November Washington D.C. Preview

November 4, 2019

QUICK FIX

— Fighting a funding lapse: Funding runs out again this month for the entire federal government. While a shutdown is unlikely, so is the prospect of Congress passing anything besides another stopgap before the Nov. 21 deadline hits. And leaders in both parties are still warning that a funding lapse is possible in the months to come, particularly amid the heightened partisanship amid the House's impeachment inquiry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have privately agreed the next stopgap should not fund the government beyond Dec. 31, a deadline meant to pressure lawmakers into finishing all 12 annual appropriations bills before the end of the calendar year. Still, it is probable that at least some of the dozen spending measures will remain unfinished beyond midnight on New Year's Eve.

 

— Waiting for a China deal: President Donald Trump says he's still set to sign his much-touted "phase one" trade deal with China this month, even though the cancellation of the Nov. 16-17 APEC eliminates the venue and deadline for inking the agreement.

 

— SCOTUS to take up DACA cases: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Nov. 12 on cases challenging the Trump administration's decision to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides deportation relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The Trump administration in 2017 announced it would end the program, but two federal courts ordered the administration to keep it running until the high court weighs in. The arguments in the case largely center on whether the court has the power to review the executive branch's decision — the plaintiffs say it does because the Trump administration based its decision on the belief that DACA is illegal — and if so, whether the administration did it in a way that was legal. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year found the administration's decision was based "solely on a misconceived view of the law" and therefore subject to review.

TRADE

Watch for auto tariffs decision: Trump could decide to impose tariffs or further delay action on imports of automobiles and auto parts from the European Union. The U.S. trade representative has until Nov. 13 to update Trump on efforts to negotiate a solution to the national security risk that the Commerce Department says is posed by EU auto imports.

 

Work continues on new NAFTA: Republican lawmakers and supporters of the USMCA are pushing Congress to vote on the deal before Thanksgiving. The administration and House Democrats continue to try to work out a compromise to ensure the deal's labor and environment rules are fully enforceable.

 

Other talks: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will fill in for Trump at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok from Nov. 3-8, with additional stops in Indonesia and Vietnam. — Adam Behsudi

TAX

A vehicle for tax legislation: Tax advocates are pressing Congress to attach extensions for dozens of expired green-energy tax breaks, among other items, to government spending legislation that must pass by Nov. 21.

 

A still-unreleased package of the energy bills could skip a formal markup from the House Ways and Means Committee and instead get tacked onto a broader set of tax provisions. What could get a markup: a still-developing bill that would get rid of or increase the $10,000 limit on the federal deduction for state and local taxes. Ways and Means members have also begun playing up legislation that would add reporting requirements to the new tax incentive for economic development in areas known as Opportunity Zones.

 

Supporters are discussing folding all of those — and House-passed retirement legislation that's stuck in the Senate — into a wider tax package that could be attached to any appropriations bill to fund the government. Those talks also involve the Senate Finance Committee, so the time frame for the tax package could be pushed to December. — Aaron Lorenzo

HEALTH CARE

Obamacare has arguably never been stronger as the 10th anniversary of the law looms in the spring. Average premiums for popular health plans are down, and the number of insurance options is up. Even the Trump administration, which wants to dismantle the ACA, is boasting about how well it's running the law. Still, a decision in the GOP-backed lawsuit that could wipe out the entire law is expected any day now, though the Supreme Court is expected to have the final say next year. No matter what happens, the administration says the six-week enrollment period that began Friday will carry on as planned. — Jason Millman

DEFENSE

A 'skinny' defense debate: With House and Senate leaders trying to hammer out compromise defense policy legislation still at odds over a host of thorny issues, Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe is leading the charge for a Plan B. The Oklahoma Republican is pushing a "skinny" version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act as a backup that would only renew the must-have military authorities set to expire at year's end.

 

Republicans and Democrats alike in both chambers stand to lose if they fail to cut a broader deal and resort to a slimmed-down bill. A slew of popular, bipartisan proposals that are under discussion by conferees would be set aside, including the creation of a Space Force sought by the president, reform of private military housing and overhaul of the heavily bureaucratic defense acquisition system.

 

Inhofe's backup plan also isn't sitting well with House Democrats, who continue to press for a full bill that would, among other things, curtail the diversion of defense funds to the president's signature border wall with Mexico. Also among the remaining divisive issues are an aging U.S. nuclear arsenal, transgender troops, federal paid family leave and plans for dealing with Syria, Iran and the civil war in Yemen. — Connor O'Brien

TECHNOLOGY

FCC takes on Huawei, ZTE: The FCC is pressing ahead with an attempt to pressure broadband and wireless providers to dump equipment made by Huawei and ZTE. The agency will vote Nov. 19 on an order to bar telecom subsidies from going to any company that fails to strip out gear made by the Chinese telecom giants, which policymakers caution pose a national security threat given their ties to China's government. Pegged to the order is a request for input on how much federal assistance American companies need to help cover the cost of replacing the gear. — Kyle Daly

