“Power of the Purse” Campaign Status Report Update - September 25
As Congress wraps up its second week back from recess, here's where we think our Power of the Purse appropriation-budget battle stands.
While continuing to work on the remaining two (out of 12) appropriation bills it has yet to pass, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until the beginning of the Thanksgiving recess on November 21. The vote was 301-123 with 76 Republicans voting “aye.” There were conflicts over immigration, border wall funding, reproductive rights, tariff bailouts of farmers, and increased funding for health care. Bottom line -- in return for some minor concessions from Republicans, Democrats agreed to a CR that left the major conflicts unresolved, kicking them down the road until November.
The CR contains no new official funding for immigration/border wall, but neither are there any new restrictions or oversight of the crooked, corrupt, and incompetent Trump administration's redirecting/repurposing funds to their immigration obsessions. In return for permitting continued financial bailouts of farmers hurt by Trump's tariffs, Republicans accepted some additional reporting requirements. Some new healthcare funding (including Puerto Rico) was included in the CR, as was an extension of the Export-Import Bank and National Flood Insurance program. Bottom line: Democrats won back a small portion of funds and programs previously cut by Republicans, while leaving Republican abuses of power largely unchecked.
This deal highlights that there's still work to do. Once again, our MoC's placed themselves on the defensive and were able to only mitigate a portion of the damage Republicans do - which they proclaim as important "victories". We need to put pressure on Democratic elected officials to stop delaying fights until an undefined tomorrow, and urge them to be more aggressive right now and fight to win.
Under current Senate rules (which could be changed, suspended, or circumvented) appropriation legislation still requires 60 votes to pass. Republicans tried to pad extra funding into Defense and Homeland Security and include explicit authority for Trump to transfer funding to the border wall without congressional approval, but Democrats blocked them by preventing them from getting the 60 votes they needed (two Democrats – Jones of AL and Peters of MI – voted with the Republicans).
Senate Republicans are saying they will also pass a CR this week, but whether it will be the same as the House CR or significantly different remains to be seen. It’s possible that Moscow Mitch and his Republican cronies have been meeting in secret with White House operatives and key corporate lobbyists to craft a no-one-but-us-knows-what’s-in-it backroom deal – as they've done before. If so, they may try to ram it through the Senate with no hearings, no transparency, and no public comment. To do that, they’ll need to either end the filibuster or coerce seven Democratic Senators to their will by threatening to blame them for the resulting shutdown if it doesn't pass.
While it's possible that a few of the less controversial appropriations bills might be enacted sometime this year, we may be faced with a series of CRs that continue to punt the hard fights down the road until a new Congress takes office in 2021. Since the Democrats want new domestic spending and programs, and the Republicans want greater defense spending and new Pentagon endeavors (to say nothing of border walls and detention camps), both parties dislike the prospect of governing on a continuing resolution basis because it would freeze spending at current levels and block agencies from initiating new projects. But for the most the government, that’s what is now looming as a possibility.
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously added $250 million in election-security funds to the one of the appropriation bills (FSGG) to help states safeguard voting systems. This was something that Moscow Mitch had been blocking until public pressure became too strong even for him to resist. So that’s at least a small step forward. However, the House bill contained $600 million and included safeguards and requirements that the Senate version lacks. Unlike the House version, for example, the Senate language does not require verifiable paper-ballot systems nor does it require that the money actually be used to enhance election security. Should the full Senate adopt the committee language, the differences between the Senate and House versions will have to be resolved in conference, so we need to keep the pressure on.
Declaration of Emergency
The crooked, corrupt, and incompetent Trump declared a “state of emergency” as a pretext for granting himself illegal & unconstitutional powers to “re-purpose” money for his racist wall to appease his political base. As provided by the National Emergencies Act, last February both chambers of Congress passed legislation terminating his declaration, but the House was unable to muster a 2/3rds majority to overturn Trump’s veto. Under the Act, legislation to end a declared emergency can be put forward every six months, so some Democrats are going to try again later this month or early October.