The 116th Congress has officially reached the halfway point as members return this month after a productive December. For the first time since Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, Congress completed all 12 appropriations bills prior to the holiday recess, while racking up a number of other wins in the two minibuses, from the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act to full repeal of several Affordable Care Act taxes. With a relatively clean slate, Congress now will turn to what is expected to be a somewhat less frantic legislative period given the presidential election year.
While the Senate had planned to start last week on the impeachment trial, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decided to hold onto the House-passed articles of impeachment while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continue to negotiate the initial process and procedure for the Senate trial. Ultimately, Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer are demanding that certain documents and witnesses be included as part of the Senate trial, while Sen. McConnell argues that the Senate should follow the precedent of the Clinton impeachment trial and consider the question of potential witnesses and documents after the initial presentation by House managers and President Trump's defense team. However, the Senate is now likely to start the trial next week after the House appoints managers and transmits the articles of impeachment, which is expected to happen in the next day or two.
Thanks to a delay on impeachment proceedings, the Senate had the time to move ahead with a Senate Finance Committee markup of the House-passed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). On January 7, the Committee favorably reported the legislation by a 25-3 vote. Senate Leadership is currently pushing to approve USMCA by Thursday of this week before the impeachment articles arrive from the House.
Once impeachment and USMCA are finished, Congress is likely to focus the spring months on the start of the FY 2021 budget and appropriations cycle (President Trump will submit his request on February 10) as well as the May 22, 2020, expiration of a number of health programs. That deadline was set by the FY 2020 minibus package with the intention of driving bipartisan, bicameral compromise on the issues of prescription drug pricing and surprise medical billing. Other deadlines for must-pass legislation this year center around the FY end date of September 30, 2020, with authorization of the FAST Act, National Flood Insurance Program, and a number of immigration programs set to expire at the same time as funding for the federal government.
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