It’s a snow day in Washington as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has shuttered the federal government’s D.C. offices due to an ongoing snowstorm striking the area a day after the official start of spring. However, with lawmakers in town and a government funding deadline looming, it’s unclear how much of an effect the weather will have on Congress’s planned work, both on and off the floor.
While text was initially anticipated yesterday evening, House lawmakers continue to negotiate on an omnibus spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year and possibly contain ride-along provisions on issues ranging from gun violence to the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program. The latest intelligence from House leaders suggest that they hope to release text by midnight tonight and line up a vote in the lower chamber on Thursday. That timeline would leave only one day for the bill to be considered and approved in the Senate before Friday’s midnight deadline that would trigger a government shutdown. A short-term continuing resolution (CR) remains a possibility if leaders feel they are running out of time, but most lawmakers are hoping to avoid that contingency.
- The House and Senate race to complete a spending bill as the Friday, March 23rd deadline for current funding to expire quickly approaches. Reportedly the text of the proposal is supposed to be released Monday evening, though it is possible it could slip. It is also possible that negotiations could fail. This could mean the government shuts down at the end of the week (a scenario we view as unlikely) or that there is another short term continuing resolution passed (more likely), punting these issues down the road once again.
Congress is hoping to engage in its final funding fight for the 2018 fiscal year as an omnibus package is expected to be considered in both chambers ahead of this Friday’s deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Negotiations are still ongoing, with the House aiming to release text for the omnibus spending agreement sometime today. The omnibus is considered one of the last must-pass legislative vehicles of the fiscal year, meaning that lawmakers may try to secure policy priorities — such as Affordable Care Act (ACA) market stabilization and a solution for the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program — as ride-along provisions.
The Week in Review
House lawmakers started last week hoping to consider an omnibus package ahead of the Mar. 23 government funding deadline, but negotiations have once again proven contentious and floor consideration was delayed to this week. Instead, the House considered ‘right to try’ legislation on the floor, with a suspension vote failing to gain the two-thirds majority necessary to be passed on a 259-140 vote. The bill, which is discussed in greater detail below, is expected to be brought to the floor again this week on a vote pursuant to a rule, meaning it will only need a simple majority to pass.
Congress is gearing up for another government funding sprint as the March 23 deadline to avoid a government shutdown approaches. Negotiations are ongoing, as language for the omnibus spending package is not expected to be unveiled until the weekend or early next week. In a sign that talks could be progressing, reports suggest that Congressional Republicans are open to a three-year fix for recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrival (DACA) in exchange for funding of President Trump's proposed border wall. However, GOP leadership does not have clear direction from the White House and is still engaged in talks over a slew of contentious provisions regarding Planned Parenthood, Affordable Care Act (ACA) stabilization funds, and technical fixes to the new GOP tax law.
The House has cancelled its previously scheduled legislative work day on Friday and will leave town this afternoon — a sign that there is still work to be done on the omnibus spending package. House leadership aimed to introduce the 2018 spending bill by the end of the day yesterday, setting an ambitious goal of voting on the package on Friday. But a slate of contentious issues have hamstrung the spending negotiations, including: (1) provisions targeting Planned Parenthood; (2) possible technical fixes to the new GOP tax law; (3) funding for low-income subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); (4) the expansion of background checks for gun sales; and (5) an immigration deal that provides funding for President Trump's proposed border wall and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
The highly anticipated special election race for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district is still too close to call. Despite no official ruling from the Associated Press or election officials, Democrat Conor Lamb — leading by 641 votes — declared victory early Wednesday morning over Republican Rick Saccone, who vowed he will “fight to the end.” The official vote tally, which has accounted for all but a handful of absentee ballots, shows a neck-and-neck race that gives Lamb a slim 0.3 percent lead — a margin that could trigger a recount if voters or the candidates legally challenge results. Regardless, a slim margin win or loss — in a district President Trump won by 20 points — will likely be seen in Washington as an ominous sign for the majority party heading into the midterm elections.
Breaking news this morning emerged from the White House as President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from his post in favor of current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson, a former Exxon-Mobil executive, faced rumors of his imminent departure for months, and this morning’s reports suggest that the White House wanted fresh leadership for the new major diplomatic initiative towards North Korea. Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, will slide into the role as the nation’s top diplomat and current CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will be nominated to take over at the spy agency. Both Pompeo and Haspel will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Both chambers of Congress are in session this week for a significant period of legislative activity. While the House will wait until tomorrow before holding any official floor deliberation, the Senate starts today with the continued consideration of a bipartisan banking regulatory relief bill (S. 2155). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has filed cloture for the bill’s substitute amendment and a vote is expected at 5:30 p.m. today. Successfully invoking cloture would trigger a 30 hour window before a final vote on the substitute amendment, which will then be followed by a similar process for the underlying bill. Additionally, negotiations are reportedly continuing about a second substitute that would potentially include some of the nearly thirty provisions that House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) would like to see in the bill.