Tag: Donald Trump

Fasten Your Seat Belts: It’s Going To Be A Very Bumpy Rest Of The Year In Washington

In the midst of all of the tweet storms, special counsel and criminal investigations, deep state conspiracy paranoias, off and on summits, tariffs imposed on our allies and multiple pardons, it’s easy to forget that Congress and the White House still have routine legislative responsibilities — like appropriations — that will need to be completed over the next few months.

These legislative responsibilities could include the most contentious domestic issues the Republican-controlled Congress and Trump administration will have to deal with all year such as Planned Parenthood, immigration, a wall between the United States and Mexico and multiple highly contentious domestic spending cuts.

Each one’s political significance will be greatly magnified by the very narrow GOP Senate majority, the hyper-partisanship, a lame duck speaker, almost 50 GOP retirements in the House, an abandoned budget process, a very unpredictable president and an extremely high stakes congressional election that’s only five months away.

In other words…To paraphrase Betty Davis in “All About Eve,” Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy rest of 2018 in Washington.

According to Congress.gov, as of today, none of the 12 funding bills for fiscal 2019 have passed Congress.

It’s not unusual for no appropriations to be approved by now. But there’s usually more time between June and when the fiscal year begins on October 1 for Congress to do what needs to be done than there will be this year.

If the published schedules aren’t changed, the House now only plans to be in session for 35 more days before fiscal 2019 begins; the Senate only expects to be in session for 51 days, although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated last week that some or all of the Senate’s August recess will be cancelled.

But 35, 51 or some other number very likely overstates the actual amount of time that will be available for legislative work given Congress’s tendency not to take many votes on Mondays and Fridays.

This very limited about of time would be problematic in a good year if House and Senate Republicans were working together, the House Freedom Caucus wasn’t making Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) final days as speaker miserable as it did on the recent agriculture bill and the president wasn’t demanding funds for a wall that Congress has refused to provide multiple times.

But with all of these things happening, the very limited amount of time that’s left makes “problematic” into the best-case scenario this year.

It also makes yet another continuing resolution – which in recent years has become the unfortunate but very standard operating procedure on Capitol Hill — an almost sure bet to be needed to prevent a government shutdown just before the election.

And because CRs can be filibustered, that will give Senate Democrats influence over a short-term funding bill that, with their changes, isn’t likely to be acceptable to the House Freedom Caucus or the White House.

In theory, Trump should want to do what Ryan and McConnell want: put a CR in place as early as possible so Congress can recess quickly and GOP incumbents running for reelection have as much time as possible to defend their seats.

In fact, Ryan and McConnell should be seriously considering doing a continuing resolution before the start of the August-Labor Day recess that will keep the government operating through the lame duck session so Congress can stay home in September as well.

But Trump is more likely to view his own congressional leadership’s strong desire to recess before the election as something that gives him leverage to get his wall rather than as a way to make continuing GOP House and Senate majorities more certain.

Add to that the extreme displeasure from conservative commentators after he signed the 2018 omnibus appropriation in March and the fact that healthcare and immigration are hot button issues for the White House, congressional Republicans and Democrats, having a CR in place in time to prevent a government shutdown has to be considered anything but certain.

But even if a continuing resolution is enacted by October 1, the road to get there will be anything but smooth. It is likely to set the new bar for bumpy rides in Washington.

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Trump Again Shows He’s All Talk On The Deficit And Debt

The “rescission”’ bill the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed Thursday night is the just latest example of what Donald Trump thinks of anything and everything related to the federal budget: It’s just one big public relations stunt.

According to the superlative-loving Trump, this rescission – a presidential proposal for Congress to “unappropriate” previously enacted spending – is the biggest ever requested by any president.

But that’s only true if, as he’s doing, Trump takes credit for the bill’s unreal and unrealistic top line…what budget wonks call “budget authority.”

Trump is actually mostly proposing to cut appropriations that were never going to be spent anyway. Even if its enacted, the real impact of the Trump rescission on the federal deficit and national debt will be about 93 percent less than he’s claiming, or only about $1 billion.

A billion dollars is definitely worth saving. But even this much smaller amount overstates the savings from the Trump proposal because it’s not going to be enacted. The Senate GOP leadership has already indicated it has no plans to consider the rescission bill and the legislation would face a virtually certain filibuster anyway if were debated.

That means the most likely impact on the federal deficit and national debt from the Trump rescission plan is…wait for it…$0.

This most recent fiscal escapade is just latest in what has already become a steady series of total budget stunts by the Trump administration.

For example:

Trump’s first fiscal 2018 “budget” only covered about one-third of all federal spending, didn’t mention revenues, didn’t project the deficit or debt and didn’t even include an economic forecast. Not surprisingly, it was ignored by Congress.

Trump’s first full 2018 budget, which was released with lots of fanfare, was also ignored by the Republican House and Senate when the White House walked away from it just a few days after it was released.

The fiscal 2019 budget Trump sent to Congress earlier this year was abandoned so quickly by the White House that it wasn’t even a topic of discussion on that weekend’s political talk shows.

And who could ever forget the spectacle from this past March when Trump signed the fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriation and then minutes later angrily announced that he should have never done it.

That brings us back to the rescission bill stunt.

In response to harsh criticism on Fox News and elsewhere, Trump promised that he would look into ways to cut the domestic spending in the 2018 omnibus appropriation his signature had just enacted. The rescission bill was supposed to be just that: reductions in the spending that bill provided.

But it wasn’t.

In spite of Trump’s post-signing tantrum, his rescission proposals didn’t touch even a dollar of what was included in the omnibus. As noted above, he instead proposed totally meaningless cuts to other programs and then took credit for what he said is a historic budget achievement that in reality is anything but significant.