FY20 Spending Bills
Appropriations Committee leaders reached a deal early this week to fund the government through FY20 and unveiled two packages of spending bills. One combines the Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Financial Services measures; the second including the Agriculture-FDA, Labor-HHS-Education, Energy-Water, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign Operations, Transportation-HUD, Military Construction-VA, and Legislative Branch measures. The House passed the packages on Tuesday 280-138 and 297-120, respectively. The Senate is expected to follow suit on Thursday and send the bills to the President to sign, which he is expected to do.
On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump for abuse of power (230-197) and obstruction of Congress (229-198). The vote split almost entirely down party lines–with only two Democrats, Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), voting against the articles and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is running for president, voting present. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) split his votes on the articles, which will now be sent to the Senate for a trial and final vote. Speaker Pelosi has left open the idea of withholding the articles, thus delaying the process.
On Thursday, the House voted (227-197) to raise the cap from $10,000 to $20,000 on the state and local (SALT) deduction that was set by President Trump’s 2017 tax bill. The deduction is for individuals living in high-tax states and has become a sticking point for Democrats and Republicans debating tax policy. The bill is not expected to get a vote in the Senate, and President Trump has threatened to veto it.
The House passed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) (385-41) with strong bipartisan support on Thursday. Now, the Senate must vote to ratify it, and then Canada and Mexico will both need to vote as well. Leader McConnell has said he will conduct and finish President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial before addressing USMCA, so its approval may not come until well into the new year.
National Defense Authorization Act
The Senate voted 86-8 Tuesday to approve the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill increases defense spending to $738 billion from $716 billion in 2019, but is still below the $750 billion the White House requested. Most notably, the NDAA provides $72 million dollars for the creation of the new sixth division of the military, the Space Force. The House has already approved the bill, and President Trump is expected to sign it into law.
Governors’ Initiative on Regulatory Innovation
On Monday, the President hosted a roundtable discussion with governors as part of the Governors’ Initiative on Regulatory Innovation. The President and Vice President delivered remarks on the Administration’s efforts related to deregulation, taxes, and trade agreements. On Tuesday, President Trump hosted Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at the White House for a bilateral meeting.
NTIA Head to Step Down, Changes at FTC
Acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Diane Rinaldo is stepping down from her post, which she assumed in May. Rinaldo took over for David Redl, who lead the entity from 2017 to 2019 and for whom a permanent replacement has not yet been found. Elsewhere, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons announced this week that Deputy Director of the Bureau of Competition Marian Bruno will retire at the end of the year. Subject to FTC approval, Ian Connor will become the Bureau’s director and Daniel Francis will serve alongside Gail Levine as Deputy Director.
Public Comment Period Extended on Quality and Effectiveness of the American Research Environment
On December 17, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) updated a November request for public comment on how federal agencies can work together with academic, philanthropic, and non-profit organizations to improve the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment. The comment period, which was scheduled to close on December 23, has been extended and will now end on January 28, 2020. Specific emphasis has been placed on making the community more inclusive, efficient, safe, and ethical.
Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.