By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: Russia, Health Care and SCOTUS Dominate DC
This is a busy week in Washington, though the action for aerospace and defense is more limited. On Monday, the testimony of FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers before the House Intelligence Committee generated massive headlines as the FBI Director first confirmed the existence of an investigation into collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He followed this up by later stating that there is no evidence to support President Trump’s claim that the phonelines of Trump Tower were tapped by the Obama White House. At the same time, President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch kicked off a week of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Finally, on Thursday House Republicans plan on passing legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, though vote counts remain tight. In any other week, each of these stories would dominate headlines, but with all three going on it will be difficult for anything else to get any oxygen here in DC.
In terms of aerospace and defense or the budget, there’s much less going on. The FY 2017 Department of Defense appropriations have been passed by the House and are now before the Senate. However, complicating matters is that last week the administration released a supplemental request for $30 billion additional dollars in spending for FY 2017. This is not unexpected, as our internal model estimated there would be a $28 billion request, but it does pose difficulties for the Senate, where 40 Democrats can filibuster spending bills. In addition, rather than requesting money for Overseas Contingency Operations, the supplemental requests money for base spending. This seems like a rather esoteric detail, but increasing base spending will require making adjustments to the Budget Control Act, whereas increasing OCO would not, something that many Republican deficit hawks would prefer not to do. Thus, the supplemental runs afoul of not one, but two important groups in the Senate, making passage extremely difficult. As the government must be funded by April 28th, it will be interesting to watch how negotiations on this legislation unfold. We believe that the fight over FY 2017 spending should be viewed as a key indicator in whether the Trump administration will be able to push through increased defense spending for FY 2018 and beyond. So while all the attention and press will be on SCOTUS, Russia, and health care, keep an ear out for early discussions on FY 2017 spending.
House Activity – The House is scheduled to vote on a handful of health care related legislation this week, the most important of which is a scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628). This is legislation that would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a Republican alternative. It is unclear if this legislation will pass, though negotiations are ongoing.
Senate Activity – The Senate remains largely focused on nominations, with votes planned on two nominees to the U.S. Sentencing commission. However, most of the attention will be on the Judiciary Committee, where Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be attempting to fend off Democratic attacks all week.
- 3/21 ‘U.S. Policy and Strategy in Europe’, Full Committee Hearing, G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 3/22 ‘Army Modernization’, Subcommittee on Airland, 222 Russell, 330pm
- 3/23 ‘United States European Command’, Full Committee Hearing, G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 3/23 ‘Department of Defense Civilian Personnel Reform, Subcommittee on Personnel, 232A Russell, 230pm
- 3/21 ‘America’s Role in the World’, Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
- 3/21 ‘Social Media Policies of the Military Services’, Military Personnel Subcommittee, 2118 Rayburn, 330pm
- 3/22 ‘The Evolution of Hybrid Warfare and Key Challenges’, Full Committee Hearing, 2118 Rayburn, 10am
- 3/22 ‘The Current State of the U.S. Air Force’, Readiness Subcommittee, 2118 Rayburn, 2pm
- 3/23 ‘High Consequences and Uncertain Threats: Reviewing Department of Defense Strategy, Policy, and Programs for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction for Fiscal Year 2018’, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, 2118 Rayburn, 1030am
- HAC-D – No hearing scheduled
- SAC-D – 3/22 ‘Hearing to review the budget and readiness of the Department of Defense’, 192 Dirksen, 1030am
Government Activity Round-Up
CBO was crashing on health care this week, so we’ll just re-link the debt limit piece from March 7th. On the 16th, Treasury reached the statutory debt limit and began to use ‘extraordinary measures’ to avoid default. The report delves into what this entails and what might happen should the debt ceiling fail to be lifted.
Two noteworthy pieces from the GAO this week. The first is a review of Department of Defense asset visibility initiatives, looking at how well DoD is monitoring and measuring various defense logistics measures. The second looks at how DoD treats service dogs and how they are taken care of as they reach the end of their service. Most of our four-legged service members are adopted rather than euthanized, but a full discussion can be found here.
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