This Week in Washington for January 7, 2019
By Dina Ellis
THE BIG PICTURE
The 116th Congress was sworn into office on Thursday. By a vote of 220-192, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected Speaker of the House for the second time in her career. In accepting the gavel, she celebrated the historic diversity of the incoming class and noted it was an “honor to serve with more than 100 women in the House of Representatives — the highest number in history.” The House also released its rules package, which included proposals to tighten ethics rules, increase participation by rank and file members, and establish a select committee on climate change and an office of diversity and inclusion.
The partial government shutdown continued as congressional leaders and the President remained at an impasse over the issue of funding a wall on the southern border. During a meeting convened at the White House on Friday, President Trump indicated he felt the shutdown could continue for “months or even years” unless his funding demands were met. The now Democrat-controlled House passed a series of continuing resolutions aimed at reopening the closed agencies, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not bring the proposals to a vote without the President’s approval. In addition to the 800,000 federal workers who are currently directly impacted, the effects of the shutdown are beginning to be felt across many sectors—from the launching of IPOs, mortgages, access to national parks, tax refunds, the federal judiciary, and even the ability of D.C. to issue marriage licenses.
Other highlights of last week include:
Amid mounting criticism by the President, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told an audience that he would not resign if asked to by President Trump.
The December jobs report showed a strong month for the economy, revealing that 312,000 jobs were added while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 3.9%.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced his plan to retire in 2020 instead of running for another term.
LAST WEEK ON THE HILL
HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
No hearings were held.
Committee Updates: Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) took over as Chair of the Committee, marking a shift in the Committee’s focus to issues of housing and consumer protections, in addition to more aggressive oversight.
SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE
No hearings were held.
Committee Updates: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that Freshman Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) would be joining the Senate Banking Committee.
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED AND PROPOSED
Furlough Pay: On Thursday, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) re-introduced a bill that would guarantee back pay to furloughed federal employees. The bill was originally passed by the last Congress on December 21st by unanimous consent, but the House had already adjourned, preventing the bill from making it to the President’s desk.
Political Reform: On Friday, House Democrats introduced H.R. 1, an ethics reform package that includes a requirement for future Presidential nominees to release 10 years of their tax returns. The proposal also includes changes to election security, voting rights, and campaign finance regulations.
THIS WEEK ON THE HILL
No hearings were scheduled.
Survey of CFPB Employees Reveals Dissatisfaction with Leadership: The results of an annual survey, which was conducted in August while the CFPB was still under the direction of former acting director Mick Mulvaney, reveal that nearly half of respondents indicated they do not “have a high level of respect” for the organization’s leadership, while an even larger share don’t feel leadership is able to “generate high levels of motivation and commitment.”
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS
PenFed Acquires Progressive Credit Union: The Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) acquired Progressive Credit Union, enabling it to offer “great rates for everyone” as PCU’s national charter was grandfathered in by the state of New York. The merger may ruffle some feathers among other banking institutions, who have sought to limit the ability of credit unions to serve a wider swathe of the population.
Religious Groups Challenge Use of Facial Recognition Technology: A group of religious organizations has filed a petition calling on Amazon to cease sales of facial recognition technologies to government agencies, arguing that they pose risks to human rights and could “be used in a very aggressive way toward minority populations, immigrant populations and refugee populations.”