Welcome to fiscal year 2019! Congress averted a government shutdown last week when the president signed a minibus spending package (H.R. 6157) that includes a full-year funding for Defense and Labor-HHS-Education as well as a continuing resolution (CR) through Dec. 7.

The House is now in recess until after the November midterm elections. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the chamber would reconvene on Nov. 13. Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to stay put in October to work through a busy agenda: the Kavanaugh nomination, FAA reauthorization, opioids legislation, water infrastructure bill, and the remaining FY 2019 appropriations bills.

As a reminder, Congress has completed work on five out of the 12 annual appropriations bills:

  • Energy-Water
  • Milcon-VA
  • Legislative Branch
  • Defense
  • Labor-HHS-Education

Nine are still pending:

  • Financial Services, Interior-EPA, Transportation-HUD, and Agriculture (H.R. 6147) – this four-bill package is in conference.
  • Homeland Security,
  • State-Foreign Operations
  • Commerce-Science-Justice

 

As expected, the House last week passed all three bills in the GOP’s Tax Reform 2.0 package – just before members departed for their month-plus-long recess. Here’s how the votes went down.

Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act (H.R. 6760)

  • This bill would make permanent the individual and small business tax cuts enacted in 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $631 billion.
  • House passed the measure by a 220-191 vote.
  • 10 Republicans voted against it, and 3 Democrats voted for it.
  • Vote breakdown here.

Family Savings Act (H.R. 6757)

  • This bill would make it easier for individuals to save for retirement, education, and other family expenses. For example, the bill would create Universal Savings Accounts, expand 529 plans, and allow for penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child. The JCT estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $21 billion.
  • House passed the measure by a 240-177 vote.
  • 10 Democrats voted for the measure.
  • Vote breakdown here.

American Innovation Act (H.R. 6756)

  • This bill contains provisions to spur entrepreneurship and lower barriers for start-ups. The JCT estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $5.4 billion.
  • House passed the measure by a 260-156 vote.
  • 31 Democrats voted for the measure.
  • Vote breakdown here.

Next Steps. Consistent with my earlier assessment of Tax Reform 2.0’s prospects, the Senate will not take up the package before the November midterm elections. The retirement and savings piece (H.R. 6757) could see some action in the Senate in the lame-duck session. For more insights into Tax Reform 2.0, check out my previous articles on the topic below:

The Senate convenes Monday, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. The House is in recess until Nov. 13.

FLOOR ACTION

Senate

  • FAA. The chamber will resume consideration of the five-year FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 302). A procedural vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today. As a reminder, the Senate passed a short-term extension (through Oct. 7) last week.
  • Opioids Legislation. This week, the chamber will take up and pass H.R. 6, as amended by the House.
  • Nomination. Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court remains on hold until the FBI completes its supplemental background investigation.

KEY HEARINGS & MEETINGS

Tax & Financial Services

  • Oct. 2 – Senate Banking Committee to hold a hearing on the implementation of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.
  • Oct. 2 – Senate Finance Committee to hold a hearing to consider the nomination of Andrew Saul to be commissioner of Social Security.
  • Oct. 3 – Senate Small Business Committee to hold a hearing on “Expanding Opportunities for Small Businesses through the Tax Code.”
  • Oct. 3 – Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on big bank bankruptcy, focusing on 10 years after Lehman Brothers.
  • Oct. 3-4 – U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to hold its first fintech conference.
  • Oct. 5 – CFTC to hold a meeting of its Technology Advisory Committee.

Health Care

  • Oct. 3 – Senate HELP Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing to examine rare diseases, focusing on expediting treatments for patients.

Consumer Protection

  • Oct. 3. – Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on the oversight of the enforcement of the antitrust laws.

Energy

  • Oct. 3 – Senate EPW Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on the oversight of the EPA’s implementation of sound and transparent science in regulation.

