Members of Congress return to Washington, D.C. this week for a three-week work period before the Memorial Day recess.  As with the congressional agenda in April, the Republican majority will work towards meeting deadlines on several priority items—Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills, the Farm Bill authorization (set to lapse in September), the Federal Aviation

Today a three-week work period begins for Members of Congress arriving back in Washington, where President Trump has remained active (including via his Twitter account). The President has announced initiatives to address a host of topics, from immigration reform to international trade, as well as personnel changes within his Cabinet and White House staff. With the midterm elections now firmly in its sights, Congress is more likely to react to the President’s actions through its confirmation and oversight responsibilities, than through legislation requiring compromise and bipartisanship.

After negotiating a two-year, bipartisan budget deal in early March and passing a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds the government through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, in a dramatic, eleventh hour tweet, President Trump toyed with the idea of vetoing the massive spending package after House and Senate passage last month, which would have caused the government to shut down.  He eventually signed the bill into law, after announcing his reservations with the legislation, stating he would “never sign another bill like this again.”  In particular, the President said he had wanted more funds for his proposed border wall with Mexico.  The chaos this surprise veto threat caused for congressional leadership demonstrates how volatile the political process has become even as Republicans control both the Executive and Legislative branches. Congressional Republicans may have learned that they can cut deals on Capitol Hill, but they cannot leave out the White House without risking a veto threat.

The President’s disappointment with the omnibus appropriations bill has reportedly resulted in discussions with GOP leadership about a potential rescission request, which would roll back portions of the spending bill even though it has already become law.  While it is unlikely that a majority of members would support a rescission request from the Administration, the fact that GOP leaders are even engaging in the conversation with the President shows that he can impose his own frame on Congress’s agenda. A rescission request could jeopardize the FY 2019 appropriations process that is underway, set to the topline numbers established by the March budget agreement.

Continue Reading The Congressional Agenda for April

Upcoming Congressional action for the duration of March appears likely to resolve the budget and appropriations impasse of the last several months. House and Senate leaders and the White House were able to reach an agreement last month on topline spending numbers for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, which began last October 1, and FY 2019.  This two-year spending deal will likely put an end to the months of partisan debate over defense and domestic spending caps following five short-term spending bills that led to two government shutdowns. The current stopgap spending measure (P.L. 115-123) expires on March 23, giving members just three short weeks to complete work on a $1.2 trillion omnibus bill.

The budget compromise provides for almost $300 billion in additional federal spending over the limits established by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). House and Senate appropriators are now working to allocate the funds into the 12 annual appropriations bills and draft the legislation that meets the parameters of the agreement.  Lawmakers hope to roll these 12 bills into a single legislative vehicle, an omnibus bill, that can pass both chambers before the March 23 deadline. It remains to be seen whether the spending bill could carry a number of controversial policy issues that remain unresolved, including gun control, immigration and border security, and health care, among other topics.

There have been discussions among the White House and congressional leaders about potential gun safety or other related legislation following Florida’s recent disheartening mass school shooting, but Republicans and Democrats are divided on what should and can be done.  President Trump has indicated openness to an increase in the age requirement for buying rifles from age 18 to 21, a proposal to extend mandatory background checks to include sales at gun shows and over the internet, incentives encouraging the arming of teachers, and a ban on bump stocks or assault weapons. At least some of these measures would require departures from prevailing Republican orthodoxy. Under application of Senate rules, action there would require some bipartisan cooperation in order to achieve 60 vote thresholds on any of these measures. The Senate could also attempt to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to prevent criminals from purchasing firearms. Democrats support NICS legislation, although some conservative Senate Republicans have expressed due process concerns.  A version of this legislation passed the House in December, but was paired with a provision providing concealed carry reciprocity to legal gun owners.  It is unclear whether the House would take up the NICS legislation on its own.  It is possible that less controversial gun or school safety measures could be incorporated into the omnibus spending package.

Continue Reading The Congressional Agenda for March

It is clear that the next Congress and President-elect Trump very likely will to try to do corporate tax reform — particularly international tax reform. Among the reasons this is the case is that there is an emerging consensus among both parties from a policy perspective that improving the business tax code could make America

When the dust settles on 2016, and Congress is receiving year-end grades from political pundits, voters and even self-evaluations from the Members themselves, there will no doubt be a common refrain that election year politics, gridlock and a short legislative calendar have yet again left too many important issues unresolved. But one important piece of

In a major win for the American innovative economy, the U.S. Senate on Monday unanimously passed S. 1890, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), 87-0. The bill stands a good chance of getting enacted into law, which would be a significant milestone for intellectual property protection particularly in this election year.

Trade secrets are increasingly