Congress in Review - Q1 of 2019
How do you feel about Congress's Q1 performance?
by Countable | 4.12.19
With the first quarter of 2019 in the books and Congress away for the next two weeks on their annual recess for Easter and Passover, let’s take a look at what the 116th Congress has gotten done in recent months.
What got done?
Ending the Gov’t Shutdown: The 116th Congress began on January 3, 2019, amid an ongoing partial government that stemmed from a dispute over border security funding and ended after 35 days on January 24, 2019, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. After initially passing stopgap funding bills, Congress enacted funding that will keep the government open through the end September when the 2019 fiscal year concludes.
Public Lands & Natural Resources Management: The bipartisan John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming support and was signed into law by President Donald Trump. It’s named after the longest serving member of Congress who passed away earlier this year, the late Rep. John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI).
Confirmations: Senate Republicans confirmed Attorney General William Barr, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to the Cabinet in addition to confirming 7 circuit court judges.
“The Nuclear Option”: The Senate deployed the “nuclear option” for the third time in six years and shortened debate on lower tier nominations, like those to district court judgeships and non-Cabinet-level executive branch positions.
Non-Binding Resolutions: House Democrats passed non-binding resolutions condemning all forms of bigotry, calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to be made public, expressing that government shutdowns are bad for the U.S., opposing a ban on the service of openly transgender individuals in the military, and rejecting the Trump administration’s legal campaign to undermine the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Ending Trump’s Border Emergency Declaration: After both chambers of Congress passed a resolution terminating the border security emergency declared by President Donald Trump, the bill was vetoed by the president. An attempt to override the veto in the House failed to gain the two-thirds support necessary.
“The Green New Deal”: The Senate rejected the Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution that would’ve expressed the sense of Congress that the federal government should mobilize to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and fight income inequality over the course of a decade that progressive lawmakers had called for. All Republicans were joined by four members of the Democratic caucus in voting against the resolution, which failed to gain a single supporter in a 0-57 procedural vote.
Senate Abortion Bills: Senate Democrats blocked a bill that’d require doctors to provide appropriate healthcare to save an infant born alive following an attempted abortion, while another bill cutting off taxpayer funding for abortions was blocked in a mostly party-line vote.
Reimposing Sanctions on a Russian Oligarch: An effort to overturn sanctions relief the Trump administration provided to companies linked to Oleg Deripaska failed to clear a 60-vote procedural vote threshold.
What’s in limbo or stalled?
Middle East Policy: A broad Middle East policy bill that passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 77-23 hasn’t been taken up by the House. Additionally, a resolution that’d withdraw U.S. troops supporting the Saudi coalition in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels that passed both chambers of Congress is likely to be vetoed by President Trump.
House Democrats’ Party-Line Priorities: Several of the bills that form part of House Democrats’ “For the People” agenda passed in largely party-line votes are unlikely to be considered by the Senate in their current form, including bills:
- Reforming campaign finance, government ethics, and voter protection laws.
- Revising enforcement mechanisms to prevent wage discrimination based on gender.
- Requiring gun sellers to wait for a completed background check before transferring a firearm and extending the waiting period.
- Giving civilian federal employees a 2.6% pay raise.
- Restoring net neutrality protections.
- Reauthorizing Violence Against Women Act programs.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / BeeCoolPhoto)
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