Congress can’t be too concerned about the state of affairs

Russian brutality on parade once again. No end in sight for the Middle East conflict. No federal 2024 budget and the border crisis rolls on. What a great time f...

Russian brutality on parade once again. No end in sight for the Middle East conflict. No federal 2024 budget and the border crisis rolls on. What a great time for Congress to take a recess. For an up-close look at what Congress has done, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Loren Duggan, Bloomberg Government deputy news director Loren Duggan.

Interview Transcript: 

Loren Duggan There really is. And there are some key deadlines coming up as soon as next week and the week following that really are going to force action by Congress when they get back from this break, which is about two weeks for the Senate in about a week and a half for the House from when they left to when they get back. So, yeah, you’re right, there’s no shortage of things to be concerned about on Capitol Hill. And as lawmakers are either in their districts or traveling abroad to things like the Munich conference that we saw at the end of last week. So, you know, certainly a lot on their list.

Tom Temin And not the least of which is the looming deadline when they get back for the continuing resolution to expire.

Loren Duggan That’s right. We have two deadlines coming up just to remember people. They split it apart this time around. March 1st is the deadline for four of the bills, covering about 20% of funding, and then March 8th for the eight bills that cover about 80% of the funding. So, two pretty quick deadlines to have to wrestle with when they get back. There’s probably discussions going on over the phone, even with people scattered across the country in the world. But we will be needing to see text pretty quickly if they’re going to do something before that March 1st deadline. And there’s a lot of pressure on Mike Johnson, in particular the speaker of the House, about what he’s going to do and how he’s going to approach this.

Tom Temin Because even the next continuing resolution, if that’s how they go, that’s a law that they have to get together and write and pass and etc., etc..

Loren Duggan Right. And just a handful of days, get that drafted and run it through all the traps that you have to and figure out procedurally how to get it to the floor. And the stopgap bills have been problematic for first, Kevin McCarthy when he was Speaker, that kind of led to his ouster. And then even the one that Mike Johnson got them to pass last year was not done happily by his membership and required a lot of Democratic support.

Tom Temin And on the other fronts of Israel and Ukraine aid, it’s not so much that the House, the conservative end of the Republicans, have expressed opposition to those things. They just are using it as a wedge for more on border security. Although details of what they want are not all that clear.

Loren Duggan Right. It’s kind of stuck right now. The Senate passed its $95 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Indo Pacific, nothing for the border and no border security language because the earlier package that had been negotiated over months didn’t have enough support and was removed from the bill so they could move forward with what they had. In the House. The going, you know, if you listen to the president, if you listen to Senate Democrats put this bill on the floor and it would pass and there’s a case to be made that it might. But Mike Johnson has said he won’t do that yet. So, they’re sort of stuck on that issue until they figure out what to do. Mike Johnson would say we’ve passed strong border security language in H.R. 2, but Democrats have opposed that bill. It doesn’t stand a chance of getting through the Senate, given the makeup there. So, they’re in a stalemate. The one thing we saw at the end of the week was a group of moderates in the House released a slimmed down package, about 66 billion for Ukraine, Israel and these other issues. That could potentially be a path forward. But again, they left town without necessarily a plan on how to address this issue. But maybe these looming spending deadlines are a vehicle or a moment to reflect on how to act on that.

Tom Temin And maybe the question of this Navalny death that happened last week could maybe, I don’t know, get them more sensitized to the fact that it really is a desperate situation between Ukraine, and the I was going to say the Soviet Union, and Russia, and that we’re dealing with something that’s not what we want spread over the continent. When you see what Vladimir Putin is capable of.

Loren Duggan There have been a lot of discussions about Ukraine, and there are a group of people who don’t want to continue funding it, or some people like former President Trump and others who have talked about maybe doing it as a loan instead of straight funding. That is really helping the military complex in the U.S. help produce these weapons or replace what’s already been sent over. So, you know, I think that the Navalny developments will be brought up and discussed as part of this, like those senators who are in Munich and hearing probably from Zelenskyy directly about, what, what he thinks and bringing up Navalny and things like that. So, you’re right. I mean, the looming Russian threat is part of all this. And supporting Ukraine is about also, warding off future wars or future conflict in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Tom Temin We’re speaking with Loren Duggan, deputy news director of Bloomberg Government. And then there is poor Alejandro Mayorkas. Well, he won’t be impeached in the next couple of weeks because his house is out. But is that going to all be revived? It just seems like I don’t know, what are they going to accomplish with it since it’s not going to get to the Senate or through the Senate.

Loren Duggan Well, we saw that House vote by one vote actually agree to impeach him once Majority Leader Steve Scalise came back from cancer treatment, and he was the deciding vote in that the trial will have to kick off, at least perhaps they’ll swear in the senators as jurors, and then they’ll figure out what to do. They have some options. They could have a trial. They could send it to a committee and say to the committee, review the evidence, or they could maybe have a vote to just end it pretty quickly. But all that is happening in that comeback week, which just like we’ve discussed, has that spending deadline at the end of it. So, a lot of pressure probably to resolve this or come to some sort of alternative arrangement pretty quickly so they can get back to the business at hand, which includes funding the government.

Tom Temin And those of us that live down in the weeds wonder about the FAA authorization that’s also in limbo and kind of an important agency if you fly somewhere.

Loren Duggan Yeah, definitely. A big bill has to be dealt with separately from appropriations because of just the way FAA operations have this trust fund that gets ticket taxes and other things flowing into it, and that’s lying back out. That legislation expires March 8th on that second of the two spending deadlines. House has passed a bill. The Senate committee in charge of it approves something recently. They have to reconcile all that and figure out what to do. I’m not sure if we’ll see a Senate debate separately, or if they’ll work on an agreement that can get through both chambers. It might be a tall order to do all of that by March 8th. And as you note, there’s a lot happening in the aviation space with the Boeing 737 Max and the doors there and the scrutiny around that and just the desire to pass some legislation around safety and other things important to the aviation sector. So that is a pretty big bill that’s kind of overtaken by all these other pieces of legislation.

Tom Temin And there were some nominations too, that were close to action. But again, the Senate gone for two weeks. So, what are some of those?

Loren Duggan Yeah, I think we’ll see some more action on that when they get back there. You know, there’s a Dellinger at the Office of Special Counsel has been held up but might be a path forward on that. We could see even Sean Patrick Maloney to be the OECD. He’s a former rep, but that was held up for a while, but kind of an ethics arrangement he agreed to might allow that to move forward. And then judicial nominations. I think we’ll see more action on that at the committee level and then on the floor, because in this last year of the Biden administration with a Democratic Senate, there is an imperative to make some progress on filling those slots to kind of leave that lasting imprint, because, as we know, judicial nominees are for life. So, getting that person in there can be a big deal. And we have one cabinet opening still that, Julie Sue for the Labor Department, that one still seems stalled. We’ll have to see if there’s going to be more action or hearings on that. Which of the ranking Republican on the committee has called for?

Tom Temin And when they do get back, it’s March. And then the next thing you know, it’s almost campaign season because the presidential race is an internal function in the country, not so much the congressional races, but at what point do they lose interest in some of the details here and start worrying about their own fannies coming back, especially in the House?

Loren Duggan Certainly the fall, there will be a lot of pressure around that, and they are due to be out all of August and all of October, that September session, obviously a government funding deadline, so they have to do something, but it will be hanging over everything. And you can even see with, Donald Trump and his position on legislation is trickling through to how Republicans are voting and approaching some of these major topics. And there are congressional primaries starting in early March as well, including a really big day on March 5th, where I think five states and 115 districts will be on the ballot. So, elections are going to be everything in the coming months.

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