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What Could Happen in February

Angel Padilla - 01/26/2018

The Congressional calendar for February is still in flux, but we wanted to give you the latest information on what could happen in February. Below, you’ll learn more about the issues that could potentially come up, why they matter, and how they might play out.

No matter what else happens, we know one thing: Congress will have its first recess of the year the week of February 19, and it’s time to turn up the heat on every Member of Congress (MoC) who has taken a bad vote. We’ll have a recess toolkit coming out soon to help you out when you see your MoC at town halls and other public events, so stay tuned!

Immigration

Protecting Dreamers from Deportation

  • What’s the issue: Donald Trump ended DACA, creating an unnecessary crisis as Republicans stood by his side in support. This is not a “March problem” — Dreamers are being deported now because of Trump and his allies in Congress. Democrats gave up their best chance of the year to protect Dreamers from the Trump deportation machine when they gave in to the Republicans and voted for a short-term funding bill that did not include the Dream Act. Now, Senators are engaged in bipartisan talks to try to reach a compromise before the current government funding bill expires on February 8—but signs are that they aren’t making much progress.

  • What to expect: The White House released their list of demands for what they expect Congress to do in return for protecting Dreamers on Thursday, January 25, and unsurprisingly it is a racist, xenophobic wishlist from the brain of Stephen Miller. Provisions such as building a wall on the U.S.’s southern border and ending family reunification are the highlights of a proposal that has already generated intense opposition from immigration advocates.

  • Bottom line: The White House and hardline elements of the Republican congressional caucus, led by Tom Cotton in the Senate and Bob Goodlatte and Steve King in the House, are continuing in their racist quest to prevent non-white immigrants from being able to come to America. Democrats must fight to prevent America’s immigration policy from slipping further into white nationalism, and instead demand that Dreamers get the protection they deserve.

Foreign Policy

Stop Trump’s Devastating War in Yemen

  • What’s the issue: Trump has doubled down on the United States’ participation in the Yemen civil war. By backing a Saudi-led coalition with weapons, intelligence, and refueling support, the U.S. is complicit in the massive humanitarian crisis that has resulted, and has entered into a tangled web of alliances that is counter to our national security. What’s more, Congress has never authorized this war, even though the Constitution places war authority powers in the legislature’s hands. It’s time for Congress to do its job and rebuke the #TrumpThreatLevel.

  • What to expect: A bipartisan group of senators is planning to use a procedure under the War Powers Resolution to force a vote on the Senate floor to stop Trump’s war in Yemen. This will happen very quickly, and a vote is expected in early February. Each senator will have to decide whether to reclaim their constitutional war powers, or give yet more power to Trump.

  • Bottom line: Tell your senators to vote for this resolution and stop Trump’s illegal and inhumane war in Yemen—there’s a short window of time to influence this vote. We’ll have a resource ready for you once we see legislative text of the resolution.

Infrastructure

Stop the Trump Tolls

  • What’s the issue: Trump will unveil his infrastructure plan during his State of the Union on January 30, with a more fleshed-out framework following that in February. His plan is expected to lean heavily on private investors to finance rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure—which means weakened labor and environmental standards, higher state and local taxes, and higher costs to repay via tolls and user fees.

  • What to expect: Republicans are not going to use reconciliation to try to pass an infrastructure bill, which is a key difference when looking at this fight compared to their efforts on health care and taxes last year. They will need 60 votes to pass any bill in the Senate, which means our goal is to have Senate Democrats push for a real plan that is robust, comprehensive, equitable, and sustainable—and not this Wall Street giveaway masquerading as an infrastructure plan.

  • Bottom line: This plan is geared toward funding gigantic mega-projects that reward private equity with the highest profits—and it won’t help smaller rural communities and communities of color with the repairs they need to their roads, bridges, transit systems, schools, affordable housing, water systems, and electric grids. There will be a week of action the week of February 5 to protest the Trump Tolls plan; stay tuned for more information.

Health Care

Medicaid Work Requirements

  • What’s the issue: In January, the Trump Administration sent a letter to state Medicaid Directors letting them know that the Administration supports the addition of work requirements as a condition of Medicaid eligibility. They characterized this as a “demonstration project”—but there is no experimental value in imposing this new barrier to Medicaid eligibility. It does not further Medicaid’s objectives.

