Easter is approaching, and that means that legislative work in Washington, D.C., is on hold for two weeks. While Congress has left many big issues unaddressed when it left town on its recess, it has also scored some notable accomplishments in the year so far.
Here are some of the big items that Congress has worked on during this legislative session:
Rebuking President Trump’s border wall emergency: When the president declared an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border in order to spend money for a wall, he set up a showdown with Congress. Bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to terminate the president’s emergency declaration. President Trump vetoed this termination resolution, and the House failed to override the veto. Congress can revisit this issue again in a few months.
Approving President Trump’s nominees: Frustrated with what he perceived as Democratic obstructionism, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell engineered a rule change to speed up consideration of presidential nominees. Much of the Senate’s work this year has focused on getting these nominees confirmed.
Net neutrality: The House of Representatives passed a bill that would re-instate “net neutrality” rules. The Federal Communications Commission had instituted regulations in 2015 that imposed restrictions on how Internet service providers price services, provide content, and manage their networks. The FCC removed those rules in 2017.
Election reform: In March, the H.R. 1 passed the House of Representatives with only Democratic support. This legislation would mandate that certain nonprofit corporations engaging in political speech report their donors to the government, mandate that social media companies report the names of those who pay for political ads to the government, require states to same-day voter registration, and mandate how states remove ineligible voters from the rolls, among other things. The Senate is unlikely to take up this bill, however.
And here is what we can expect the House and Senate to address once members return in late April:
Disaster relief: President Trump, congressional Republicans, and Congressional Democrats cannot agree on what a disaster relief package should look like. The president contends that Puerto Rico is mismanaging federal funds, and that has left a disaster aid package for the island’s hurricane recovery, as well as other disasters around the nation, in the lurch. There are indications that Republicans and Democrats in Congress could come to an agreement after the Easter recess, but it is unclear if that agreement would have presidential support.
Yearly spending: If the government is going to avoid shutting down at the end of the year, Congress must pass spending bills to keep it open. The appropriations process will begin after Congress returns from recess and go until at least October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.
Marijuana legislation: With an increasing number of states legalizing marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, more businesses are profiting from marijuana sales. Since the federal government continues to enforce its marijuana prohibition, however, this puts banks and credit unions in a tough position. HR 1595 is a bipartisan bill that would give these financial institutions a safe harbor when they deal with marijuana businesses that comply with state laws. The Financial Services committee passed this legislation in March. The Judiciary is currently considering it. The full House could take up the bill within the next few months if it emerges from this committee.
What do you think Congress should focus on once members come back from their 2-week recess? Should they provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico? Should they ease rules on banks dealing with marijuana businesses? What should happen with federal spending?