David Lerman

Congressional leaders, White House give spending caps talks another try
Fall government shutdown looms if both sides can’t agree on a deal

White House officials plan to meet with congressional leaders Wednesday — for the second time in as many months — to reach a deal on spending limits that would prevent another government shutdown this fall.

The first meeting, on May 21, produced some initial hopes that a bipartisan deal could be reached relatively quickly, avoiding a breakdown in the appropriations process when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The politics behind spending limit negotiations
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 114

One-year spending cap option, warts and all, gains momentum
Yarmuth signals openness to deal, echoing comments made by Shelby a day earlier

Senior lawmakers are increasingly considering a scaled-back plan to raise discretionary spending limits for just the upcoming fiscal year, in what would be a departure from the two-year deals enacted in 2013, 2015 and again last year.

A decision to limit a deal to only fiscal 2020 appropriations might simplify negotiations that have been stalled for months. But it would also set the stage for another difficult showdown over spending levels next year, just before the presidential election.

After rebuke from Jon Stewart, panel approves 9/11 victim bill
Without funding, victims face cuts to promised compensation, as much as 70 percent

A day after comedian Jon Stewart chastised lawmakers for their sparse attendance at a hearing on legislation to help victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the House Judiciary Committee approved the bill without even calling a roll call vote, extending a victims fund for decades while offering whatever funding is needed.

Stewart and lawmakers representing the victims have expressed frustration with Congress’ pace in moving the legislation, even after the overseer of the victims fund, Rupa Bhattacharyya, announced in February that she would have to cut payouts to victims for lack of money.

Border spending package seeks aid for migrants, but no money for Trump’s wall
The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to take up a supplemental spending bill to address the migrant surge next week

The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to take up a supplemental spending bill next week to address the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday.

The decision marked the first sign of movement on a stand-alone border funding bill, which President Donald Trump first requested on May 1. Republican leaders had tried to include the money in a $19.1 billion aid package for victims of natural disasters that cleared Congress last week, but Democrats objected, citing various concerns over family detention policies and information sharing about undocumented immigrants among federal agencies.

Contractors would receive shutdown pay in next spending package
Contractor back pay would provide the same benefit granted to direct federal employees

House Democrats would make whole federal contractors who didn't get paid during the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended in January as part of a $383 billion fiscal 2020 spending bill set to hit the floor next week. 

The package combines five bills: Commerce-Justice-Science will be the vehicle, carrying the Agriculture, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD measures as well.

Democrats’ Spending Bill Strategy
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 113

House Democrats are packaging spending bills with the aim of completing all 12 by the end of the month, a goal that is likely to generate a lot of policy debates and amendments, explains Jennifer Shutt in this episode of the CQ Budget podcast. The first package contains five bills including the two largest, Defense and Labor-HHS-Education.

Sen. Rand Paul’s austere budget plan goes down in Senate
Kentucky Republican said his plan would reverse a trajectory of ever-rising deficits in coming years

The Senate blocked consideration Monday of a bill by Sen. Rand Paul that would require trillions of dollars in spending cuts over the coming decade to bring about a balanced budget.

On a procedural vote of 22-69, the Senate refused to advance a budget plan that the Kentucky Republican said would reverse a trajectory of ever-rising deficits in coming years. “Today, the U.S. Senate can vote to put a stop to it and change course,” Paul said in a statement.

Ex-CBO director knocks GOP on Obamacare and Congress for rising deficits
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 112

In an usually candid interview with CQ Roll Call's budget reporter Paul Krawzak, the recently departed Congressional Budget Office director Keith Hall said the often secretive process the Republicans followed defeated their effort to repeal Obamacare. He also urged Congress to deal with the rising deficits that will fall on the backs of younger Americans, saying that in the coming decade 50 percent of federal funding will be spent on just 20 percent of the population -- people who are 65 and older.

Show Notes:

Federal money hasn’t reached disaster victims
Long after hurricanes, red tape leaves relief aid unspent

It’s been more than a year and a half since Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico in September 2017, killing roughly 3,000 people and causing an estimated $90 billion in damages.

But federal money for any long-term rebuilding has yet to reach those in need in the U.S. territory, which was also battered by Hurricane Irma that same month.

Taliban money and fighter jets at issue in Pentagon's $690 billion bill
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 110

House appropriators this week will take up the biggest of the 12 annual spending bills, the $690 billion Pentagon measure that includes some prickly issues such as funding for Taliban expenses for peace talks with the U.S. and money to give the Pentagon more F-35 fighter jets than it requested, says CQ Roll Call's senior defense reporter John M. Donnelly. He lays out what is likely to happen to the measure that assumes higher spending levels for fiscal 2020.

Stalemate over disaster aid frustrates states
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 109

Lawmakers are struggling to find agreement on an aid package to help states recover from natural disasters, says CQ Roll Call's budget and appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich. She lays out the issues preventing Congress from passing a disaster aid package. ...
Puerto Rico disaster aid delay could renew Democratic suspicions of Trump’s stonewalling
Puerto Rico’s $8.3 billion can’t be awarded until HUD drafts new regulations, currently awaiting White House review

A delay in the delivery of previously approved disaster aid money to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico could complicate negotiations on a new aid package just as a bipartisan compromise appears close at hand.

Puerto Rico has been awaiting $8.3 billion in mitigation funds designed to help protect against future disasters. But the money can’t be awarded until the Department of Housing and Urban Development drafts new regulations for the funding, which is part of $16 billion provided nationwide under the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program Congress approved last year.

White House Asks for $4.5 Billion Border Aid; Democrats Balk
The supplemental request doesn’t seek wall money, but Democrats may push for immigration policy changes they called harsh

The Trump administration on Wednesday requested an extra $4.5 billion to address the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border, in a move that could trigger a fresh round of criticism over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

The supplemental request stops short of seeking additional money for a border wall, which Democrats have staunchly opposed. But Democrats are sure to press for changes to immigration policy they consider too harsh.

Progressive power play: Pentagon-level spending for nondefense programs
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 107

CQ Roll Call’s appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich unpacks the demands — and their possible consequences — of the Democratic Party’s progressives, who last week derailed plans to vote on raising the spending caps to prevent across-the-board spending cuts next fiscal year. ...
Congress will probably leave town without voting on a disaster bill
Partisan deadlock over how much relief aid should go to Puerto Rico is showing no signs of easing

A partisan deadlock over a disaster relief package showed no signs of easing Tuesday, as the two camps traded barbs over aid for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Senate Republicans made a new offer over the weekend that Democrats dismissed, weakening prospects for a deal before lawmakers leave town later this week for a two-week Easter recess. President Donald Trump has told Republicans he won’t support additional aid to Puerto Rico beyond an extra $600 million in food assistance that is already included in a GOP-written bill.