Political Report: 12/5/2018

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: Congress Considers Two-Week Continuing Resolution, Mourns Passing of President George H.W. Bush

Congress is likely to pass a two-week continuing resolution (CR) before Friday night to avoid a partial government shutdown. With the state funeral of President George H.W. Bush and both parties at an impasse over President Trump’s proposed border wall, the decision to extend the deadline was necessary. Under a two-week CR, the new deadline to approve funding would be extended to December 21.

Funding for the border wall remains the primary obstacle to a spending bill. President Trump has indicated that he will only sign legislation that has at least $5 billion appropriated for his signature campaign promise. Senate Democrats, who announced earlier this week that they would agree to $1.6 billion to border security—not a wall—are feeling pressure from House Democrats and progressives not to compromise.
Congress must also approve a large, must-pass farm bill. Negotiators agreed to a bipartisan deal in principle last week, after negotiations had deadlocked over work requirements for food stamp recipients. A vote on the measure has not been scheduled. Senate Republicans also face pressure to approve judicial nominations, particularly for circuit courts, before the new Congress is sworn in on January 3.

Key Dates & Appropriations Update:

  • December 7th – Current continuing resolution ends
  • December 13th – Last scheduled session day in 2018
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House Activity

The House will meet briefly on Thursday afternoon, although no votes are expected.

Senate Activity

The Senate will work through a few nominations.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HPSCI
    • No hearings this week
  • SSCI
    • 12/06 ‘Closed Hearing’, Full Committee Hearing, 219 Hart, 2pm
  • HFAC
    • No hearings this week
  • SFRC
    • No hearings this week
  •  SASC
    • 12/06, ‘Closed Hearing: Security Situation in Afghanistan’, Full Committee
  • HASC
    • 12/06 ‘Naval Surface Forces: On the Road to Recovery?’, Readiness and Seapower &
      Projection Forces Subcommittees, 1pm
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

GAO published a report last week on the U.S. nuclear stockpile. The report details steps taken by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to restart a life extension program (LEP) to replace the capabilities of the Air Force’s W78 nuclear warhead. The W78 is fielded on the LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a MK-12A reentry vehicle. The warhead has a yield of up to 335 kilotons, nearly twenty times the destructive force of the nuclear weapon used against Hiroshima.

In FY 2014, NNSA was directed to suspend a program that was evaluating a capability that could replace the W78 and be used by the U.S. Navy. NNSA’s most recent estimate—reported in October 2018—was that the combined program would cost about $10 billion to $15 billion. NNSA has been directed by the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to restart a program to replace the W78 for the Air Force in fiscal year 2019. The NPR also directed NNSA and the Navy to further evaluate whether the Navy could also use the warhead.

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