sequester

Blizzard Whiteout Buries Issue of Red Ink

CBO Director Keith Hall won't be testifying this week, as planned, about the rising budget deficit. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of the blizzard’s most important, if unintended, effects was keeping the federal budget deficit buried as a 2016 campaign issue.  

The return of a rising tide of red ink has been almost entirely overlooked by both parties’ candidates in the presidential race and the relatively few competitive contests for Congress. There was a chance that would change this week, when the head of the Congressional Budget Office was supposed to describe his very sobering assessment of the fiscal future in appearances before both congressional budget committees. Instead, after the snowstorm, his Tuesday testimony in the Senate and then Wednesday’s in the House were postponed indefinitely.  

Congress Has a List of Deadlines, Is Checking It Twice

Ryan has a long month ahead. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress returns this week for a pivotal work period with multiple deadlines, a busy schedule for an institution that tends to wait until the very last minute to get things done.  

House lawmakers will spend the next four legislative days laying the groundwork on crucial pieces of legislation for the rest of the month, negotiating terms and conditions among themselves and with their counterparts across the aisle and Rotunda.  

White House Loses Votes to GOP on Syrian Refugee Bill

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democratic leadership braced Thursday for at least 60 defections on the Republican bill to strengthen the vetting of Syrian refugees seeking resettlement in the United States.  

It wasn't quite that high, but 47 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with nearly every Republican for Congress' first legislative response to the terrorist attacks in Paris — despite a veto threat from President Barack Obama. The coalition of Democrats supporting the measure, which passed 289-137, wasn't atypical of previous votes for which leadership could not justify opposition. Articulating a reason to vote "no" on a bill sold as one to keep Americans safe was the challenge for White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who delivered a pitch to House Democratic whips Thursday morning that was criticized as incoherent and unconvincing.  

Appropriator Praises Speaker 'Sonny Boy' Ryan

Lowey, D-N.Y. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans showed Thursday they were willing to give Paul D. Ryan a chance when they overwhelmingly elected him the 54th Speaker of the House.  

Democrats are also showing signs of enthusiasm for the Wisconsin Republican's promotion. Appropriations Ranking Member Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., told CQ Roll Call shortly after Ryan's swearing-in ceremony she had "enormous respect" for the incoming speaker, with whom she said she grew close following a congressional delegation trip to Saudi Arabia nearly a decade ago.  

Obama, Ryan Must Find Common Ground Soon

Ryan will seek the House speakership. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

There could be little President Barack Obama can do to find common ground with Paul D. Ryan, given their deep ideological differences and House conservatives’ inevitable demands for the speaker-in-waiting.  

With Ryan's announcement that he will seek the speakership, all eyes now turn to the Wisconsin Republican's ability to manage his fractious caucus and find just enough common ground with a president many conservatives revile. Ryan will have little time to settle in because of some fast-approaching fiscal deadlines. Congressional leaders must find a way in coming weeks to avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default, then see if they can strike a long-term budget deal.  

Breaking Down the CR Vote

Price voted "no" on the CR. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Just 91 House Republicans voted with every Democrat to keep the government open after midnight Wednesday — that's three out of every eight members of the conference.  

It could have been that the 151 GOP opponents felt free to snub the continuing resolution  — which didn't contain language defunding Planned Parenthood — knowing Democrats were prepared to make up for the shortfall.  

Congress Averts Government Shutdown With Hours To Spare (Video)

Boehner and other GOP leaders avoid government shutdown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Though conditions on the ground looked eerily similar to those that caused a two-week government shutdown two years ago, the House on Wednesday passed legislation to keep federal operations afloat through Dec. 11.  

With hours to spare, the chamber voted on the stopgap spending bill, 277-151, with every Democrat, joined by 91 Republicans, voting "yes" and 151 Republicans voting "no." In a move to appease conservatives who wanted to tie defunding Planned Parenthood to the must-pass spending bill, the House also advanced a so-called "correction enrollment" to "correct" the continuing resolution to strip the embattled women's health organization of federal funds.  

House Democrats React to Boehner Resignation

Boehner and Pelosi run into each other in the green room between their weekly news conferences on July 10, 2014. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While House Republicans were still digesting the news Speaker John A. Boehner would be stepping down at the end of October, House Democrats were quickly getting in on the action.  

In official statements, news conferences and hallway interviews, members of the minority party could barely contain their schadenfreude. "The speaker announcing his resignation  that resignation of the speaker is a stark indication of the disarray of the House Republicans," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly news conference.  

Hoyer Hints House Democrats Won't Sink 'Clean' CR

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats have said they don't want to help pass a continuing resolution that funds the government at sequester levels  unless it's a very short-term bill and there's a promise to begin negotiations to eventually lift the spending caps.  

At the moment, it looks like they're not going to get concessions on either front.  

Republicans Split on Planned Parenthood Strategy as Shutdown Nears (Video)

Cole was laughing, but the Planned Parenthood fight is getting serious. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With only six legislative days left before the government runs out of money, House Republicans still don't have a conference-unifying strategy to avoid a shutdown and defund Planned Parenthood.  

Asked whether he was worried about the rapidly closing window in which to act — current funding runs out on Sept. 30 — senior appropriator Tom Cole, R-Okla., laughed.