The Senate convenes today at 3 p.m. The House is back in session on Sept. 25 at noon.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to meet on Thursday, Sept. 27 to hear from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

FLOOR ACTION
House
  • Suspension Votes. Lawmakers will consider 54 bills under suspension of the rules. Of note are the following:
    • H.R. 6511 – The Strategic Petroleum Reserve Reform Act would allow the secretary of energy to carry out a program to lease underutilized SPR facilities.
    • S. 2554 – The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act would prohibit insurers and PBMs from using gag clauses.
    • S. 2553 – The Know the Lowest Price Act would prohibit prescription drug plan (PDP) sponsors and Medicare Advantage organizations that offer prescription drug plans under Medicare from using gag clauses.
    • H.R. 302 – A bill that would reauthorize the FAA through 2023.
    • The full list of suspension votes is available here.
  • Tax Reform 2.0. The House GOP’s tax-cuts package is expected to hit the floor as early as Thursday. The House Rules Committee will meet on Wednesday to draft rules for floor consideration.
  • FY 2019 Appropriations and CR. The conference report (H.R. 6157) to the third minibus spending package (Defense and Labor-HHS-Education) and the continuing resolution (through Dec. 7) will receive a vote this week. The Senate has already passed the measure. The president must sign the legislation by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Senate
  • Nominations. The chamber will vote on the following nominations today:
    • Jackie Walcott to be the U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the Vienna office of the United Nations.
    • Peter A. Feldman to be a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Opioids Legislation. Senate and House lawmakers are working to finalize a compromise bill to address the opioids crisis.
KEY HEARINGS & MEETINGS
Financial Services
  • Sept. 25-26 – Meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee.
  • Sept. 26 – House Financial Services Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on “Oversight of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management.”
  • Sept. 26 – SEC to hold a retail investor fraud roundtable to examine the types of schemes currently targeting small retail investors. The roundtable is open to the public.
  • Sept. 26 – House Financial Services Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on the administration’s goals for major sanctions programs.
  • Sept. 27 – House Financial Services Committee to hold a hearing on the FHFA’s role as conservator and regulator of GSEs.
  • Sept. 27 – The CFPB to hold an advisory committee meeting to discuss policy issues related to FinTech.
  • Sept. 28 – House Financial Services Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing to examine opportunities for financial markets in the digital era.
Tax Policy
  • Sept. 26 – House Ways and Means Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on the IRS’s taxpayer online authentication efforts.
  • Sept. 27 – Senate Finance Committee to hold a hearing to consider the nominations of Gordon Hartogensis to be the director of the PBGC and Gail Ennis to be inspector general of the SSA.
Trade
  • Sept. 26 – House Oversight Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on countering China and ensuring America remains the world leader in advanced technologies and innovation.
  • Sept. 26 – Senate Finance Committee to hold a hearing on the impact of tariffs on the U.S. auto industry.
Health Care
  • Sept. 25 – Senate HELP Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing to examine health care in rural America, focusing on experiences and costs.
  • Sept. 27 – Senate HELP Committee to hold a hearing to examine reducing health care costs, focusing on improving affordability through innovation.
Consumer Privacy
  • Sept. 26 – Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to hold a hearing on safeguards for consumer data privacy.
Energy
  • Sept. 27 – House Science Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on “Advancing Nuclear Energy: Powering the Future.”
  • Sept. 27 – House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a subcommittee hearing on “DOE Modernization: The Office of Cybersecurity Energy Security and Emergency Response.”

 

President Trump today signed the first appropriations package for fiscal year 2019. H.R. 5895 contains three annual appropriations bills: Energy-Water, Milcon-VA, and Legislative Branch. Congress is preparing to send the president a second spending package the week of Sept. 24, hoping to avoid a government shutdown.

On Sept. 18, the Senate passed, 93-7, the spending package (H.R. 6157) that covers funding for Defense and Labor-HHS-Education. It also includes a continuing resolution (or “CR) that will keep the rest of the federal government running through Dec. 7 – these are the agencies that won’t receive their full FY 2019 funding before the end of the fiscal year.

The House will vote and pass H.R. 6157 the week of Sept. 24.

