NATaT Weekly Legislative Report

Week of November 25, 2019

Congressional Outlook

The House and Senate are in recess this week. When the House returns on December 3, it will consider the Insider Trading Prohibition Act (H.R. 2534), which makes it a federal crime to trade a security based on material, nonpublic information that was wrongfully obtained, ending decades of ambiguity for a crime that has never been clearly defined by federal law. For the remainder of December, the House is expected to bring two additional major bills to the floor: the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3), which establishes a fair price negotiation program and empower the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for the prices of certain drugs that lack competition; and the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 4), which reconfigures the formula in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that is used to determine if states are committing voting rights violations. Additionally, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) recently said that the final conferenced FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790) and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal are also priorities in December if negotiations wrap up soon.

When the Senate returns, it will vote on the nomination of Dan Brouillette to be the 15th U.S. Secretary of Energy, replacing Rick Perry, who is stepping down from the post on December 1. The Senate will also vote on eight judicial nominees to serve in district courts in New York, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Utah, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and one nominee to be a Governor of the U.S. Postal Service.

Negotiations on FY 2020 appropriations hit a milestone this past weekend, with news that House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) reached an agreement on the 12 subcommittee allocations. The decision on the funding allocations gives appropriators their guidelines for how to divvy up $1.37 trillion in FY 2020 funds. The agreement on funding levels does not include a bipartisan solution on border wall spending, the thorniest issue facing appropriators and the sole policy dispute that led to a 35-day partial government shutdown last year. Talks between the chairmen and ranking members of the Appropriations subcommittees are expected to continue even while Congress is on recess this week. When lawmakers return to Washington, they will have three weeks to finalize the bills and send them to President Trump before a temporary spending bill expires on December 20 at midnight. If negotiators can reach agreement on the full dozen bills, they will likely pass in two or three packages, possibly on the same legislative day. If appropriators cannot agree to all 12 spending bills by Dec. 20, it's likely that the measures they do reach consensus on will be packaged with a stopgap spending bill for the departments and agencies without full-year funding.  

NATaT Weekly Legislative Report