By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: On Paper a Quiet Week
After completing a long and (relatively) grueling six week in-session to open the new Congress, Senators and Representatives alike are no doubt looking forward to the upcoming February recess. However, before they can get home to constituent meetings and touring local businesses, one more week of voting remains. This week should be relatively quiet in both chambers as the Senate has reached a rare agreement on scheduling votes for several of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees and the House will continue to mostly focus on rolling back Obama-administration regulations. As a result, it’s possible that Congress could get through this final week without any major blowouts, though given how the year has gone so far, it’s almost certain that something will come up.
While Congress might be easing into a break, we here at Avascent have been very busy. Last week, we rolled out our projections for the Trump Administration’s FY2018 budget request. If you missed it, we have a recording of the webinar we can make available to you. Our projections represent what we believe to be a fairly reasonable middle ground between the bullish topline targets of some defense hawks and the stagnant near-term history of the budget process. While we don’t think the Trump administration can sustain significant increases in defense spending over time, we fully expect a significant increase in the FY18 and FY19 budgets.
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House Activity – As it has for most of the year, the House will spend the week passing suspension bills and legislation overturning a handful of Obama-administration adopted rules. In addition, a bill by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry will be brought up for a vote. This bill, the ‘Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act,’ would place limits on the Bureau of Land Management’s activities in the area around the Red River.
Senate Activity – Last week the Senate reached an agreement to quickly vote on a series of President Trump’s cabinet nominees early this week. On Monday, Steve Mnuchin will be confirmed as Treasury Secretary, followed by votes on David Shulkin to head the VA and Linda McMahon to run the Small Business Administration. However, longer floor fights are likely for most of the remaining nominees as chances are that Democrats will hold up votes on Rep. Mick Mulvaney (OMB), Scott Pruitt (EPA), Ben Carson (HUD), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), and Andrew Puzder (Labor). Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Trump’s nominee to head the Department of the Interior, is the only other non-controversial nominee. It remains unlikely that all of the nominations will be finished by the time the Senate breaks for the President’s Day recess on Friday.
- 2/14 CLOSED HEARING: ‘Long-term Defense Challenges and Strategies,’ Full Committee Hearing, SVC-217, 930am
- 2/14 ‘Department of Defense Single Servicemember and Military Family Readiness Programs,’ Subcommittee on Personnel Hearing, SR-222 Russell, 230pm
- 2/16 ‘Reshaping the Military,’ Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 2/14 ‘The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies,’ Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
- 2/16 ‘Military Services 5th Generation Tactical Aircraft Challenges and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Update,’ Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, 2212 Rayburn, 9am
- HAC-D – No hearing scheduled
- SAC-D – No hearing scheduled
Government Activity Round-Up
So, only a couple of interesting government reports this week. First, CBO has released new budget infographics with information on the federal budget, spending, and deficit from calendar year 2016. Plenty to check out here. Over at the GAO there are all sorts of reports out, but the most interesting looks at what needs to be done to make the DoD auditable. Basically, three independent public accountants looked at the books for the three services for FY 2015 and none of them could issue an opinion. As has been the case for years, DoD faces massive issues with actually getting its finances in decent, auditable shape. Full report here.
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