The House Rules Committee will convene on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 3 p.m. to write a rule for the floor consideration of the Tax Reform 2.0 bills. This means that floor debate and votes could take place as early as Thursday, Sept. 27. House passage of the three bills is expected.

In case you missed it, here are the Tax Reform 2.0 related bills and documents:

Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act (H.R. 6760)

This bill would make permanent the individual and small business tax cuts enacted in 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $631 billion.

Family Savings Act (H.R. 6757)

This bill would make it easier for individuals to save for retirement, education, and other family expenses. For example, the bill would create Universal Savings Accounts, expand 529 plans, and allow for penalty-free withdrawals from retirement plans for expenses related to the birth or adoption of a child. The JCT estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $21 billion.

American Innovation Act (H.R. 6756)

This bill contains provisions to spur entrepreneurship and lower barriers for start-ups. The JCT estimates that the measure would reduce federal revenue by about $5.4 billion.

The Senate convenes Monday at 2 p.m. The House is in recess, returning Sept. 25.

At this writing, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, Sept. 20. However, this may change due to the allegations of misconduct against Kavanaugh.

Senate

Roll call votes for the following bills are scheduled for Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

  • Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554). A bill introduced by Sen. Collins (R-ME) that would prohibit insurers and prescription benefit managers from using gag clauses.
  • Opioids Legislation (H.R. 6). A bill to address opioid and substance use disorders. The House passed its version of the bill in June.
Key Hearings and Events

Financial Services

  • Sept. 18 – Senate Banking Committee to hold a hearing FinTech, focusing on digitization, data, and technology.
  • Sept. 20 – SEC to hold an investor roundtable to discuss the commission’s recently proposed rules on the obligations of financial professionals to investors.
  • Sept. 21 – SEC to hold a joint dialogue with NYU on the regulation of the securities market with a specific focus on the topics of high-frequency trading and liquidity resiliency.

Health Care

  • Sept. 18 – Senate HELP Committee to hold a hearing to examine ways to reduce health care costs, focusing on how transparency can lower spending and empower patients.

Energy

  • Sept. 20 – Senate Energy Committee to hold a hearing on blackstart and other system restoration plans in the electric utility industry.
  • Sept. 20 – FERC to hold a commission meeting to consider various administrative, electric, gas, and hydro issues, including a memorandum of understanding between the Transportation Department and FERC on LNG transportation facilities. View the full meeting agenda here.

Immigration

  • Sept. 18 – Senate Homeland Security Committee to hold a hearing to discuss the Flores settlement agreement and its implications for border security and illegal immigration incentives.

Congressional leaders have come up with a plan to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. If all goes according to plan, Congress will have passed five of the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2019 before the funding deadline. This means that at the start of FY 2019, a large part of the federal government will be fully funded for the new fiscal year – a real accomplishment given that Congress has long struggled to pass spending bills on time.

This week, both the House and Senate passed the conference agreement for the first FY 2019 minibus spending package (H.R. 5895), which covers funding for Energy-Water, Milcon-VA, and the Legislative Branch. Additionally, bicameral negotiators approved the conference report for H.R. 6157, a two-bill minibus that includes funding for Defense and Labor-HHS-Education, which makes up about 70 percent of the federal government’s annual discretionary spending. The House is expected to vote on H.R. 6157 when it returns from recess on Sept. 25.

For agencies that won’t receive their full FY 2019 funding in time, a stopgap spending measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), has been included in the H.R. 6157 package to ensure that they will be able to continue to operate at current funding levels from Oct. 1 through Dec. 7.

To be sure, President Trump could upend the whole plan if he decided to veto H.R. 6157 over funding for his border wall, but congressional leaders are betting that he won’t reject a bill that would provide more than $674 billion for the Department of Defense.

The House Ways and Means Committee today marked up and approved the GOP’s Tax Reform 2.0 package. Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) offered three amendments in the nature of a substitute, which would make a series of minor clerical changes to the bills. Here are the key documents and materials for the bills that were approved:

Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act (H.R. 6760)

Family Savings Act (H.R. 6757)

American Innovation Act (H.R. 6756)

During the markup, Democrats on the panel criticized Republicans for doubling down on bad policy and pushing through yet another tax-cut package without hearings and public input. Democrats also repeatedly pointed out that the package was unpaid for and would add $3 trillion to the national debt.

