Political Report: 6/26/2019

 In Political Report

Main Story: Appropriations Pass the House, While the Senate Works on NDAA

While Congress and the White House continue to fight over topline funding levels, the House and Senate are slowly working through this year’s defense authorization and appropriations bills. This week will see more of the same, as both chambers move forward on dueling emergency border supplemental bills while trying to make progress on other spending legislation. Although both border bills face obstacles, the House bill appears to be more at risk as members of the House Progressive Caucus and Hispanic Caucus debate opposing the legislation in response to the inhumane conditions in the holding facilities along the border. Should Democrats, who can only lose 17 votes, and Republicans who refuse to support the House bill due to restrictions it places on the funding decide to oppose the bill, it would likely be pulled. In either case, it is unlikely that both chambers and the White House will come to an agreement prior to the July 4 recess.

On defense spending, last week saw the White House and Congress again fail to come to an agreement on topline spending levels for FY2020. As we have said before, it is highly likely that FY2020 will begin with at best a continuing resolution (CR), though a shutdown is a distinct possibility. While there are indications that the leadership of both chambers recognize the benefits of avoiding a shutdown, there does not appear to be any sort of consensus around how to handle lifting the Budget Control Act caps for FY2020 and FY2021. The administration floated a one-year CR with an extension of the debt ceiling that would push the funding fight to the fall of calendar year 2020, but members of Congress are likely to prefer to avoid a fight in the run-up to an election.

The House passed the first appropriations ‘minibus’; legislation that combines multiple appropriations bills into a single bill for expedited consideration. However, passage of the legislation was complicated by freshman Rep. Chip Roy’s use of legislative procedure to force multiple roll call votes during the course of consideration. Eventually the bill, H.R. 2740, passed and the House has now passed versions of the appropriations for the Department of Defense, the Labor-Health and Human Services bill (which also covers the Department of Education), State & Foreign Operations (the Department of State and USAID), and the Energy & Water bill (the Department of Energy and various water-related infrastructure projects). This legislation funds DoD at a level of $733 billion, $17 billion below the amount requested by the White House. While it will not become law, it reflects the Democratic House’s position in the ongoing budget fight. More details available here.

On the Senate side, the Senate Majority Leader is likely to begin and end consideration of S.1790, the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act. While the legislation passed out of committee with broad, bipartisan support, floor action has been repeatedly postponed by debates over tensions with Iran and renewal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). Democrats are pushing for consideration of an amendment that would block President Trump from using force against Iran without Congressional approval, while Senator Rand Paul is seeking to force consideration of an amendment sunsetting the 2001 AUMF. It is unclear if either of those amendments will be made in order, as the most likely path to passage now appears to be consideration of just the underlying bill and a substitute amendment.

House Activity

The House will likely take up consideration of supplemental border funding in response to the surge in families seeking asylum and the challenges this has caused for the agencies tasked with responding.

Senate Activity

The Senate will take up consideration of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act and likely try to pass its version of the emergency border supplemental as well.

Congressional Defense Activity

  •  HASC
    • No hearings this week
  •  SASC
    • No hearings this week
  •  HAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  •  SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • SFRC
    • 6/25 ‘Business Meeting’, Full Committee, S-116 The Capitol, 215pm
  • HFAC
    • 6/25 ‘The U.S. Response to the Political Crisis in Sudan’, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, 2172 Rayburn, 2pm
    • 6/26 ‘Transatlantic Policy Impacts of the U.S. – EU Trade Conflict’, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment’, 2172 Rayburn, 2pm
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