Budget

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon brings military experience and political savvy to his new job
A former Raytheon lobbyist, Esper has also been an Army officer and congressional staffer

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., left, speaks with Army Secretary Mark Esper before the start of an Armed Services hearing in March. President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped Esper to be acting Defense secretary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Mark Esper has been an Army officer, congressional staffer and corporate lobbyist. Now the Army secretary is the third person President Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Pentagon, at least temporarily.

In two tweets Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was out after six months on the job — and was withdrawing from consideration for the permanent post to “devote more time to his family.” Esper, in turn, got promoted and a ringing endorsement from the commander in chief.

Group that backed AOC targeting longtime New York Rep. Eliot Engel
Public school educator Jamaal Bowman, 43, will challenge longtime House Democrat in 2020 primary

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., will face educator Jamaal Bowman in a Democratic primary in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Longtime New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel is getting a primary challenger who has support from the progressive group that backed New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her bid for office.

Jamaal Bowman, 43, a public school principal from the Bronx, announced Tuesday he is challenging Engel in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th District, a longtime bastion for the party.

Senate Democrats prioritize defense amendments to boost election security
Schumer makes public push for McConnell to allow NDAA votes on election security

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is prioritizing election security amendments to the NDAA. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

In one of the few chances they have to offer amendments this year, Senate Democrats are trying to prioritize efforts to keep Russia from further meddling in U.S. elections.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer made that clear Tuesday morning, highlighting Democrat-led efforts to amend the fiscal 2020 national defense authorization measure that is in line for floor consideration after several nomination votes.

Spending talks between White House, Hill leadership to resume Wednesday
A round of meetings on May 21 with the same principals involved got off to a positive start, but then petered out in the afternoon

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conducts a news conference in the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. He told reporters he planned to push for “robust” funding levels during spending talks, and also said he’d make a pitch for election security funds to combat foreign interference. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The four top congressional leaders from both parties plan to sit down again Wednesday morning with senior Trump administration officials to try to hammer out an agreement on next year’s spending levels.

The talks at the Capitol will include acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and acting budget director Russell Vought, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Is the census ready for its online debut?
Census Bureau says it’s prepared for security threats, but watchdogs raise doubts

The prospect of an external attack has driven the Census Bureau to lean on the Department of Homeland Security. Above, workers attend a training session in Houston in February 2016. (Scott Dalton/Houston Census Office)

Next year the federal government will launch its largest public-facing online portal in years, for an undertaking facing risks ranging from foreign cyberattacks to collapsing under its own weight: the 2020 census.

For the first time, the census will rely on online responses, one of a slew of technological upgrades by the Census Bureau that also includes computerized address verification. Those changes have watchdogs worried, despite assurances by the bureau that it will be ready when the census is rolled out in Alaska starting in January. 

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

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Democrats would be open to a one-year spending deal, but acknowledged it might create problems for getting another deal during an election year. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

New legislative affairs chief Ueland has his work cut out for him
One staffer, no matter how talented, may not be enough to curb Trump’s mercurial tendencies, Hill veterans say

Eric Ueland, left, takes over from Shahira Knight as the White House legislative affairs director. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Eric Ueland begins his new job Monday as President Donald Trump’s legislative affairs director, bringing with him hopes for a more productive working relationship between the White House and Congress as Trump heads into the final year of his first term. 

During more than two decades as a top Senate Republican aide, Ueland built a reputation as an effective strategist for conservative legislative efforts, with a knack for using the Senate’s rules to achieve the majority’s goals.

Justice Department sides with Treasury in blocking Trump tax returns
Mnuchin rejected demand by House Ways and Means Democrats

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had refused to comply with a subpoena from House Ways and Means Democrats for President Donald Trump’s tax returns. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Justice Department released an opinion Friday that backed up the Treasury Department’s decision not to give Congress copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, concluding that the “true aim” was to make the documents public and that “is not a legitimate legislative purpose.”

The Office of Legal Counsel opinion comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena for Trump’s tax returns from House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal last month.

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

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Democrats would be open to a one-year spending deal, but acknowledged it might create problems for getting another deal during an election year. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Trump — not lawmakers — set to be biggest challenge for new legislative affairs chief Ueland
No matter who runs Hill shop, president’s approach is ‘very unlikely to yield results,’ expert says

Wyoming Sen. Michael B. Enzi, right, introduces Eric Ueland at his confirmation hearing to be under secretary of State for management in September 2017. That nomination was later withdrawn, but Ueland will be President Donald Trump’s third legislative affairs director, starting Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Eric Ueland, hand-picked by President Donald Trump to be his third legislative affairs director, has decades of experience in the D.C. “swamp” his soon-to-be boss loathes. But the former senior GOP aide will quickly learn it is the president alone who is, as one official put it Thursday, “the decider.”

Ueland has been chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and a Senate Budget Committee staff director. Experts and former officials describe him as highly qualified for the tough task of being the messenger between Trump and a Congress with a Democrat-controlled House that regularly riles up the president and a Senate where Republicans lack votes to pass most major legislation.