The always colorful Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) compared Tax Reform 2.0 to Caddyshack II and Weekend at Bernie’s II, noting that the “sequel is never as good as the original,” which in his opinion was also a flop.

House leaders are planning to hold a floor vote for the package in the last week of September – passage is expected. Tax Reform 2.0 has near zero chance of passage in the Senate. However, provisions in the Family Savings Act (H.R. 6757) have strong bipartisan support; the bill could be taken up separately after the midterm elections.

Here are the amendments that were offered at the markup:

  • Pascrell – Eliminate the cap on the state and local tax deduction and increase the corporate tax rate to offset the cost of eliminating the cap [Failed 14-21].
  • Neal (D-MA) – Expand EOTC, make adoption tax credit refundable, and enhance the child dependent care credit. Restore the top marginal income tax to offset the cost [Failed 15-21].
  • Thompson (D-CA) – Provide for disaster tax relief [Failed 15-21].
  • Sanchez (D-CA) – Restore the deduction for certain medical expenses [Failed 15-21].
  • Doggett (D-TX) – Release Trump tax returns [Ruled non-germane].
  • Larson (D-CT) – Protect Social Security and Medicare trust funds [Failed 15-21].
  • Doggett (D-TX) – No tax breaks for corporations until the middle class receives the promised benefits of tax reform [Ruled non-germane].
  • Kind (D-WI) – Add stretch IRA provision and PBGC premium relief, among other things, to H.R. 6757 [Failed 14-21].
  • Brady – amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 6760, making clerical changes to the original bill [Adopted].
  • Brady – amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 6757, making clerical changes to the original bill [Adopted].
  • Brady – amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 6756, making clerical changes to the original bill [Adopted].

Congress is pressing ahead with its work agenda for the week despite the threat of massive flooding in Washington from Hurricane Florence. With the end of fiscal year 2019 looming, lawmakers don’t have much time to waste. Here are the big legislative items awaiting action when Congress returns Sept. 12:

  • IRS Nominee. The Senate is expected to confirm Charles Rettig to be the IRS commissioner.
  • Tax Reform 2.0 Markup. House Ways and Means Committee will mark up and vote on a trio of bills under Tax Reform 2.0 on Sept. 13. According to an estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the package of tax cuts would cost $657 billion.
  • FY 2019 Appropriations. House and Senate negotiators for the second and third “minibus” spending packages (H.R. 6147 and H.R. 6157) are scheduled to meet on Sept. 13 to iron out differences between their bills. As a refresher, the Senate version of H.R. 6147 covers funding for Financial Services, Interior-EPA, Transportation-HUD, and Agriculture; H.R. 6157 covers funding for Defense and Labor-HHS-Education. The House chamber is also expected to vote on the conference report for first minibus package (H.R. 5895), which covers Energy-Water, Milcon-VA, and Legislative spending. GOP leaders are trying to get as many of these spending bills enacted before Sept. 30. But even if successful, Congress will still have to rely on a continuing resolution or CR to avert a government shutdown. The big question is how long the CR would run. The GOP appears split on the duration of the CR – some prefer to tackle the outstanding spending issues once and for all in December, while others prefer to kick the can down the road to January 2019.
  • Water Infrastructure Bill. The House and Senate reached a deal on a water infrastructure bill, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, on Sept. 10. The legislation would authorize various projects to improve and modernize the country’s water infrastructure. The House is expected to vote on the bill before the end of the week.
  • Gag Clauses. The Senate will hold a vote on the Patients Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554) – a bill that would prohibit insurers and prescription benefit managers from using gag clauses that restrict a pharmacy’s ability to proactively inform insurance plan members the difference in drug costs when paying out-of-pocket through an insurance plan versus paying for the drug without using any insurance coverage.
  • Farm Bill. Negotiators are talking this week, but an extension is likely. Reauthorization is due Sept. 30.