Richard C Shelby

‘Regular Order’ Still Not Out of the Woods
Current appropriations process is still a far cry from before the late 2000s

Sens. Richard C. Shelby, left, and Patrick J. Leahy ride the Senate subway in 2011. Shelby, now the Senate Appropriations chairman, has touted the return to regular order in this year’s appropriations process. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | Senate leaders have spent the past few months crowing about the return to “regular order” on appropriations, justifiably in many respects. They’ve passed nine spending bills, the first time that’s happened since 2009, and a first before September since 1999. And Congress sent three spending bills to the president’s desk before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year, which hasn’t happened in 10 years.

But by several metrics, the Senate hasn’t matched the fuller appropriations debate in the “world’s greatest deliberative body” that existed prior to the late 2000s. Senators have spent roughly 16 days this year debating their appropriations bills on the floor; the average was nearly 28 days from fiscal 1986 through 2006. The Senate has considered 165 amendments to fiscal 2019 spending bills, compared with 269 per year during the fiscal 1986-2006 period.

Extra Hurricane Relief Cash Could Wait Until After Elections
Ryan: ‘Right now FEMA has money in the pipeline’

Residents of Spring Lake, North Carolina, are evacuated from their apartments as flood waters rise. FEMA enters the recovery phase with coffers flush with cash. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has more than enough money to assist states hit by Hurricane Florence and likely won’t need Congress to pass an emergency disaster aid bill in the coming weeks, based on figures provided to lawmakers.

Due to lawmakers’ largesse when they provided more than $136 billion in late 2017 and earlier this year — mostly to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma — government disaster aid coffers are flush with cash. It’s a vastly different situation from last year, when Congress returned in September after Harvey spent five days battering Houston and surrounding areas.

Leahy Endorses Return of Spending Bill Earmarks
Doing so could allow for orderly, timely appropriations process, Vermont Democrat says

Remarks by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on bringing back earmarks echo similar ones expressed by House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee would like to bring earmarks back to the appropriations process, restoring a practice banned in 2011 after several years of scandals and negative publicity.

Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy told C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” on Friday that there’s “no question” that once again allowing earmarks is one way lawmakers can have an orderly, timely process for annual appropriations bills.

Watershed Moment as Three Appropriations Bills Clear on Time
House voted 377-20, sending legislation to the president’s desk

The U.S. Capitol building as seen on Friday, June 15, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A batch of three spending bills is on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk following a 377-20 House vote Thursday, marking the first on-time delivery of a quarter of the annual appropriations measures in a decade.

The $147.5 billion package — which funds the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, the Army Corps of Engineers and the operations of Congress — is the first installment of what lawmakers hope will be nine bills becoming law before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. 

What’s Missing From Bob Woodward’s Book? Ask Ben Sasse
With McCain gone, the Nebraska Republican may be the closest thing left to a never-Trumper

Sen. Ben Sasse says he’s committed to the party of Lincoln and Reagan as long as there’s a chance to reform it. The true test would be a 50-50 Senate, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” — which might better have been called, Hunter Thompson-style, “Fear and Loathing in the White House” — is filled with revealing anecdotes that have gotten overlooked amid the incessant rounds of TV interviews and cable news panels.

One of my favorites comes from the early days of John Kelly’s White House tenure, as the new chief of staff briefly labored under the illusion that he could tame the erratic president.

Beating the Hurricane: Senators Pass Spending Bill and Finish Votes for the Week
Agreement allows senators to beat any Hurricane Florence delays

A high-definition video image captured from the International Space Station shows the eye of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday. (Courtesy ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst)

Updated 7:49 P.M. | Senators finished their work on the first bundle of fiscal 2019 spending bills and headed for the exits Wednesday, after they reached a deal to effectively complete the week’s tasks just hours after arriving at the Capitol.

The agreement to allow passage of a three-bill spending package and confirmation of President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Internal Revenue Service, Charles P. Rettig, on Wednesday night will allow senators to head out before too many delays arise from Hurricane Florence’s arrival along the Carolina coast.

Outside Kavanaugh Cacophony, Congress Faces Looming Deadline on Government Spending
Despite steady progress this year, lawmakers have little time to pass funding bills

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., talks with reporters in the Capitol’s Senate subway before the Senate Policy luncheons on August 28, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The multiday media circus surrounding the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh notwithstanding, Congress is facing a Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government, with appropriators struggling to work out their differences on fiscal 2019 spending. 

There are only 11 legislative days this month when the House and Senate are both scheduled to be in session. That means there isn’t much floor time in either chamber to vote on what could be as many as three conference reports with spending totaling more than $1 trillion, even if the legislation is privileged in the Senate and the House limits debate.

Just When You Least Expect It — A Congress That (Sort of) Works
Lawmakers have shown they are getting things done. They mustn’t stop.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, here with Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer in February, acknowledged the cooperation of Democrats in the progress made on fiscal 2019 spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — If you had to use one word to describe the last year in Washington, “stormy” might come to mind, for a whole host reasons. Or “trial.” Or “collusion.” You could also throw in “Twitter,” “tax cuts,” “fake news” and “resist” as the Washington words of the year.

The very last word anyone would use to describe Washington is “functional,” especially if Congress is a part of the conversation. And yet, while the country’s focus has been trained on Paul Manafort’s corruption trial or Omarosa’s secret White House tapes or what the president thinks about all of it, lawmakers have been making slow and steady progress toward their most basic, but often most difficult, job every year — funding the United States government.

Google ‘Prematurely’ Renames Russell Senate Office Building for McCain
Colleagues are debating renaming Senate’s oldest office building to honor McCain

On a map of the U.S. Capitol area, what is now the Russell Senate Office Building has been renamed “McCain Senate Office Building.” If you hover over the location, however, the pop-up still shows it as Russell. (Screenshot from Google Maps)

Updated 12:20 with Google’s response: While it’s still being debated in Congress, Google appears to have gone ahead and renamed the Russell Senate Office Building the “McCain Senate Office Building” to honor the late Sen. John McCain.

If you hover over the “McCain” label, a pop-up that reads “Russell Senate Office Building” appears. If you click on the label, information about Russell appears in a panel on the left side of the map with no mention of McCain.

Senate Death Gratuity Tradition Will Continue for Family of John McCain
Appropriators, leadership have yet to determine exact path for conveying payment

Sen. John McCain’s family will receive the traditional payment for lawmakers who die in office, but lawmakers have not determined the vehicle for conveying it yet. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After Sen. John McCain is honored this week, his family will be remembered with a personal payment in a spending bill, the long-standing practice of providing a death gratuity for a departed member’s survivors. The only question is, which spending bill will it hitch a ride on?

Congress traditionally offers a death gratuity to be paid to the family of any lawmaker who dies in office.