What's New In Washington (May)

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When Congress returns from a one-week recess on May 7, we expect the focus to be on nominations, appropriations and the opioid crisis.

The fiscal year 2019 (“FY19”) appropriations process is in full swing as appropriators in both chambers continue to draft the 12 annual spending bills that fund the government. The House and Senate are unified around the goal of avoiding the massive year-end omnibus appropriations bill and are expected to package two or three appropriations bills into individual bills, commonly referred to as “mini-bus”(as opposed to omnibus) appropriations bills, over the course of the summer session. Early contenders to be considered in the first mini-bus package include Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations; Legislative Branch Appropriations; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations. While the Senate and House may be able to get one or two mini-bus packages to the President’s desk this summer, it is likely that several bills will be left behind, and, thus, Congress will still need to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution funding the government past the end of FY18 on September 30.

In late April, the House overwhelmingly approved a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Looking forward, the Senate will begin work on its version of the proposal, though scarce floor time may delay consideration by the full Senate. The current FAA authorization runs through September 30.

Congressional efforts to combat the opioid crisis will also continue in earnest. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has already advanced a bipartisan opioid package, which is likely to be combined with other opioid legislation and considered on the Senate floor sometime this summer. In the House, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health reported out nearly 60 opioid bills at the end of April. The full Energy and Commerce Committee will continue the effort in the coming weeks.

Finally, the Senate will continue the slog of confirming President Trump’s nominees for key positions in the administration. Just before the recess, the Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has teed up six more Circuit Court judicial nominees for the week of May 7, which will continue the record-setting pace of confirmations to the all-important federal appeals courts. In the coming weeks, the Senate also is expected to turn to the yet-to-be-named replacement nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs following Dr. Ronny Jackson’s decision to withdraw his nomination amid several controversies.

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