Congress Returns (Beltway Buzz, November/16/2018)

Author:Mr James J. Plunkett and Harold P. Coxson
Profession:Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart

The Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what's happening in Washington, D.C. could impact your business.

Congress Returns. While New York has an awesome duck, Washington, D.C., has a lame duck. Yes, Congress returned this week for its post-election lame-duck session. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are scheduled to be in session until December 14, 2018 (with the week of Thanksgiving off), but that targeted adjournment date can always be moved up or extended. So what's on tap for the four-week race to the end of this session of Congress? Appropriations will be perhaps the most significant issue, as a portion of the federal government's funding runs out on December 7, 2018. There are also rumors that Congress could explore criminal justice reform. In the labor and employment space, there could be activity on retirement policy regarding both individual retirement plans and multi-employer pension plans. Finally, the Senate will likely continue to focus on nominations to the federal bench and executive branch agencies.

Preview: 116th Congress. In case you thought you read all of the 2018 midterm election postmortems, think again. At least at the Buzz, we will keep it short and limited to labor and employment policy implications. Here is our take of what to expect from the 116th Congress in 2019:

In the Senate, look for Republicans to continue to push for confirmation of executive branch nominees and federal judges. In the first two years of the Trump administration, Republicans have confirmed 31 federal court judges (including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh), which already represents a significant and sweeping change to the federal bench. Labor and employment legislative activity will likely be very minimal. In the House, Democrats will control the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Labor. As the presumptive chairman, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) may push a legislative agenda that includes issues such as paid leave, sexual harassment and arbitration, minimum wage, and pay equity. Look for intense oversight of the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as a means to shine a light on their policy agendas and as a tool to slow those agendas down. Finally, don't be surprised if private-sector employers receive letters from Scott inquiring about corporate diversity, anti-harassment efforts...

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