What’s facing Congress this December

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Congress has a lot to do in the remaining 13 legislative days of 2019. Here’s a look ahead at the big issues you can hope to see this December.

Federal Government Funding

Absent additional action by Congress, funding for the federal government is set to expire on December 20. What we know so far isn’t much, but it’s telling. First, a full-year stopgap funding extension (expiring Sept 31, 2020) would cut government spending by $100 billion, which is unlikely to gain support in Congress. Additionally, with the election right around the corner in 2020, a government shutdown doesn’t serve anyone’s interests. But sources on the hill are confident that Congress will be able to fund the government by the Dec. 20 deadline. For horticulture, and especially landscape businesses, the outcome of long-sought H-2B visa cap relief is tied to the government funding resolution, so we’ll be watching it closely and applying pressure for an H-2B fix.

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

Negotiations between the White House and the House of Representatives to bring the USMCA up for a vote in the house remain ongoing, with a potential House vote as early as Congress’ first week back. In late November House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated she was “eager to get this done.” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal was also quoted recently as saying “we’re very close” to reaching a deal. Legislators and the White House are anxious to get the legislation off the ground soon to avoid it becoming entangled in election-year politics.

Other Concerns

Congress is also expected to consider other important legislation, though with little applicability to the green sector.

  • Just before the Thanksgiving recess, lawmakers were debating provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a large bill outlining policy and spending for the Defense Department, which must be renewed before year’s end.
  • Work is ongoing in the Senate to come to a consensus on a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
  • The House Democratic majority hopes to file formal articles of impeachment against President Trump before year’s end.
  • We are hopeful that the House will also hold a floor vote on H.R. 5038, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. There’s precious little time to do so, but the bill presents a great chance to advance a very important aspect of immigration and visa policy reform for nursery and greenhouse growers.
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