Political Report: 7/17/2018

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story: Summer Recess Looms as Spending Negotiations Continue

With less than two weeks to go until the House’s summer recess starts on July 26, major progress needs to be made on several appropriations bills. The Senate will continue negotiating a minibus appropriations bill that combines Pentagon funding with that of the Department of Labor and Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS). Combining these two bills will manage two key objectives for the Senate. First, Senate Democrats are concerned that Republicans would be happy to see a defense appropriations bill signed into law while retaining non-defense appropriations at current levels. Linking Defense to Labor-HHS, one of the most controversial of the appropriations bills and the one most important to liberal Democrats, will assuage suspicions that Democratic priorities will be ignored. The second objective is to avoid having conservatives attempt to sink Labor-HHS by attaching policy riders that are opposed by Democrats. Most Republicans will be loathe to undercut the DoD appropriations, making it more likely they pass. Success in these negotiations could open the door to real progress on Appropriations later this year. However, it is worth noting that the House has decided to go a different path and conference negotiations will remain a potential obstacle to finishing up before the end of the fiscal year 2018 in September.

Relatedly, House and Senate conference committee meetings on the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch Appropriations bills will likely be held this week after being cancelled on July 12. The White House has warned the Hill against efforts to raise spending limits to make room for funding a health program for veterans. The showdown pits Democrats and some Senate Republicans against House Republicans and the Administration. The dispute is one of many that may result in a CR to keep the government open when FY 2018 ends on September 30.

House Activity

The House is scheduled to vote on 14 bills under suspension of the rules through Thursday. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a hearing on Thursday on China’s threat to American leadership in private sector research and innovation.

Senate Activity

The Senate will hold several committee hearings this week. The full Foreign Relations Committee will consider two State Department nominations, while the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe will hold two hearings on Russia’s occupation of Georgia and the state of transatlantic ties.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • HPSCI
    • 7/19, ‘China’s Threat to American Government and Private Sector Research and Innovation Leadership,’ House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 1100 Longworth, 8:30am
  • HFAC
    • 7/18, ‘Current Developments in Central Asia,’ Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, 2172 Rayburn, 3pm
  • SFRC
    • 7/18, ‘Nominations,’ Full Committee, SD-419
  • HASC
    • No hearings this week
  • SASC
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • No hearings this week
  • SAC-D
    • No hearings this week

Government Activity Round-up

GAO released a report on how DoD assesses contract award time. Despite proposals to reduce the time it takes to award contracts, GAO found that the Pentagon has a limited understanding of how long it currently takes and therefore lacks a baseline to measure success. The report recommends that the Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy develop a strategy regarding contract award time frames.
The CBO has a new cost estimate on the International Security Assistance Act of 2018 (H.R. 5677). The bill, among other things, authorizes the sale of the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49) to Bahrain. The CBO estimates Bahrain will purchase the frigate in 2019 worth $80 million.

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