Main Story – Snowzilla Hits DC, Iowa Caucuses Loom
By: Matt Vallone
The House of Representatives has cancelled its votes this week due to winter storm Jonas (aka ‘Snowzilla’). The Senate will be in on Wednesday to vote on judicial nominees. The House will have been in session nine days in the month of January, but expect the schedule to get a bit more hectic once we move in to budget season.
Beyond digging out, DC is largely focused on the upcoming Iowa caucuses, the real start of the 2016 presidential campaign. Despite only being a week away, both the Democratic and Republican caucuses remain highly competitive. Questions abound as to whether Donald Trump voters will actually show up (color us skeptical), whether Sanders or Clinton has the better field operation, and if anyone in the Republican establishment can crash the top two. As of Monday morning, Nate Silver gave former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton an 82% chance of winning on the Democratic side (a strict polling average drops that number to 69%) and Senator Ted Cruz a 48% chance of winning on the Republican side (Donald Trump is the favorite of the polls-only forecast with a 55% chance of winning). More information is available at his FiveThirtyEight website here.
While it’s impossible to predict how this cycle will play out, the dominance of Cruz and Trump in Iowa and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders could prove problematic for those hoping for a major defense boost in FY 2018. On the Republican side, while both Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz have pledged to strengthen the military, they both are positioned in the less hawkish wing of the party and may be less willing to side with defense when faced with competing budget priorities should they be elected. Similarly, a Clinton or a Sanders presidency would look very different in terms of defense spending. As Republicans are almost certain to hold the House of Representatives absent some sort of Goldwater-esque blowout, the downside is somewhat limited, but it is certainly too early to assume that the slight increases in spending of the past few years will continue.
In other news, the wait on the FY2017 budget continues. While the formal release date is set for February 9th, reports indicate that Secretary Carter will start to preview some of the material in the next few weeks, so look for new tidbits of information that we will try to summarize in this space.
Congressional Defense Activity
SASC – No hearings this week
HASC – No hearings this week
Government Activity Round-up
The federal government is closed today (and maybe tomorrow, depending on how digging out goes), but last week GAO issued an interesting report improving guidance for participants in R&D activities that’s worth reading.
If you’re more of a budget nerd, the CBO issued one its updates on the budget and its economic forecast. TLDR, the budget deficit resumes rising this year and economic growth won’t be so hot.