Congressional activity: week of 7/29 to 8/2

by NonExpert_NotAdvice

Good Sunday, and welcome to this (late) installment of Congressional activity and financial markets. The general idea is that the statements and actions of federal legislators can have an effect on broader markets. I try to provide interesting happenings as well as participants. I don’t suggest any specific positions: I’d like those to come from consensus in the discussion.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • All of this is subject to change at any time (i.e. votes can be delayed, hearings can be canceled, witnesses can be struck). The House and Senate operate under their own rules, and those rules are entirely enforced by the chambers themselves.
  • The House is controlled by Democrats, and the Senate is controlled by Republicans. So if a hearing is happening in the House, it is somewhat safe to assume that it reflect a relatively liberal position. However, the committees have representation by both parties, so the discussion won’t be entirely one-sided.
  • In general, recorded votes on the “floor” of either chamber are taken the most seriously, followed by votes (or hearings) taken by the full committee, followed by votes (or hearings) by a subcommittee.
  • The Senate is generally taken more seriously than the House, since it moves slower and is less likely to produce legislation. Thus, the legislation it does produce is exceptionally important. A corollary, though, is that the Senate has much less activity in any given week (only 100 members, but the same workload [plus appointments] as the 435-member House).
  • The floor schedule of either chamber is notoriously hard to predict more than a day or two in advance, as it is structured almost entirely by party leadership and can change on the whims of that leadership. Hearings, however, are relatively more stable and scheduled. (In other words, the hearings are much more certain to happen, while the votes can be added or subtracted with much less certainty.)
  • This is not all activity, just activity most likely to be relevant to financial markets. There is also no guarantee this activity has an effect on any individual stock or market. I’m not an expert, and this is not advice. It is the beginning of a discussion.

Results from last week:

  • MO weekly puts were up 200% on the first day of the JUUL hearings.
  • Cannabis weeklies were up 50% on the morning of the weed banking hearings.

Shared activity (across both chambers):

None, explicitly. The House has gone on one of its many annual six-week vacations (thehill.com/homenews/house/454817-house-leaves-for-six-week-august-recess), which makes this post <much> shorter than usual. But the main thing the House did was pass a budget bill (abcnews.go.com/Politics/house-passes-trumps-bipartisan-deal-lift-budget-spending/story?id=64573914) before leaving. The bill does a number of things: it ends sequestration, which was the mandatory cutting of certain discretionary spending if budget deadlines were not met. More importantly, it suspends the debt ceiling for two years (until after the 2020 presidential election), which takes the pressure of another shutdown off the table (remember when that happened?) and punts until the next election. The Senate should pick it up sometime this week—again, it’s basically impossible to predict when—which should ease fiscal pressure (except the debt) for the foreseeable future.


House activity:

The House is in recess until early September. Of course, they can call themselves out of recess any time they like. But this is rare.


Senate activity:

The Senate is expected to vote some time on the bipartisan budget bill outlined above.

The Senate is expected to hold a veto-override vote on S J Res 36, S J Res 37, and S J Res 38, which are variants of Congressional prohibitions on arms sales to other countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. The president’s veto messages on each outlined the security interest in placating Saudi Arabia (www.imperialvalleynews.com/index.php/8-news/18994-s-j-res-36-s-j-res-37-s-j-res-38-veto-messages.html). The interesting thing will be how many Republicans, especially in the Senate, vote to override the veto. For instance, the original vote on S J Res 36 was 53-45, with zero Democrats voting against (www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/36/all-actions?overview=closed&q=%7B%22roll-call-vote%22%3A%22all%22%7D). Lindsay Graham was one of the Republicans to vote for the resolution, which is unexpected.

The reason this matters is it will serve as a thermometer for further action against the president in … other areas … in the Senate. Impeachment, as you all know, is a two-step process. The House can bring articles of impeachment all on its own with a <simple> majority. In the past, bringing these articles has exerted a ton of political pressure, especially on presidents (which is why Nixon resigned). But in the present, those articles would go to the Senate, who would then have to actually try the articles in a sort of trial, with the Chief Justice presiding. The Senate is controlled by Republicans, and Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly that impeachment articles would be dead-on-arrival (thehill.com/homenews/senate/445512-senate-gop-pledges-to-quickly-quash-any-trump-impeachment-charges). For impeachment to be successful in the Senate, it would require a <2/3> majority, or a lot of Republicans voting against the president. Overriding any of S J Res 36, 37, or 38 would also require a 2/3 majority, and the similar yardsticks are why people will be paying some attention.

The Senate will hold full committee hearings on 7/30 on regulatory frameworks for blockchain technologies (www.banking.senate.gov/hearings/examining-regulatory-frameworks-for-digital-currencies-and-blockchain). In theory, if you had cryptocurrency holdings, this might affect those holdings directly. But Senators are simple-minded folk, and they for sure don’t understand the implications of cryptocurrency. Instead, I’m guessing that most of them will rail on Facebook and corporations, and you’ll hear the names Bitcoin and Libra way more than anything else.

The Senate will hold full committee hearings on 7/30 on the USMCA (www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/the-united-states-mexico-canada-agreement). The witness list is all over: dairy farmers, jewelry makers, automotive trade reps. My guess is that completing the deal would be good.

The Senate will hold full committee hearings on 7/31 on positive train control (www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=4D197EB1-ADA7-402A-8F12-A87FF4B1682Fen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_train_control). Look: not much is going on in Congress this week. But positive train control includes a bunch of regulations on trains taking turns and crew sleep and a bunch of other safety stuff (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_train_control). The sole interesting thing is that PTC is expected to cost between $6-$20 billion, with most of the cost borne by train operators. If the (Republican, anti-regulatory) Senate guides toward easing the regulatory burden, it could lift a crosswind on the industry.

 

 

Disclaimer: Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.