appropriations

Democrats seek to put teeth into ‘impoundment’ law
Going to court is only current option to force release of funds

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth wants to make it hurt if a president tries to block funding against lawmakers’ wishes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A fresh legal opinion challenging President Donald Trump’s hold on Ukraine military aid under a Nixon-era budget law may or may not move the needle with senators in the president’s impeachment trial.

But one thing is clear: Trump’s delay of $214 million in Pentagon funds is just the latest in a long line of findings by the Government Accountability Office going back decades that presidents of both parties have run afoul of the 1974 law. That statute was aimed at restricting “impoundments,” where the executive branch refuses to spend money appropriated by Congress.

GAO: Trump’s hold on Ukraine aid violated budget law
1974 budget law limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending

President Donald Trump boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in October. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Government Accountability Office said in an opinion Thursday that President Donald Trump violated federal budget law when he ordered White House officials to withhold most of a $250 million military aid package for Ukraine last summer.

The finding comes after House Democrats delivered articles of impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress grounds stemming from the Ukraine affair to the Senate Wednesday evening, triggering the Senate trial expected to start next week.

Appropriators feel the squeeze of budget caps as veterans health funding grows
Nondefense programs could soon see spending cuts unless Congress makes adjustments

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Appropriators and stakeholders have begun coming to grips with the reality of narrow funding increases under next year’s budget caps, as politically sacrosanct veterans health care spending continues to grow and eat into what’s left for all other nondefense programs.

Last summer’s two-year budget deal front-loaded its spending cap increases into the first year, allowing about 4 percent more for discretionary spending in fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2021, increases are capped at less than 0.4 percent, or $5 billion, despite fixed costs for veterans health care that are likely to require substantially more.

An agonizing dispute among terror victims
Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund splitting payouts under questionable rationale

Kenneth Feinberg, former administrator of the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, said he does not understand the rationale for paying out 9/11 victims from the fund. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Four decades ago, William Daugherty, a former CIA operative, was held hostage in Iran for 444 days. His wait for the financial compensation policymakers had promised him will now be a lot longer than that.

A fund created in 2015 for the Iran hostages and other victims of state-sponsored terrorism has become a new source of cash for relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks waged by al-Qaida terrorists on New York and Washington. President Donald Trump in November signed into law a measure that divided the fund in half, splitting the revenue between two competing groups: victims of state-sponsored terrorism like Daugherty and the 9/11 families.

Trump signs ‘phase one’ China pact, first of two trade milestones this week
Senate to take up NAFTA replacement before impeachment trial begins

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a “Keep America Great” campaign rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the first of two significant milestones on trade — an agreement with China that amounts to a ceasefire in his war with the Asian giant.

Trump is expected to get a second win on the issue later this week, with the Senate expected to approve a revised trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Aides say Trump plans to trumpet both as part of his reelection sales pitch that he is a good steward of the economy.

Puerto Rico earthquake supplemental under discussion in House
HUD ignored a Sept. 4 deadline set by Congress

A Puerto Rican flag waves on top of a pile of rubble as debris is removed from a main road in Guanica, P.R., on Jan. 8, one day after an earthquake hit the island. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Updated 4:39 p.m. House Appropriations Democrats are looking at a possible emergency spending package to provide additional aid to Puerto Rico following a series of earthquakes since late last year, including a 5.2 magnitude quake Wednesday.

Hoyer: House priorities for 2020 include health care, infrastructure, climate, redistricting
Legislative action also planned on appropriations, defense, education, housing, modernizing Congress

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer is outlining a busy legislative agenda for 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats in 2020 plan to pass legislation on top party priorities like health care, infrastructure and climate as well as more under-the-radar subjects like modernizing Congress and redistricting — all while trying to fully fund the government on time for the first time in 24 years, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said.

The No. 2 Democrat, who is in charge of the floor schedule, outlined his legislative priorities for the year in an interview with CQ Roll Call. The aforementioned issues were among a long list that Hoyer said Democrats plan to pursue in the second session of the 116th Congress. Others the Maryland Democrat mentioned include education, taxes, the annual defense and intelligence authorizations, and reauthorizations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and National Flood Insurance Program.

Ukraine aid legal ruling could shake up impeachment trial
GAO’s legal opinion on whether Trump and White House officials violated a 1974 budget law could be released this week

Van Hollen sought GAO opinion on legality of aid delay under 1974 budget law. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress’ investigative arm may be about to add a new wrinkle into the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump sparked by the nearly two-month holdup of Ukraine security assistance last year, which Democrats charge Trump orchestrated to extract political favors.

As early as this week, the Government Accountability Office could release its legal opinion on whether Trump and senior White House officials violated the Nixon-era budget law that requires executive branch agencies to spend appropriated funds according to lawmakers’ wishes.  

‘Eliminated’ Soleimani and ‘booming’ economy: Takeaways from Trump’s first 2020 rally
President alleges ‘Crazy Bernie’ condemned U.S. military strike on Soleimani

President Donald Trump speaks during a reelection rally at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday night. (Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — “Hello, Toledo,” President Donald Trump told an arena full of supporters Thursday night as he made clear he believes the Buckeye State is now solidly GOP territory.

“We love Toledo, you remember, I was here a lot,” Trump said at the top of another raucous campaign rally. “You remember 2016 — what a year that was, right?”

Trump suggests Iran downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially by accident
U.S. officials haven't publicly stated what caused the crash yet

President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after a rally in Michigan on Dec. 19, 2019. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner earlier this week — possibly by mistake.

“Well, I have my suspicions,” he told reporters following an energy event in the White House. “It’s a tragic thing. … Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side. … It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood.