End of year spending package

With the December 21 deadline looming to fund remaining areas of government for FY19, congressional Democratic leaders traveled to the White House on Tuesday to discuss the parameters of an end of year spending package. In a heated public meeting, the President and Leaders Schumer (D-NY) and Pelosi (D-CA) argued over the President’s request for $5 billion to build a border wall, with Trump claiming he would be “proud” to (partially) shut down the government if the request goes unfulfilled. Congressional leaders are now weighing options to avert or minimize the shutdown threat, including potentially separating the FY19 DHS bill from the other remaining measures, including Transportation-Housing and Urban Development and Commerce-Science-Justice.

Farm bill

Elsewhere, the Senate voted 87-13 on Tuesday to adopt the $867 billion farm bill conference report. The House followed suit Wednesday, 369-47, sending the bill to the President for his signature. Thursday, the Senate voted on a resolution to withdraw US support from Saudi Arabia’s efforts in Yemen’s civil war. Support for the measure grew after journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, but it is unlikely to come to the House floor and the Administration opposes the measure and has threatened a veto.

Leadership changes

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) confirmed this week that she will assume the top Democratic seat on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, succeeding outgoing Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL). Under incoming Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), the Committee is expected to focus at the outset on developing a federal consumer privacy framework, building on a series of hearings this year during which lawmakers heard from the private sector, consumer advocates, and those involved in developing the EU’s GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). For more on committee leadership changes and agendas for the 116th Congress, click here.

Virtual currency

Reps. Darren Soto (D-FL) and Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced legislation this week to promote US competitiveness in the global virtual currency marketplace. The bill defines virtual currency as “a digital representation of value that does not have legal tender status and that functions as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, or a store of value” and directs the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to produce a report on the state of virtual markets and ways to promote American competitiveness. Soto, Budd, and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) also introduced a consumer protection-focused measure that orders a CFTC report on promoting fair and transparent virtual currency markets by examining the potential for price manipulation. Both bills are representative of the increasing importance of and congressional interest in both promoting and regulating financial technologies.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update.