Capitol to Capitol | June 18, 2019
















House Continues to Take up “Mini-Bus” Appropriations Package

The House will continue deliberations on a $985 billion FY 2020 spending package that combines four of the remaining 12 annual spending bills. While some headway was made last week, the bulk of the work will take place this week when lawmakers take up more than 200 amendments to the bill dubbed a “Mini-Bus.” The measure, which largely reflects priorities from the Democrats, combines the Departments of Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy-Water spending bills. It rejects most of the president’s spending decreases, overturns administration policies on abortion, and would block efforts to divert military and treasury funds to build a border wall.  

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty

Caps Deal Trimmed Down

Regardless of House—and eventually Senate—activity on spending bills, there must be a deal to raise discretionary spending limits to avoid across the board agency cuts mandated by the 2011 deficit reduction law. While Congress has continually passed cap-raising legislation every two years since the passage of the law, lawmakers are now considering a pared-down version raising the discretionary limits just for the upcoming 2020 fiscal year. While a one-year increase isn’t considered ideal, since the issue will have to be addressed again next year with an election looming, the strategy does have support from both House and Senate appropriators. The Senate is expected to begin their appropriations process with “deemed” limits next month. 

NCSL Contact: Erlinda Doherty


The highest court in the land,” as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor jokingly called it, is a basketball court in a secluded area on the top floor of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) building, above the SCOTUS courtroom. It’s routinely used during lunchtime and afternoons for workouts and pickup games between clerks. There is also a rich history of matchups between justices and their law clerks and aides.

Senate Transportation Leaders Request Repeal of Upcoming Transportation Rescission

The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), which is the committee of jurisdiction in the Senate for surface transportation infrastructure, sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer requesting the repeal of a provision in the FAST Act that would rescind $7.6 billion in federal highway funding on July 1, 2020. The request matches a similar request that the chairman and ranking member of the House committee with jurisdiction made to the speaker and minority leader earlier this year. NCSL the National Governors Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and others wrote to congressional leaders in May, with the same request.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

Health Care Legislation Active on the Hill

Last week both chambers were discussing health care. The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on universal health coverage. Following the release of bipartisan legislation, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its first hearing on surprise billing.  The House Small Business Committee examined the decline of small medical practices. In the Senate, Judiciary Committee members looked at the impacts of integrating health care systems and providers. All these hearings come on the heels of Congressional leaders advocating for markup and scheduled votes for several different pieces of health care legislation to take on rising health care costs before Congress’ August recess.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson and Margaret Wile

Humanitarian and Security Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border

On June 12, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar wrote a joint letter urging Congress to pass supplemental funding of $4.5 billion to address the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. The letter notes that the number of unaccompanied children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody has increased from 870 on May 1 to over 2,300 currently, which is unprecedented, and the HHS cannot accommodate this large number.

NCSL Contacts: Susan Frederick, Lucia Bragg (Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Policy) and Haley Nicholson, Margaret Wile (Health and Human Services)

EPA Issues New Clean Water Act Guidance for States


Because of its location, Alaska is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost state in the U.S. (It is the easternmost because the Aleutian Islands extend across the International Date Line.) The southernmost state is Hawaii.

On June 5, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on “This is Not a Drill: Education-Related Response and Recovery in the Wake of Natural Disasters.” The committee members heard testimony

On June 7, the EPA issued revised guidance on implementing Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The newly issued guidance alters the 2010 guidance significantly, with revisions focusing on: statutory and regulatory timelines for review and action on a CWA 401 certification, the scope of CWA Section 401 certification conditions, and information within the scope of a state or authorized tribes CWA Section 401 review.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

POTUS Issues EO on Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology

On June 11, President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) directing a few of the federal agencies—including United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration—to "streamline" the agricultural biotechnology regulatory process. The EO follows the publication of a proposed rule from USDA earlier this month that aims to define the required regulatory steps for genetically engineered agricultural goods.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch and Kristen Hildreth

POTUS Issues EO Reducing Federal Advisory Committees

The president issued an executive order (EO) requiring federal agencies to reduce the number of advisory committees. According to General Services Administration (GSA) statistics, the federal government has more than 1,000 active advisory committees, 601 of which are required by various statutes. The EO limits the number of committees not required by law to 350. GSA previously reported that the federal government spent $384 million on advisory committees in fiscal 2018.

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:

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

NCSL Contact: Molly Ramsdell

The Reading Room 

Correction DYK? 06/10/2019: The 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution, after being ratified by 36 of the then 48 states. 

Read the June 10 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