The Political Report: 1/14/20

 In Political Report

Main Story: Impeachment Drama to Dominate Washington but FY2021 Maneuvering is Underway

Last week saw tensions with Iran spike following the killing of General Omar Suleiman in a US drone strike. However, after a limited set of reprisal rocket attacks from Iran, that situation appears to have stabilized. This week promises legal fireworks as the US House is poised to vote on impeachment managers and send two articles of impeachment to the US Senate for consideration. All of this will suck up all the oxygen in Washington and then some, as it will undoubtedly dominate national news throughout the duration of the trial.

Since it is highly unlikely that the impeachment trial will lead to any major changes, it is of less interest to a column focused on the Congressional defense budget process. On that front, leaks of the upcoming administration’s FY2021 budget plans began bubbling up in November and recent weeks have seen some significant pieces of information emerging.

The big one, from the perspective of this year’s funding process, is the administration’s plan to divert $7.2 billion from counterdrug and military construction accounts to wall construction in FY2021. This follows the decision by congressional Democrats to cave on demands to limit the administration’s ability to transfer money to the wall in the FY2020 negotiations. While it would be slightly easier to concede on this, having already done so once, it may prove more difficult to back down from this fight in an election year. By ramping up the amount transferred, the administration has effectively set up at least one hurdle to the quick enactment of appropriations.

There have also been a series of pieces outlining the groundwork for some of the coming fights this budget season. The first, and biggest out of the gate, is the airing of a dispute within the Executive branch over shipbuilding plans in the budget. Due to limits imposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on spending, the Navy/DoD is unable to increase the number of ships in the shipbuilding plan to get a 355-ship Navy. In fact, the FY2021 budget will contain significant cuts to current programs and early retirements. In response, OMB issued a memo asking the Navy to adjust its plan, while effectively encouraging the Navy to reach a 355-ship navy by including unmanned vessels in the ship count. Congress, especially those delegations deeply concerned with shipbuilding, will look upon this skeptically.

Beyond the dispute over shipbuilding, Breaking Defense has acquired an impressive collection of documents detailing different portions of the FY2021 request. Expect additional material to continue coming out as we draw closer to the budget release on February 10.

These early salvos in the FY2021 budget process reflect the beginning of what promises to be a long and difficult fight. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has expressed hope that Congress will complete all of its appropriations bills prior to the start of FY2021, but that almost never happens. It seems far more likely that some bills may be passed but that Congress will be forced to rely on a continuing resolution to get through the upcoming November election and then to resolve any additional issues in December. We will continue to cover this process as it unfolds.

House Activity

The House will take up a resolution sending two articles of impeachment to the Senate, as well as naming impeachment managers for the trial. The chamber will also consider a set of bills regarding financial regulations.

Senate Activity

While the Senate awaits receipt of the articles of impeachment it will likely continue to work on various nominations.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HFAC
    • 1/14 “From Sanctions to the Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy,” Full Committee Hearing, 2172 Rayburn, 10am
    • 1/15 “Strengthening Security and the Rule of Law in Mexico,” Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, and Trade, 2172 Rayburn, 2pm
    • 1/15 “US Lessons Learned in Afghanistan,” Full Committee Meeting, 2172 Rayburn, 10am
  • SFRC
    • 1/15 “Business Meeting,” Full Committee Meeting, S-116 The Capitol, 930am
    • 1/15 “CLOSED/TS/SCI: US-Iran Policy and Authorities For the Use of Force,” Full Committee Hearing, SVC-217 Capitol Visitor Center, 10am
  • SASC
    • 1/16 “Nominations,” Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
  • HASC
    • 1/15 “DoD’s Role in Competing with China,” Full Committee Hearing, Rayburn 2118, 10am
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings scheduled
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings scheduled
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