Newest Capitol Hill activity and keeping the government funded

Nothing happened over the weekend in Congress, as a Friday deadline is still looming.

Nothing happened over the weekend in Congress, as a Friday deadline is still looming. Departs that need funding include: Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Labor and the Defense. To find out what is ahead for the week, the Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke with Bloomberg Government Deputy News Director Loren Duggan.

Interview Transcript: 

Tom Temin  So, what’s ahead for this week? Again, that deadline is Friday at midnight. Here’s Bloomberg Government Deputy News director Loren Duggan. And I guess we were expecting something to happen last Friday or over the weekend. What went wrong? Or did they just go skiing or something?

Loren Duggan Well, they were talking most of the weekend, and the holdup will be a familiar one to your listeners. The border and immigration policy has once again come into the debate and slowed down attempts to reach a deal on an important piece of legislation. Last week, there had been talk about maybe punting questions about the Homeland Security Department just doing a continuing resolution for that as part of this larger bill that would fund those agencies that you mentioned. But here we are this morning looking for bill text and not seeing it. And that will complicate efforts to keep the government open past Friday night when that all important midnight deadline hits.

Tom Temin Yes, I guess for the Republicans that want to tie the two together, this is their last chance in a sense. So, they didn’t get it. That’s kind of their version of border control and immigration policy in the first round of deadlines a couple weeks ago. So, this is this is their star they have to hitch to it sounds like.

Loren Duggan At least the next one, because there obviously is another government funding deadline coming at September 30th. And there’s still this open question about what to do with the Ukraine and Israel aid packages. But when it comes to this bill, there is a deadline and there is a request from the Biden administration for some more money. And it sounded like over the weekend it was about a $1.5 billion infusion. They were looking for Republicans have push back on the characterization of their, of their reaction to that. But what we’re talking about here is some more money, really, for the ICE agents and CBP agents that are dealing with this border crisis. And Democrats say if they don’t get more money, it’s not going to make the situation any better. And they have pointed to concerns, their concerns that Republicans are just trying to slow down action and keep things a little chaotic down at the border. But I think we’re going to hear a lot of that rhetoric around this, and we’ll be waiting to see what the final bill actually does whenever we see it.

Tom Temin Right. And the Defense Department is still hanging in the balance here, and there’s no chance they would separate Health and Human services and Defense.

Loren Duggan Right. And that was sort of this idea that maybe we have the bills through September 30th for the other five of the spending measures and then maybe do a stopgap for DHS. But that idea that was floated last week doesn’t seem to have taken hold. But you’re right, Defense Department, it’s the largest single appropriations bill. We already have the defense authorization bill, which sets policy, but this is the actual money. And then there’s the labor HHS education bill, another major one, funding three of the big social agencies that Democrats in particular want to pour a lot of funding into. So, I think we could see five plus a CR, but we’ll have to see how this shakes out as the week continues.

Tom Temin But it’s fair to say this is going to be their top-of-mind thing that they do in this coming week.

Loren Duggan Absolutely. Averting a shutdown before a two-week break is definitely going to be their top priority.

Tom Temin Then what’s kind of strange about this is that the one budget is lapping the other, with the administration having released kind of a talk about a wish list that is in the president’s proposal coming out. When will Congress take that one up? If they will?

Loren Duggan They’re going to do the early part of it this week. They’re having some key hearings with the Energy secretary and the HHS secretary, Treasury secretary, and the OMB director to review this document and go through, I hate to say, go through the motions, but at least go through the tradition of bringing cabinet agencies and department agencies up to defend what the president has proposed. I think we are unlikely to see any fast action on this, especially with the two-week break coming up. But appropriators do have to kind of pivot pretty soon here to start writing the bills and get them through their subcommittees and committees, because they do want to have some sort of progress made before they leave in September for the election. I think we’re definitely heading towards a continuing resolution at some point and maybe dealing with these questions later in the year, but you want to lay down your markers at some point, to kind of guide that process.

