What's New In Washington (Oct)

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Throughout September, members in the House and the Senate worked to achieve a flurry of bipartisan accomplishments, including negotiating deals over the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a legislative package to combat the growing opioid epidemic. Most notably, however, was the bicameral, bipartisan cooperation on appropriations. Congress successfully passed appropriations for the Legislative Branch, the departments of Defense, Energy and Water, Labor, Health and Human Services and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs by September 30, representing roughly 75 percent of the annual appropriations budget and the most appropriations bills passed on time in over twenty years. Legislators attached a Continuing Resolution (CR) to the last appropriations package to fund the remaining portions of the government through December 7.

Looking forward, the House will be in pro forma session, but legislative work will not recommence until members return for the lame-duck session starting on November 13.

Unlike the House, the Senate will remain in session for several days in October to consider judicial and executive nominations. Most prominently, Senators will continue debating the Honorable Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. The Kavanaugh nomination stalled weeks ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Following testimony by Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the Judiciary Committee agreed to allow for a limited Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) supplemental investigation into the allegations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set in motion a procedural vote on the nomination on Friday, which was successful and sets up a final confirmation likely on Saturday. The vote margins for the nomination remain thin, but appear favorable for Kavanaugh based on the successful procedural vote.

In other news, the United States, Mexico and Canada agreed to a new free trade agreement (see Big Three Reach Trade Agreement) that would replace the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Members of Congress and their staffs will pour over the details in the coming months with a congressional vote on the agreement likely in 2019. Lawmakers were less productive on the Farm Bill this month, as the current law expired without legislators agreeing to a conference report or short-term extension. Negotiators will continue to attempt to bridge the gaps and broker a compromise over the coming months on the Farm Bill.

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