What to Know in Washington: Democrats Want Stopgap to November

Lawmakers are discussing a stopgap funding measure that would run until the week before Thanksgiving, avoiding a shutdown at the end of September as they continue to negotiate an initial fiscal 2020 spending package.

House and Senate Democratic leaders want Congress to pass a stopgap funding bill to Nov. 21 to give appropriators time to work on the spending bills, a senior Senate aide said, Nancy Ognanvoich reports.

The stopgap measure is among the most important pieces of legislation Congress needs to get to the president’s desk during a three-week legislative sprint to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Lawmakers returning to Washington yesterday appeared optimistic they’ll avoid a shutdown for the second year in a row.

Whether they can additionally pass a package of fiscal 2020 appropriations bills remains to be seen, as Senate appropriators begin subcommittee markups today of their Defense and Labor-HHS-Education spending measures.

Republicans’ stopgap strategy is likely to be a topic of conversation when Republican leadership meets at 4 p.m. today with President Donald Trump at the White House. Senate Republican leaders also planned to meet last night with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to discuss next steps.

Gun control measures may also be on the agenda at the White House meeting today, as Democrats continue to press Republicans to help them pass legislation.

The House Judiciary Committee will consider three gun control measures this afternoon, which are likely to be approved by the committee and head to the floor. But it remains unclear if any Republicans will support the bills.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) yesterday continued to pressure Trump and McConnell to vote on House-passed legislation to expand background checks to purchase guns.

“President Trump, this bill is common sense,” Schumer said during a press conference. “It’s overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, Republicans, gun owners and those who don’t own guns, and it would save many, many, many American lives.”

“If you announce your support,” he said, “we can get something incredible done for the American people.”

BGOV Podcast — Spending, Guns Highlight Fall Agenda: On this episode of Bloomberg Government’s podcast “Suspending the Rules,” budget and appropriations reporter Jack Fitzpatrick joins legislative analysts Danielle Parnass, Sarah Babbage, and Adam M. Taylor to preview the fall slate. Listen here.

Congress has a long list of priorities lawmakers aim to accomplish before the end of the year. For a complete look at the upcoming agenda, read Bloomberg Government’s Fall 2019 Hill Watch.

Photographer: Melissa Lyttle/Bloomberg
House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, at the White House Monday

Happening on the Hill

Pelosi Draft Plan Targets Prices of 250 Drugs: House Democratic leaders want to empower Medicare to directly negotiate prices on 250 drugs, according to a document circulating among lobbyists and congressional offices. The document, first obtained by Bloomberg Government, outlines the plan that Pelosi has been working on for months. Negotiation with the HHS would be required for those drugs that are the most expensive to Medicare and lack competition from at least two other generic drugs, biologics, or biosimilars, and would include insulin. Read more from Shira Stein and Alex Ruoff.

House Immigration Bill May Move to Floor: An immigration bill that was yanked off the House floor in late July over internal debate among Democrats could come to the floor later this month stripped of many amendments added in committee. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who sponsored the legislation, said she hopes the bill will come back to the House floor this month for a vote without the language reversing several policies from the Trump administration.

“The challenge for our bill at the end of July was that it was no longer an oversight bill, and it was beginning to focus more on immigration and trying to undo some of the really terrible immigration polices implemented by the administration,” she said. Escobar said other legislation would address the administration’s policies. “We’re not giving up on that, we’re just going to do it separately,” she said.

Border Politics Hurt Homeland Security, Former Chiefs Say: The political discord surrounding border security and immigration policies is distracting the Department of Homeland Security from its other core missions, ex-heads of the agency testified. Former secretaries from both the Bush and Obama administrations Janet Napolitano, Jeh Johnson, and Michael Chertoff testified yesterday to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at a field hearing in New York. The session at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum was part of the lead-up to this week’s anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks that spurred the department’s creation. Read more from Michaela Ross.

Bill to Weaken Tech’s Legal Shield Backed By Hotels: A top trade group representing major hotel chains including Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt is throwing its weight behind new congressional legislation that would weaken a legal liability shield embraced by digital rivals such as Airbnb. The American Hotel and Lodging Association says it supports a bipartisan bill that aims to stop digital rental marketplaces from flouting state and local regulations by using a two-decade-old measure that protects internet platforms from liability for user-generated content.

The proposed legislation is the latest effort by Washington policy makers to pare back the liability exemption enjoyed by technology companies that critics say are struggling to stem the proliferation of fake content, privacy lapses and offensive content on their platforms. Read more from Naomi Nix and Patrick Clark.

House Passes Bill to Cut Diesel Pollution: A bill intended to lower pollution from diesel engines has advanced out of the House. Lawmakers passed the bill 295-114 yesterday. Introduced March 14 by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), the bill would reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s program offering grants and rebates to states and localities to move away from diesel engines or to upgrade older diesel-engine vehicles, such as heavy-duty trucks, school buses, and equipment at ports and airports. Read more from Tiffany Stecker and Amena H. Saiyid.

Cummings Tells Ross to Hand Over Documents: House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to produce by Sept. 19 all unredacted documents related to the panel’s investigation of Ross’ potential conflicts of interest. If the documents are not received, the committee will “consider alternative steps to secure compliance,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Ross, Kim Chipman reports.

Elections, & Politics

Trump Assails North Carolina Democrat: Trump last night urged voters in a North Carolina congressional district to elect Republican Dan Bishop to the House in a special election today, declaring that the candidate’s Democratic challenger, Dan McCready, a former Marine, is part of the “America-hating left.”

