Last night, House Republicans released the text of the continuing resolution (CR) (section-by-section) that they anticipate passing this afternoon to keep the government running through Mar. 23, boost defense spending for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year, and address a broad slate of health care programs. Tension over the whip count in the lower chamber has been defused after the House Freedom Caucus walked back their opposition to additional CRs and pledged to back the bill on the floor today. While almost all Democrats are likely to vote no, the strength of the Republican majority in the House should ensure relatively straightforward passage today.
Lawmakers returning from legislative retreats and Super Bowl parties will need to re-focus quickly with another government funding deadline looming on Thursday. A continuing resolution (CR) punting the deadline another few weeks is once again the expected solution, with the House currently planning to vote tomorrow on a stopgap patch that would keep the government running through Mar. 22 — beyond key deadlines on the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program (Mar. 5) and debt ceiling (mid-March). Some conservatives have balked at the repeated use of CRs to maintain government operations, but Republican leaders are banking on their votes to approve tomorrow’s bill given that House Democrats will likely continue their opposition over a lack of a deal to protect individuals covered by DACA.
The Week in Review
President Trump’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday was the main highlight from the week as the President offered a defense of his first year in office and a glimpse of the White House’s priorities for 2018. Specifically, the President took a victory lap on the Republican-led tax reform package and recent economic growth, asked for more money for the military, and after spending a great deal of time disparaging “open borders” and MS-13 gangs, pitched his immigration plan for Dreamers as a “fair compromise” — causing audible laughter from Democrats in the chamber. The reaction from Democrats signals that despite the White House’s messaging that described the State of the Union as a call for bipartisanship and cooperation, it leaves Congress little closer to any sort of deal that has jeopardized government funding over the past few weeks.
When they return from legislative retreats on Monday, lawmakers will have four days to craft and pass another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running beyond Feb. 8. The current plan is reportedly for a spending patch that would fund the government through Mar. 22, beyond key deadlines for the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program (Mar. 5) and debt ceiling (mid-March). For that reason, House Democrats are likely to continue their opposition, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is reportedly facing sharp resistance from his own party as the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives have signaled they may vote against a CR unless progress is made on their own immigration plan. With a vote tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Republican leaders may need to make additional concessions in one direction or the other in order to ensure that another spending patch can pass the lower chamber.
Both chambers are out of session today as House and Senate Republicans meet in West Virginia for their annual policy retreat. The meeting was delayed after a train carrying many Republican Members struck a garbage truck in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday, killing one person in the truck and injuring several others, although most Members were able to walk away without any serious injuries. President Trump is heading to West Virginia today to rally his congressional counterparts and plot a path forward in a year that has been severely complicated by the ongoing fight to fund the government and find a legislative solution for the Dreamers.
President Trump offered a vision for a “new American moment” in his first State of the Union address (full transcript) last night, highlighting personal stories of guests in the chamber and avoiding some of the explicitly partisan language he has used in the past. The meat of the speech, however, offered little to Democrats looking for a compromise on policy. President Trump took a victory lap on the Republican-led tax reform package and recent economic growth, asked for more money for the military, and after spending a great deal of time disparaging “open borders” and MS-13 gangs, he pitched his immigration plan for Dreamers as a “fair compromise” — causing an audible laughter from Democrats in the chamber. The reaction from Democrats signals that despite the White House’s messaging that described the State of the Union as a call for bipartisanship and cooperation, it leaves Congress little closer to any sort of deal that has jeopardized government funding over the past few weeks.
- On Tuesday the President will deliver his first State of the Union. In addition to selling the tax reform bill he is expected to talk about how the economy (i.e., the stock market) is booming. It would not be surprising if he talks about his plan for infrastructure investment, as well as potentially, the Administration’s plan for immigration reform.
- Beyond the State of the Union it will be a short week in the House as the Republicans depart for their Conference at the Greenbrier in West Virginia starting on Wednesday and for the rest of the week. However, the House will consider a series of financial services measures on the suspension docket, a full list of which can be found here.
- The Financial Services Committee will hold two hearings this week, both on Tuesday. First, the Financial Institutions Subcommittee will hold a hearing on FinTech, while later that afternoon the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hear how Human Traffickers are exploiting the U.S. Financial markets.
- The Senate Banking Committee will hear from US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Tuesday as he provides the annual report from the FSOC. The Secretary will appear before the House on February 6th.
The State of the Union address is scheduled for 9 p.m. tonight and the White House has signaled that President Trump will use the constitutionally-mandated address to stress future bipartisanship while taking a victory lap on the Republican accomplishments from last year. State of the Union speeches rarely lead to fireworks — with one recent exception — but the President will be given a significant audience and a venue to describe the Administration’s priorities in detail. Infrastructure and immigration are thought to be the main courses from a policy perspective, particularly as the White House aims to roll out its rumored $1 trillion plan to invest in the nation’s roads, bridges, and broadband facilities.
It’s State of the Union week in Washington as lawmakers await President Trump’s first installment of the annual address tomorrow night. The speech gives the White House a valuable opportunity to reset the legislative playbook after the past few weeks of government shutdown drama, although the underlying issues of a broad budget deal and a plan for the Dreamers continue to loom large. As a reminder, the current continuing resolution (CR) funding the government is due to expire on Feb. 8.
The Week in Review
A three-day government shutdown came to an anticlimactic end last Monday as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) led Democrats in reversing their position on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to bring up an immigration bill after Feb. 8. The CR also includes add-ons that were a part of the original House-passed version — a 6-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and a delay for certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes. Some Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), opposed the immigration compromise reached in the Senate, but the CR was able to pass on the strength of the Republican majority in the lower chamber. Despite the agreement, another CR will likely be necessary in order to keep the government funded beyond Feb. 8 as Congress struggles to negotiate an omnibus that would set the budget for the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year.