Tom Temin Yeah. So with a detailed administration budget proposal out what they’re saying to the American public anyway, and to all of the federal employees that watch this stuff carefully to see if their agencies will be funded or they cannot possibly get 12 appropriations bills hammered out in six months, is what they’re saying, pretty much.

Loren Duggan I mean, we’re sitting here on March 18th and still dealing with the bills that should have been signed by September 30th if the process was followed to the regular order. And clearly it hasn’t been. So, the one thing we have going for us this year is we do have a topline number in effect for fiscal 2025. They had agreed to that last year. The question is, are they going to have a side deal for how much they can spend around that or stick some more money in there? That’ll be the question. But there are some things that point to it being easier. But, you know, past history also has to be taken into account.

Tom Temin And what about the foreign policy aid front? Israel, Ukraine and so forth? Where does that line now that they’re getting this close to the deadline and they’ve got the immigration thing looming.

Loren Duggan That is a separate issue. So, they can deal with the six regular spending bills, whether it’s full year or CR, this week, and then come back to Ukraine and Israel. There is pressure to get that done, leaving for a two-week break, given the conditions of war that are going on in both those places, is making some people uncomfortable. There are these discharge petitions to try to force action. Neither one of those has enough support yet. So, we’ll see if there’s any movement on the part of the speaker who on Friday sounded like maybe he was open to a vote at some point. I don’t know if we’ll see that before the spring break, but that will be, I think, the next issue down for, for lawmakers certainly is dealing with that.

Tom Temin And it’s hard to tell which is worse climate wise or weather wise, winter or summer. And the House is looking at energy and energy policy this week.

Loren Duggan That’s right. They came out of their GOP policy retreat at the Greenbrier with this energy agenda. And it’s about stopping Biden from imposing a fracking ban, repealing some of the programs that Democrats put in place last year around emissions, also saying a carbon tax would be a bad idea. So, it’s kind of this package of GOP anti Biden energy policies that they’re going to advance over the course of the week while they wait to vote on that spending bill and get that done. But it’s certainly when you’re heading to spring break and travel is on people’s minds. It’s one of those things they’re trying to ring the bell on before they head for the hills.

Tom Temin In the Senate. There are some nominees going on to.

Loren Duggan Yeah, they’re continuing to process in particular right now judicial nominees trying to get those through, continue to, you know, tally up the numbers of Biden nominees that get through. And then committees will also be looking at some nominees, including for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There’s a trio of nominees going for their hearing this week. So, behind the scenes that nominations, sausage making continues to happen as people are brought before committees and then sent to the floor.

Tom Temin Yes. Because, you know, this is the time when pretty soon, some of the first term appointees, whether there’s a second term or not, nobody knows this is when there’s could be a lot of turnovers at that level. So, we could see some vacancies at the top because of the nomination process. And then the confirmation process. That could be a year of agencies having no confirmed head.

Loren Duggan That’s right. And we have the Labor Department, which has had an acting secretary for a long time, Julie Sue, who was nominated to be the secretary. But it hasn’t advanced. And then Marcia Fudge, who’s at HUD, said last week that she would be stepping down. So, you’re beginning to see that churn start of people who’ve been here three years and change and are maybe ready to move on before the election.

Tom Temin And by the way, I’ve lost count. But there are still a couple of recent resignations. What is the balance? Democrats and Republicans right now in the House look like it’s.

Loren Duggan 219 to 212. I want to say it’ll be 218 Republicans at the end of the week because Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who had already retired, he’s stepping away. But now we’re seeing special elections happen that will fill some of those gaps. But it’s just up and down that will be continuing to watch. Because when you get very narrow, any two people or three people can band together with Democrats and stop what Republicans want to do. So that margin is very important.

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

Related Stories

    Congress passes first package of spending bills just hours before shutdown deadline for key agencies

    Read more