Trump spoke at the rally in Fayetteville yesterday, after Vice President Mike Pence crisscrossed the largely rural district earlier in the day to turn out votes for Bishop. The presence of both men in the state reflects Republican worries about the election; while Trump won the district easily in 2016, McCready came within about 900 votes of winning the House seat in 2018. The 2018 election was overturned due to alleged vote fraud by the campaign of McCready’s then-opponent, Mark Harris, forcing a new election this year. Read more from Alex Wayne and Alyza Sebenius.

Sanders Under Pressure to Upstage Warren: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could use a breakout moment in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination — one that could come at the expense of his progressive rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Sanders campaigned in early primary states this summer and added to his pile of far-reaching policy prescriptions, including a $16.3 trillion climate-change plan and an overhaul of the criminal justice system. But opinion surveys have him consistently and unrelentingly tied for second place with Warren — and not close to touching front-runner Joe Biden. Sanders will be under increasing pressure at Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston to end a nonaggression pact with Warren and emerge as the definitive second. Read more from Laura Litvan and Emma Kinery.

Richest Could Lose Under Warren Wealth Tax: Billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett could have collectively lost hundreds of billions of dollars in net worth over decades if presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax plan had been in effect — and they had done nothing to avoid it. That’s according to calculations in a new paper by two French economists, who helped her devise the proposed tax on the wealthiest Americans.

The top 15 richest Americans would have seen their net worth decline by more than half to $433.9 billion had Warren’s plan been in place since 1982, according to the paper by University of California, Berkeley professors Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Read more from Rich Miller and Laura Davison.

Foreign Affairs

Hong Kong’s Lam Opposes U.S. Bill: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pushed back against protester calls for the passage of U.S. legislation that would require annual assessments of the city’s special trading status and allow sanctions on Chinese officials. “The Hong Kong government doesn’t agree on foreign parliaments passing bills to intervene in Hong Hong affairs, and we feel deep regret,” Lam told a regular news briefing today before a meeting of the city’s Executive Council. She called any such foreign action “extremely inappropriate.”

Tens of thousands of protesters marched to the U.S.’s Hong Kong consulate Sunday in an appeal for support from Trump, many waving American flags. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, backed by Pelosi and other prominent U.S. lawmakers, calls for annual assessments on whether the former British colony is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to continue its special trading status. Read more from Natalie Lung and Stephen Tan.

North Korea Tests More Weapons: North Korea delivered a pointed message to the Trump administration — firing two “short-range projectiles” into its eastern seas hours after saying it was willing to restart nuclear talks with the U.S. The launches began shortly before 7 a.m. local time today, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The incident came shortly after a top North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui issued a statement saying the country would be willing to hold talks “at the time and place to be agreed late in September, ” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Read more from Shinhye Kang, Justin Sink and Jihye Lee.

What Else to Know

Gorsuch Says U.S. in ‘Civility Crisis’: The U.S. is facing a “civility crisis,” Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch says in his first book since being appointed by Trump to fill a vacancy that was the focus of an intensely partisan fight. The book, “A Republic, If You Can Keep It,” lays out Gorsuch’s vision of the court’s proper role, arguing that judges should interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning. Conservatives have used that approach to argue for overturning Obamacare, slashing abortion rights and bolstering gun rights.

Gorsuch also touches on the atmospherics surrounding his 2017 nomination. The book describes how, the day before the announcement, Gorsuch and his wife caught their flight to Washington with the help of a neighbor who drove them down a bumpy farm track so they wouldn’t be seen by reporters staking out the family house in Colorado. Read more from Greg Stohr.

Trump Warns of ‘Bad People’ From Bahamas: Trump said the U.S. should be cautious about accepting people from the Bahamas displaced by Hurricane Dorian, saying they could include “some very bad people” including gang members and drug dealers. “We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation,” Trump told reporters yesterday when asked whether the U.S. is requiring visas for people affected by the storm. He added: “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers. So we are going to be very, very strong on that.” Read more from Josh Wingrove and Justin Sink.

Agriculture Official Calls Xi ‘Communist Zealot’: The Agriculture Department’s top trade official called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “communist zealot,” as he warned farmers the Asian leader is a tough adversary in negotiations. Ted McKinney, the department’s undersecretary for trade, offered the provocative characterization of the Chinese leader yesterday at a sensitive time in U.S.-China relations. After a summer of bombast and tariff escalation the two sides have agreed to hold face-to-face working-level staff talks in the coming weeks a nd a ministerial meeting in Washington in early October. Read more from Mike Dorning.

‘Red Flag’ Measure Heads To California Governor: California is preparing to give nervous bosses and worried coworkers the power to ask state courts to confiscate the firearms of people they suspect could turn violent. Under legislation headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), employers, colleagues, and school districts would gain the legal standing to request gun violence restraining orders against potentially dangerous individuals. Read more from Joyce E. Cutler.

NRA Sues San Francisco: San Francisco is infringing on the National Rifle Association’s First Amendment rights in seeking to label it a domestic terrorist organization, the gun rights group said in a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the city is violating the NRA’s freedom of speech and association and retaliating in its declaration that the group met the U.S. Justice Department’s definition of a terrorist organization. Read more from Joyce E. Cutler.

With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick and Emily Wilkins

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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