  • What to expect: Ten states have already applied for waivers to add work requirements. More states could apply, and the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) could issue additional approvals.

  • Bottom line: This is another Trump Administration attack on Medicaid. Governors across the country—even Democratic governors in Louisiana and North Carolina!—are looking to team up with him to take health care away from people who need it. Use our explainer and call script to tell your governor and MoC not impose work requirements on Medicaid.

Republican Attacks on Safe Access to Abortion

  • What’s the issue: The Senate will likely vote on a bill in late January or early February that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” passed the House in October, and will require 60 Senators to support it to defeat a filibuster and pass the Senate.

  • What to expect: It’s unlikely that Mitch McConnell will be able to pull together the 60 votes he needs, but a few Democrats are likely to cross over and vote with the Republicans to curtail a woman’s right to choose. (It is also likely that at least Susan Collins will cross over to vote with the Democrats.)

  • Bottom line: This bill (S. 1922 in the Senate) is a horrifying, extreme attack on reproductive health and a woman’s right to choose. Tell your Senator to stand up for women and families, and oppose the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Consumer Protection

Republicans Are Rolling Back Dodd-Frank—with Help from Democrats

  • What’s the issue: House Republicans voted to gut the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law this past summer with legislation called the “Financial CHOICE Act.” Now, on the heels of a huge giveaway to the rich and corporations with the #GOPTaxScam, the Senate is back with its own, Heritage Foundation-endorsed version of Wall Street deregulation.

  • What to expect: The “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2155) is expected to hit the Senate floor in February. While not as radically extreme as the CHOICE Act, this bill would still put us at risk of another financial crisis, allow racial discrimination in mortgage lending to go unchecked, and erode critical consumer protections.

  • Bottom line: Because this bill has been flying under the radar, it currently has 12 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate. This bill goes way beyond “helping community banks” — it benefits some of largest banks in the country. Use our resource to call your Senator and tell them to oppose this dangerous bill—especially if they’re a current Democratic co-sponsor.

Protecting Net Neutrality

  • What’s the issue: The FCC voted 3-2 in December to move forward with the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” a deceptively-named rollback of the net neutrality rules put in place in 2015 under President Obama. This rollback will go into effect later this year, unless the House and Senate both pass (and Trump signs) a “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would nullify the new rule.

  • What to expect: Once the FCC submits the Restoring Internet Freedom Order to the Federal Register and both chambers of Congress, it starts a 60-day clock for members of the House and Senate to use the CRA to prevent it from taking effect. The path to passage for a resolution of disapproval is easier in the Senate than in the House because there is an unusual procedure in the CRA that Senate Democrats can use to force a vote.

  • Bottom line: Now that Susan Collins has said she will join Senate Democrats in voting for the resolution of disapproval, only one more Republican Senator needs to join them to guarantee its passage in the Senate. You can call your Republican Senator and tell them to protect net neutrality by co-sponsoring Senator Markey’s resolution of disapproval

Setting the Stage for The Rest of The Year

The President’s Budget

  • What’s the Issue: The President’s budget is expected to be released on February 12. Remember, it is only a non-binding proposal. Congress will ultimately determine which programs are funded and at what levels. Nevertheless, the President’s budget is a statement in writing of the Administration’s priorities that will make clear what he and his party actually care about.

  • What to expect: The proposed budget will likely have huge cuts to critical domestic programs, like Medicaid, nutrition assistance, environmental protection, housing, public education, and more—in order to offset big increases in military spending.

  • Bottom line: It is an opportunity for us to hold Trump and his Republican Party accountable for the terrible choices their budget will likely reflect.

Party Policy Retreats

  • What’s the issue: Both parties will have their annual policy retreats at the beginning of February—Republicans from January 31-February 2 at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, and Democrats from February 7-9.

  • What to expect: Party retreats are when Congressional leadership from both chambers works to align their priorities and legislative strategy for the coming year. We should have a much better idea of how each party plans to handle the run-up to the midterms after they are done with their retreats.

  • Bottom line: It isn’t clear what Republicans will try to ram through the legislative process this year, nor how Democrats will fight back. After these retreats, the agenda for the next few months on the Hill should be clearer.