ENERGY

Perry faces scrutiny before departure: Energy Secretary Rick Perry's last month in the job may not be as smooth as he had hoped. Despite his denials that he ever heard former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter discussed in relation to U.S. requests that Ukraine investigate corruption, testimony from a senior White House official last month appeared to put him in the room when the issue was raised in a July 10 meeting. Perry's former chief of staff, Brian McCormack, has been scheduled for a Nov. 4 deposition as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. McCormack, who now works for the White House OMB, is not likely to comply with the request, but Democrats' interest indicates they will continue to look into the role played by Perry, who was one of the administration's main points of contact with the new Ukrainian president. — Matt Daily

 

FERC nominee to face Senate: James Danly, Trump's nominee to fill a vacant seat on FERC, will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 5 for a nomination hearing. If confirmed, Danly is likely to be named chairman if current FERC head Neil Chatterjee steps down before his term is up, as POLITICO reported he has considered. Trump did not pair Danly with a nominee chosen by Senate Democrats, breaking a decades-long tradition at the agency. Even so, the energy panel's ranking Democrat has indicated openness to his nomination, making a repeat of last year's contentions, 50-49 Senate vote to confirm Republican Commissioner Bernard McNamee unlikely. — Gavin Bade

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Easing stress: The Federal Reserve is likely to release a new version of its long-awaited "stress capital buffer" proposal, which would overhaul the central bank's stress testing for large banks. That exercise is intended to measure how the lenders would fare during a downturn, and the new rule would use the tests to set their capital requirements going forward. This is expected to be a victory for big banks in their effort to loosen rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, and Fed regulatory chief Randal Quarles will surely face questions about it from Democrats when he testifies before Congress later this year.

 

Proxy fight: The SEC will meet on Nov. 5 to consider changes to proxy requirements, a move that is likely to limit what kind of resolutions can come up for shareholder votes on politically charged issues such as climate change and executive compensation. The SEC may consider limiting proxy advisers' ability to send materials to shareholders by giving companies additional chances for review, as well as raising re-submission thresholds.

 

Capital markets confab: The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association will hold its annual meeting on Nov. 18 and 19. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and members of the CFTC and the New York Fed are slated to speak, potentially shedding light on how capital markets regulation has changed under the Trump administration. — Mark McQuillan

CANNABIS

Questions on hemp, CBD: The USDA in October released highly anticipated proposed regulations for state hemp programs, but that's done little to quell confusion across the country. Industry observers are still waiting for the FDA to indicate its plans for the largely unregulated market for hemp-derived CBD products. The agency has stated that it remains illegal to use CBD in food and dietary supplements, and it's sent a series of warning letters to companies for making unsubstantiated medical claims. It's still uncertain whether the FDA will conduct a formal rulemaking process or police the market another way, which many companies think is badly needed. Additional guidance from the agency is expected before the end of the year, but time is running out. — Paul Demko and Natalie Fertig

AGRICULTURE

Farm economy check-in: The Agriculture Department at the end of November is expected to provide an update on farm income projections, an analysis that will shed light on how farmers are faring in the wake of record-breaking precipitation that kept millions of acres from being planted and low commodity prices amid an ongoing trade war. — Helena Bottemiller Evich

CANADA

Trudeau's to-dos: The new Canadian government takes shape this month. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, fresh off reelection, will swear in his new team of Cabinet ministers on Nov. 20. Members of his new team get mandate letters, which outline the policy vision for the coming government and will likely be made public. He's also likely to reveal soon whether the Canadian Parliament will be reconvened in December or January.

 

Trudeau and his team will spend the rest of the month preparing a throne speech, a State of the Union-type address that launches the next Parliament and must be adopted by a parliamentary majority for the new government to survive. Items to watch on Trudeau's parliamentary to-do list: prescription-drug coverage, a digital services tax and the ratification of USMCA, which will likely happen quickly if the trade deal is approved by the U.S. Congress. — Alex Panetta

EHEALTH

Waiting for OMB: HHS has deposited its final 21st Century Cures-mandated interoperability rules with the Office of Management and Budget, and it's possible the White House will cough up the final rules by as early as the end of November. The rule from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT provides seven categories of exceptions to Cures' mandate for health care companies to share patient data.

 

Past due: The Drug Enforcement Administration is overdue on a long-awaited rule outlining a special registration process by which doctors can virtually prescribe controlled substances to patients they've never met. The rule was due to OMB Oct. 24 under the SUPPORT Act, but the agency has missed the deadline. — Arthur Allen and Mohana Ravindranath

EDUCATION

Final Title IX regulations due out soon: The Trump administration could soon finalize Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' proposed regulations governing how colleges and universities must handle campus sexual assault. The final rules, aimed at curbing Obama-era Title IX policies that many conservative critics say infringed on the due process rights of accused students, are expected to be met with sharp criticism by Democrats and some sexual assault survivor advocacy groups. — Michael Stratford

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