Washington Update: Week of October 23

Washington Update

Budget & Appropriations (Offering of Letters 2017)

  • The Senate adopted a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution Friday, Oct. 20 that House Republican leaders agreed to accept. The budget cleared the Senate 51-49, with all Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting against it.
  • The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the resolution Tuesday, Oct. 24 and the House will simply vote this week on the budget that passed the Senate.
  • Final approval of the measure will unlock reconciliation rules allowing Republicans to pass a tax code rewrite without Democratic support. The House and Senate tax-writing committees have to release its tax bills by Nov. 13, according to the resolution, but there is no penalty for missing the deadline. Republicans are aiming to pass a tax bill by the end of the year.
  • The year’s most divisive fights in Congress are set to converge in a bitter partisan clash in December that could result in a government shutdown. The unresolved battles – over a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration, healthcare subsidies, and continued Puerto Rico relief – are hanging over talks on must-pass spending legislation to keep the government open after Dec. 8.  The year-end spending measure is at risk of becoming so weighted with controversial items that it could collapse. 
  • Even without contentious issues, completing a more than $1 trillion spending bill in time would be a tall order. Congress will likely pass a continuing resolution (CR) to temporarily fund the government for a week at a time.
  • There’s still a chance the two parties could agree on a deal. Senate Democrats have leverage because spending bills require 60 votes for passage.
  • The U.S.-Mexico border wall fight alone could lead to a government shutdown. Trump upped the ante by saying in May that a “good shutdown” may be necessary to win approval of $1.6 billion he wants to fund the wall. The money is in the House and Senate draft spending bills for the Department of Homeland Security, meaning it will be on the table in any omnibus negotiations.

Food-Aid Reform

  • Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on international food aid, specifically focused on cargo preference. You can find a link to the video here. You can find an AEI report on the same issue here.
  • No specific legislation has been introduced but we expect potential draft farm bill language in the House by next month, and will continue to work with champions on food-aid reforms in that process.

Criminal Justice Reform

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is likely to introduce a “corrections only” bill this week in an attempt to move the criminal justice reform conversation away from the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 (S.1917) to only corrections legislation.
  • We are urging Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va-6) to re-introduce the bipartisan Sentencing Reform Act. Without the re-introduction of the SRA, we are likely to see just corrections only bills move through committees.

Ask Now!

This week, the House will vote to approve the Senate’s budget resolution, which will pave the way for tax cuts. To pay for the cuts, critical anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), low-income tax credits, and Medicaid would be cut over the next 10 years.

Find out how your representative and senators voted on their chamber’s budget resolution. Call (800-826-3688) and thank them if they voted “no.” If they voted “yes,” tell them you are disappointed.

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