Government Reopens

Last Friday, the President announced that he would sign a three-week continuing resolution to reopen the government through February 15 while a bicameral, bipartisan committee negotiates a homeland security spending package. The House and Senate both passed the bill shortly following the President’s announcement and federal employees returned to work this week. The conference committee convened for the first time yesterday, though it remains to be seen if it will be able to find consensus on an approach that the President will sign.

Barr Nomination Postponed

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee postponed until next week a vote on Bill Barr’s nomination to serve as the next Attorney General while Democrats push for additional information on his stance on the Mueller investigation. Leadership is anticipating a floor vote the week of February 11. On the floor, Senators took up a Middle East policy bill that stalled amid the shutdown and votes today on an amendment offered by Leader McConnell (R-KY) expressing disapproval for withdrawing troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Administrative News

FCC Chairman Pai swore in Geoffrey Starks on Wednesday as the Commission’s fifth member, bringing it to capacity. Starks, a Democrat, fills the seat vacated by former Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. The FCC also moved up its February open meeting to February 14, which will ensure it takes place in case of another shutdown.

Elsewhere, the President nominated former DocuSign CEO Keith Krach last week to be Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, the position responsible for serving as the ombudsperson for the EU-US Privacy Shield. European officials have been pushing the Administration to appoint a permanent replacement for since the previous Undersecretary resigned over two years ago.

New Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics Team

This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced a new Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics Team in response to increasing congressional demand for information on emerging technologies issues like artificial intelligence and quantum computing. GAO also plans to double the size of its team working on science and technology issues in the coming years.

Read more in our Emerging Technologies Washington Update.