Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Week in Review (December 31, 2018 - January 4, 2019)

On Thursday January 3, the 116th Congress was sworn in and convened for its first session. Following the swearing-in, the House passed its new adopted rules package, both chambers formally elected their leadership, and work officially began for the 116th. Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown continues and entered its 14th day on Friday.

Nominations

Before the end of the 115th, the Senate confirmed a series of pending nominees including Michael Kubayanda to be a Commissioner of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) for the remainder of a six-year term expiring November 22, 2020. Read more here.

116th Convenes

On January 3, the new Congress was sworn in, including over 100 new members from both parties. It’s first order of business was electing Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the ‘new’ Speaker of the House, having previously held the role from 2007-2011. She will lead the House in the 116th Congress and is joined by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). Read the full breakdown of House Democrat and Republican leadership here and here respectively. Full House committee assignments are expected to take shape in the coming weeks.

Following leadership elections on the House floor, the House advanced a new rules package, which maintains the vast majority of the rules from the 115th Congress but includes some changes. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will be renamed the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the House Education and the Workforce Committee will be renamed the House Education and Labor Committee. The new rules will also repeal limits on the terms of service for committee chairs, ban members from serving on the boards of publicly traded companies, and require indicted or formally charged members to resign from committee membership. Tax increases will no longer require a 3/5 super majority vote in the House and legislative text must be posted 72 hours before a vote may be held. Finally, and among others, the new package eliminates the ‘Holman rule,’ which allowed members to offer amendments to appropriations bills that reduced funding for staffing, the number of employees or their salary, or compensation paid from the federal government.

House Democrats also took the opportunity on day one to outline their priorities by introducing H.R. 1, a legislative package that would reform voting rights, campaign finance, and government ethics. In most Congresses, H.R. 1 is typically reserved for the party in power to showcase their intentions and goals, providing a platform for lawmakers to communicate and organize around. Among other provisions, the legislation would expand no-excuse-absentee voting (including vote by mail), but it remains unclear how the measure will be paid for. NALC will update letter carriers as it knows more.

Resolutions

NALC’s priority resolutions are in the process of being introduced in the new 116th Congress. Door delivery has been introduced as House Resolution 23 (H.Res. 23) and stay tuned for each of the others as they become available.

House Resolution 23 (H.Res. 23)
Status: Introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA)
Co-sponsors: 3 (1 Democrat – 2 Republicans)

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States Postal Service should take all appropriate measures to ensure the continuation of door delivery for all business and residential customers.

Shutdown Activity

The House sought to address the partial government shutdown immediately by passing two spending bills that would reopen all of government, provide back pay to federal employees who were furloughed or forced to work without pay during the lapse, and provide a pay-raise for federal employees. H.R. 21, supported by Democrats and 7 Republicans, would fund eight of the nine shuttered departments for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2019. H.J.Res. 1, supported by Democrats and 5 Republicans, would fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through February 8 without including new border wall money sought by President Trump, in order to provide time to debate funding levels.

In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would not allow the legislation to go to a vote in the Senate, sticking to his position that the chamber will only vote on spending legislation if the President supported it. Because the House legislation did not include the requested funds, it can be assumed the President would not support it.

On Thursday, the Federal Postal Coalition (of which NALC is a member) sent letters urging the government to find immediate consensus and end this partial shutdown. The letters were sent to the House, Senate, and White House.

Last week, President Trump instituted a pay freeze for federal civilian employees in 2019 via executive order (viewable here) citing the “nation’s fiscal situation,” despite previous statements that he would consider a raise. Members of the military will receive a 2.6 percent increase in pay for 2019. This pay freeze does not apply to letter carriers and will only take effect if Congress fails to act.

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