Washington Snapshot: Government Shutdown Set to Continue, New Members in the House Ways and Means Committee

In This Week's Edition of Snapshot…

News from the Hill

No End to the Government Shutdown

The government shutdown is now on its fourth week, with no signs of ending. On Tuesday, President Trump invited centrist Democrats and Republicans for a luncheon meeting at the White House to discuss reopening the government and funding for a border wall. As POLITICO reported, no Democrats accepted the invitation to the meeting.

Later on Tuesday, the House voted 237-187 on H.J.Res.27 —a continuing resolution that would have reopened the nine shuttered federal departments through Feb. 1. The measure failed to get the required two-thirds majority for passage. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to be unwilling to consider any spending legislation that does not include funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to President Trump asking him to “work together to determine another suitable date” to deliver the State of the Union address after the government re-opens, or to deliver it in writing and forgo the speech instead. Lawmakers are also considering cancelling the first week of recess due to the government shutdown.

Meanwhile over 800,000 federal employees are currently impacted by the shutdown, with 380,000 furloughed and 420,000 working without pay. The latter number is set to increase as thousands of federal workers are called back to work without pay. Among them are aviation safety inspectors, as well as food, drug and medical inspectors. Thousands of IRS employees are also expected to go back to work without pay if the government shutdown continues past Jan. 28—the beginning of the tax season.

Council members across the nation are responding to the needs the shutdown has created within their communities. One example is the USAA Foundation, which provided a $500,000 grant to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) Inc. to disburse interest-free loans to Coast Guard personnel, with the assistance of the American Red Cross Hero Care Center electronic fund distribution process. USAA has donated $15 million as well. Coast Guard service members needing assistance should visit www.cgmahq.org

New Members in the House Ways & Means Committee

On Monday, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) was appointed to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee by the House Democrats Steering Committee. Rep. Gomez’s appointment is in part the result of complaints from members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus about the lack of representation and diversity on the Committee. Without Rep. Gomez’s appointment, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) would have been the only Democratic Hispanic Caucus member serving on the committee.

Rep. Gomez’s assignment is also related to a push for more representation from the California delegation, which has the largest number of members in the House of Representatives. With his addition, the House Ways and Means Committee now has 3 Democratic members from California: Reps. Gomez, Sánchez, and Chu. House Republicans also announced three new members for the Ways and Means Committee: Reps. Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), and Ron Estes (R-KS).

Yesterday, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) announced the Democratic membership and new chairs of the Ways and Means Committee subcommittees for the 116th Congress, and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) released the Republicans subcommittee ranking members and subcommittee assignments.

Representative King Removed from Committees

On Monday the House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) stripped Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his committee assignments on the House Judiciary and Agriculture Committees. According to the Wall Street Journal, these actions come after Rep. King told the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”.

Confirmation Hearing for Trump’s Attorney General Nominee

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee started the confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr. During the first hearing, Mr. Barr—who served as Attorney General under President H.W. Bush—reassured senators on both sides of the aisle that, if confirmed, he would allow Special Counsel Robert Muller to proceed with the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Several senators sought reassurance from Mr. Barr about his ability to bring stability to the Justice Department after the turbulent relationship between the president and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Barr said, “I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong—by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the President.”

Mr. Barr is expected to be easily confirmed, given that Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and some Democrats are expected to approve his nomination.


Executive and Regulatory Affairs

Judge Rules Against Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Judge Furman wrote, “[Commerce] Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census—even if it did not violate the Constitution itself—was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The decision comes as the plaintiffs of the two lawsuits argued that the citizenship question was motivated by discrimination against immigrants, and that it could lead to significant undercounting that could translate into fewer congressional seats, and the loss of billions of dollars in federal funding in districts with large numbers of immigrants.  

The administration maintains that the citizenship question was added so that the Justice Department could use the data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act provision to protect racial and language minorities from being discriminated against. The district court ruling in New York is expected to be appealed by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately be sent to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile a second trial over the citizenship question began earlier this month in California, and another is set to begin in Maryland on Jan. 22.


Happening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

State of the State Addresses 2019

As new and returning governors take the podium to frame their policy priorities for the upcoming year, nonprofits and foundations can take note of how they can help shape decisions on issues affecting the sector. Tax reform remains a top priority as states respond to the federal tax law passed in 2017. Newly elected Idaho Governor Little plans to introduce tax reform legislation, while Virginia Governor Northam will seek to tackle the state’s earned income credit before turning to the state’s conformity to the federal tax law. South Carolina Governor McMaster is calling for cutting all personal income brackets by one percent over five years, and Arkansas Governor Hutchinson has a 2-4-5.9 plan to reduce the tax rates to 2, 4, and 5.9 percent, respectively. Colorado Governor Polis proposes tax cuts for the middle-class while removing benefits for corporations in state tax reform efforts. Focusing on stabilization and savings, Wyoming Governor Gordon is seeking no new taxes this year. The tax base, rather than the tax rate, is the priority for Vermont Governor Scott as he looks to bring more people into the state, and property tax relief is top of mind for Nebraska Governor Ricketts.

Other priorities affecting the nonprofit sector are also top of mind for the chief executives. Governor Edwards of Louisiana and Governor Sisolak of Nevada used their annual addresses to call for raises for teachers and education reform, respectively. North Dakota Governor Burgum identifies infrastructure, natural resources, and a strong workforce as his priorities in 2019. Connecticut Governor Lamont is committing to a $15 minimum wage, digitization, paid family leave, and better education across the state. Mississippi Governor Bryant is focused on the strong economy in his state. New York Governor Cuomo, in his ninth state of the state address, announced his “Justice Agenda” that focuses on equitable school funding, criminal justice reform, health care safeguards, and protecting the rights of women, among other issues. 

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