertaken by the agency. The project will keep legislators, legislative staff, executive branch officials and tribal members informed about:
It will also help the department understand the concerns of state, tribal, local communities, state elected officials and other related stakeholders.
NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth
The House is officially scheduled to vote this week on a package of bills that has been informally titled “Tax Cut 2.0.” The package would make permanent the individual tax cuts and pass-through business deductions that are set to expire in 2026 as part of the sweeping tax reform bill, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that passed last December. These tax cut extensions have been split into three separate bills:
There was doubt that the bills would make it to the floor following internal division between Republicans over the controversial state and local tax deduction cap and how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is polling with voters. Just last week, the Republican National Committee released its survey that says 61 percent of respondents say the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle class families.” While nearly all House Democrats and some blue-state Republicans are likely to oppose Tax Cut 2.0 on the House floor, House leaders are hopeful they can pass them through the chamber before the election. GOP leaders and administration aides acknowledge that there is no chance the bills will pass the Senate before election day.
Last week the Senate passed legislation preventing all health plans and pharmacy benefit managers in the commercial market from using gag orders. Gag orders are rules that prevent pharmacists from telling customers how to buy cheaper prescriptions without insurance. The legislation also requires drug companies to file biosimilars patent settlements with the Federal Trade Commission as a requirement for giving more visibility into pay-for-delay agreements between name brand biologics and biosimilar drugs. There was some opposition to the bill from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) who was concerned the bill would supersede state authority in regulating commercial markets. He offered an amendment to limit the gag order ban on self-insured plans, but it was defeated. The House has a similar legislation without the biosimilars language and is on track for a vote this Congress.
On Sept. 19, the U.S. Department of Education announced an award of $15 million in federal assistance toward the Hurricane Education Recovery Assistance for Homeless Children and Youth Program. Congress appropriated $25 million to the new program and to date, $15 million has been awarded to 21 states. The department awarded eligible state education agencies with funds authorized to assist local education agencies helping homeless children and youth displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, or the 2017 California wildfires.
NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald
Many U.S. presidents have had and continue to have a passion for golf. Woodrow Wilson found the game essential during World War I as a way to relax. He was so dedicated to the game that he had the Secret Service paint his golf balls black so that he could play in the snow.
Read the Sept. 17 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.