For the week ending February 9, 2018
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When is a budget not a budget? Now.
The Budget –
The Senate has produced a bipartisan bill they are calling a budget but it is actually a larger than normal continuing resolution that provides over two years of additional $160 billion for military operations, $70 billion for disaster relief including Puerto Rico, and $130 billion for US domestic programs.
The bill would lift (remove) the federal debt limit until March 2019. All in all the bill only funds the government for about 6 weeks.
Among the spending items is a further extension of child health programs and money to fight the opioid pandemic.
The bill faced two small filibusters; one for 8 hours by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and in the Senate Senator Rand Paul.
The bill is seen as bipartisan in both the Senate and House but in the House members of the Republican caucus to include the Freedom Caucus object to the additional spending.
The bill does not include funds for Trump’s southern border wall. Despite his warnings about not funding the wall Trump is expected to sign the bill.
The House assured passage with help from Democrats but that was uncertain; Pelosi sought House Speaker Paul Ryan for a commitment to DACA and immigration legislation soon. In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he has the votes. We will update this story when the votes are taken. Look for results on our front page
The mantra we often hear from Republicans is that Democrats are about tax and spend (even though that is the job of Congress) but what we are seeing now is a cut taxes and spend. The results of this approach is a Treasury about to borrow nearly $1 trllion to pay its bills and a rapid increase in the deficit such that we are about reaching a point where our debt equals the revenues the government takes in.
The general consensus is that DACA does not expire until March 5th so action will be taken before then. It remains to be seen if DACA will be included in a larger immigration reform package of a standalone bill. DACA continues to have bipartisan support.
Those Investigations –
The House Intelligence Committee Chair, Rep Devin Nunes (R-CA) played a gambit last week when he and the White House released a four page memo that many Republicans and conservative news media pundits said showed that the matter of concern was worse than Watergate. The memo held that the FBI obtained a FISA surveillance warrant from the FISA court but did not advise the court that some of the supporting documents had political association ns inappropriately surveilled Carter Page, an American citizen who does business with Russia and was picked up in a phone surveillance. The issue centers on the FBI’s effort to reopen the expired warrant (which the court agreed to) and Nunes and his followers think it was done as an effort to get at Trump. Nearly all of the memo’s assertions have been successfully disputed. Trump strangely concluded that the memo vindicated him against any charges of collusion or obstruction of justice which it does not.
Intel Committee Democrats released an 8 page memo disputing the four pager. The Democrats report is being looked over by the White House where it will be Trump’s decision to redact for security purposes and make it public or not. The White House has until Friday to decide.
Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon was subpoenaed to the House Intel Committee after his last voluntary visit where he refused to answer questions citing something along the line fo executive privilege. That prompted an angry committee to issue the subpoena but it is now reported that Bannon will be a no show. Bannon explained his lack of cooperation due to a page from the White House that has 14 questions his can answer.
Bannon will be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller during the week of February 12th.
The House and Senate are adjourning and will return to work on Monday February 13th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening February 15th.
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