Congress has trouble getting down to business

The Congress, now equipped with a Speaker of the House, is trying to do something about government funding for when the continuing resolution expires November 1...

The Congress, now equipped with a Speaker of the House, is trying to do something about government funding for when the continuing resolution expires November 17. The House is going about it in a unique way, though. For details, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with WTOP Capitol Hill correspondent Mitchell Miller.

Interview Transcript: 

Mitchell Miller Well, the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, has said he has gone through basically a hurricane, a Category five whirlwind of all the things that he’s got to do. And, of course, this is one of the top goals that he has to get through in the next few weeks. And, of course, it was also what caused his predecessor, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to lose his post because Republicans thought he was doing too much to reach across the aisle. So that’s the balancing act that Mike Johnson has right now and what he has said. It’s interesting. He started out by saying that he wants to go for a short term spending bill through January 15th. Now, that would have been a nonstarter for Kevin McCarthy. And eventually by saying that he wanted a short term bill. That’s what got him pushed out. But this everyone knows right now there’s only two weeks left or less than two weeks now that there’s something has to be done with a stopgap measure. So Mike Johnson is looking at that, but he’s also trying to be sensitive to the needs of the hard liners within his Republican conference. He knows that a lot of them don’t like having a continuing resolution. And what’s interesting is the floated this idea last week of a so-called laddered approach to a continuing resolution. And everybody said, well, what is that? And he tried to explain it. It’s an idea that was apparently floated by Maryland Congressman Andy Harris, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, one of the more conservative members. And what it is, is it would allow lawmakers to essentially take each appropriations bill step by step. They would go through, as they are right now, going through the appropriations process, because a lot of Republicans want to get back to regular order. However, it is being strongly criticized by Democrats who say that this really just only causes them to have a possibility of rolling government shutdown deadlines. That instead of having the one that we now have coming up on November 17th, we could potentially have several deadlines once we get through for one agency or a few agencies. Then another one would be around the corner. So I think in this case, Speaker Johnson is just trying to listen to his conference. But I just don’t think that that one is going to move forward.  

Tom Temin That does sound kind of arcane. You could say, well, HHS, you come to work, DHS, you stay home because we haven’t done your bill yet.  

Mitchell Miller Right. Yeah. Everybody that even the people that aren’t partizan, the non Democrats, just the budget experts just don’t really see how this could come together because as you say, you would have to chip away and have certain departments reporting for work and other agencies not reporting to work. It just seems very, very difficult to see how that would practically come into being.  

Tom Temin All right. And then, you know, there was the bill in the House to pass the $14 billion for Israel that was there. Good news there. Bad news, at least from the Democratic standpoint, was except we’re taking it out of the IRS, which just seemed like something that is not going to sail. I think the president threatened to veto that.  

Mitchell Miller Right. Exactly. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made it very clear that it is dead on arrival. But here again, is a case where Speaker Johnson is trying to get his footing within that very conservative conference that he has. And a lot of them were pushing for some kind of offset. A lot of people said this wasn’t an offset, that it was basically going to create more of a deficit problem. And in fact, that was confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office, which came back with an estimate. They were requested to get this from the Democrats. But the CBO came back and said, well, if you cut $14 billion from the IRS, you’re not going to be able to get more revenue from the IRS. And in fact, that’s actually going to balloon the federal deficit by 12 and a half billion dollars. But Johnson said no matter he needed a legislative victory, this was a victory for him, admittedly a short one, but it will allow him to get a little bit of leverage, at least at least to grab on to a little bit of that legislative ledge, if you will, so that when they go to the Senate, they can say, well, we did pass a bill with money for Israel. Now they’re going to have to go into a lot more detail related to Ukraine because many Republicans want more money for Ukraine in the Senate particularly. And then there’s the issue of Taiwan. And then what Johnson said is he would like to somehow he doesn’t say that he will not go along with more Ukraine funding, which some of the more conservative members of his conference don’t want any money to go to Ukraine. He’s leaving that open. But what he wants to do is tie it to more resources for the southern border, which. Of course, it’s a big, big goal of Republicans.  

Tom Temin We’re speaking with Mitchell Miller, Capitol Hill correspondent for WTOP. And we’ve mentioned some military matters. And it looks like the pressure is increasing on Tommy Tuberville because of these military promotions. And golly, there’s a lot of career military, long serving people that have been on hold for a long time now.  

Mitchell Miller Right. This is really coming to a head. And there was an extraordinary moment. You don’t really see this that often anymore on the Senate floor, but Republicans against Republicans on the Senate floor last week, you have Dan Sullivan, who is a marine Corps member from Alaska. You had Joni Ernst, who’s an Army veteran, both of them on the floor blasting Tommy Tuberville, who, by the way, did not serve in the military, saying you are really punishing these military personnel for something they have nothing to do with. And right now, we’re close to 370 military promotions that have been held up. And what Joni Ernst was really upset about is that Tuberville had earlier indicated that if they brought these up individually, that they would actually get a vote. So they tried to bring them up by unanimous consent. They brought more than 60 people up and they read their bios and talked about all the years of service they had. And each time Tommy Tuberville stood up and said he objected so that they couldn’t get them through. So part of the reason this is all pushing to the surface right now and that Republicans are really upset is because Democrats are proposing a change in procedure which would effectively allow them to take a lot of these promotion nominations and put them en bloc and basically put them in a big group and pass them all at once. And Tuberville has just dug in and said he won’t move on this. But a lot of other Republicans know that their patience is running out. And Democrats, if they can only get nine Republicans to join them, they could overcome the filibuster. And that potentially could happen. A lot of Republican institutionalists don’t like that idea of making a change in procedure, but this is really, really coming to a head now.  

Tom Temin Interesting. Well, maybe we’ll see something break in the next couple of weeks or even this coming week. And also related to the military, the NDAA, they’re still not reconciled on that particular one. And now there’s a gambit to get housing, child care help for military families in there.  

Mitchell Miller Yeah, this was one of the things that was still being worked on, even when there was still the speaker mess and nobody was really in charge in the House. But meanwhile, behind the scenes, as you know, the NDAA usually has bipartisan support and there’s been this effort in conference to try to get a lot of these improvements for housing and child care. Among the proposals is one that’s made by Colorado Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse. He’s got a bill that would require the Defense Department to provide temporary housing to the military families who’ve been on an on base housing waitlist for more than ten days after arriving at a new base. This is a real problem. A lot of military personnel know about this. They’re assigned to a new station and then they get there and there’s nowhere to actually stay. So there’s also an effort in the House to do more with affordable housing, be more responsive to complaints about housing facilities. That’s been a big problem. I’ve talked to Senator Tim Kaine about that with military facilities in Virginia. And there’s legislation in the House that seeks to get a better grip on what kind of child care programs there are for various military personnel. The House version of the NDAA includes increased funding for military childcare and tries to make it more affordable. So a lot of these things are still going on behind the scenes amidst all the sometimes chaotic headlines that we hear about coming out of Congress right now.  

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories

    APTOPIX Congress Speaker

    With no time to lose, Congress is functional again, more or less

    Read more

    Congress has trouble getting down to business

    Read more