House and Senate lawmakers began negotiations yesterday in hopes of striking a border security compromise, yet a bipartisan agreement remains elusive. In addition to the debate over President Trump’s $5.7 billion border wall priority, lawmakers have been hamstrung over the possibility of adding deals on immigration policy and the debt limit to the underlying negotiations. If the negotiators fail to craft a product that can pass both chambers in that time and earn the president's signature, funding is likely to lapse again for the Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State and Interior, as well as the IRS, National Science Foundation, FDA and EPA.
Both chambers of Congress are set to resume legislative business today following the contentious 35-day government shutdown. In the House, lawmakers will take up three suspension bills out of the Financial Services Committee: (1) a bill (H.R. 624) that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to carry out a study of Rule 10b5–1 trading plans; (2) a bill (H.R. 502) that would require the Comptroller General of the United States to carry out a study on how virtual currencies and online marketplaces are used to facilitate the financing of goods or services associated with illicit trafficking; and (3) a bill (H.R. 56) that would create an independent Financial Technology Task Force to combat terrorism and illicit financing. For the balance of the week, House lawmakers are set to work on a bill (H.R. 790) that would provide a pay increase for federal workers.
The Week in Review
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history finally came to an end after President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) over the weekend. The measure — which does not include additional border wall funding — funds shuttered federal departments and agencies through Feb. 15, providing lawmakers with additional time to hammer out a broader deal.
While over, it is clear that the shutdown will be like a proverbial elephant in a room, and the point of discussion for at least another week as Democrats hope to continue to use it as an example of the President's inability to govern. This will transpire while all sides continue to negotiate a more permanent solution, so hopefully the politics that paralyzed negotiations have shifted such that a more permanent solution will be found before the short-term patch the President signed on Friday expires. There is no better personification of the dysfunction of Washington, DC than the failure of Congress and the President to agree to its funding obligations. Generally speaking, the fact that the public continues to send ideologues to Congress who view politics from a win-lose perspective doesn't bode well for any major improvements in this regard. Though, as noted below, the moderate New Dems now have over 100 members in the House. Here's hoping that the Justice Democrats are willing to recognize that they are better off having incremental gains with New Dems in the tent, than primarying them an all but ensuring a return to a Republican majority.
Senate leadership struck a deal yesterday to bring two government funding proposals to the floor for a vote in hopes of ending the 33-day shutdown. Under the terms of the agreement reached by Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate will first vote on President Trump’s proposal (text; summary), which provides $5.7 billion for his border wall priority in addition to temporary protections for young immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Temporary Protected Status for refugees. If the President’s proposal fails to clear the upper chamber, Senators will then vote on a three-week continuing resolution (CR) that would fund shuttered departments and agencies through Feb. 8 — ensuring furloughed federal workers receive backpay while providing additional flexibility to reach a broader deal.
Congress will resume legislative business today after both chambers canceled their previously scheduled recess due to the ongoing government shutdown. Over the weekend, President Trump disclosed his latest offer to Democrats in hopes of striking a deal that ends the 32-day shutdown while also funding his border wall priority. In exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall, as well as funding for closed parts of the federal government, the president’s deal would provide a three-year extension of protections for young immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and an extension of Temporary Protected Status for refugees currently covered.
The Week in Review
House Democrats continued their push to reopen the government last week as the partial government shutdown entered its fourth week. The House took up a pair of continuing resolutions (CR) (H.J.Res.27; H.J.Res.28) last week that would temporarily reopen federal agencies without funding President Trump's border wall priority. The lower chamber also cleared a $12 billion supplemental spending bill (H.R. 268) for relief and recovery aid to states impacted by recent hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires & other natural disasters.
Yesterday our nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Among his popular quotes is that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” As noted here there is a sense by some that this trajectory only occurs through the force of those seeking to bend it. In thinking about this, I am reminded me of the perspective from Congressman Tom Lantos, who once told me the goal of our Democratic Congress should be to close the hypocrisy gap – which is what he called the difference between America’s ideals as laid out in the founding documents and the reality of the day. The effort described in the former is necessary for achieving the later. However, if history is any guide, these effort needs to be done pragmatically and at a pace that probably disappoints the more ardent supporters of the objectives trying to be achieved.
TRP’s Jason Rosenstock was recently quoted in an article for Vox that outlines how the new, more progressive, appointed members of the House Financial Services Committee may impact the agenda and tone of the Committee. While the attention has been primarily focused on new members of the committee such as Reps. Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Katie Porter (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rosenstock astutely questions whether these new lawmakers are willing to go up against Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) — who has proven herself as a “real dealmaker." “Chair Waters is a skilled legislator, and I think this committee structure will allow her to harness those talents to try to guide the committee to find consensus,” said Rosenstock. “She’s a real dealmaker. She’s done it in the past with Republicans, and she may have to do it now internally a bit. The question is whether the newer members will be willing to sacrifice the perfect for the good.”
House Democrats are readying another attempt to reopen shuttered federal agencies today as both parties remain entrenched in their respective shutdown positions. Democratic leadership has queued up a continuing resolution (H.J.Res.28) that provides funding for closed Federal agencies through February 28 without additional funding for President Trump’s border wall priority. However, the attempts to reopen the government have proven to be futile as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to allow a vote on spending legislation that isn’t supported by the President. At this point, there is no clear path toward an end to the 27-day shutdown as ratings agencies and economic forecasters raise red flags on the funding lapse’s impact on the economy.