Patrick J Leahy

Senate floor debate beckons amid spending bill impasse
Under stopgap law, lawmakers have about five weeks to reach funding agreement

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says there’s a “good chance” the chamber can start debating spending bills next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate next week could debate a package of spending bills that have received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, according to Chairman Richard C. Shelby.

“I’ve been hearing that and conversations lend me to think there’s a good chance,” the Alabama Republican said Wednesday, noting that the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think there are five, six, seven appropriations bills that we could pass if we get to the floor.”

Democrats: Budget rule change undercuts Congress’ authority
The new rule instructs agencies to report alleged violations only if the agency, in consultation with OMB, agrees a violation occurred

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., leaves the Senate Democrats’ policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic appropriations leaders wrote to the Office of Management and Budget Friday objecting to a decision to limit agencies’ reporting of alleged budget violations, which they said is an attempt to weaken congressional oversight.

The letter from House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, follows a General Accountability Office opinion that suggests the new procedure violates the law.

The three places where senators can ‘actually’ talk
Sen. Chris Coons’ favorite places to reach across the aisle

From left, Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D.N.Y., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chris Coons, D-Del., share a laugh after a markup hearing on judicial nominations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“We’re real people. We’re not just two-dimensional targets,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told a lecture hall of law students at Notre Dame last week.Flanked by former Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Coons talked about the hyperpartisan environment on Capitol Hill and the intention required to cut through it and work. For the Delaware senator, this means talking to his colleagues “in the three settings [he has] found where there [are] no lobbyists, no staff and no press.”

Joking that Flake spent more time in the gym than he did, Coons told the students about the senators-only gym — a place “you can actually chat as you’re working out.” While little information is publicly available about the gym, Roll Call learned more about the facility in 2013 by standing in the hallway outside it for several hours. 

The art of the ask: Foreign aid isn’t a campaign ‘slush fund’
Trump’s Ukraine request deviates from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach

President Donald Trump is under fire for a July 25 conversation in which he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Arms sales and foreign aid have long been a part of the United States’ carrot-and-stick approach to foreign policy. But President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader is something entirely different.

Making access to American weapons or dollars contingent upon behaviors that support U.S. interests is standard procedure.

Senate clears stopgap, pivots to endgame spending talks
The bill funds the government through Nov. 21, giving Congress and the White House more time to reach agreement on appropriations

Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., right, and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., prepare for a Senate Appropriations Committee markup on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. The Senate voted Thursday to approve the House-passed bill to fund the government through Nov. 21. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate on Thursday cleared a spending bill that will fund the government through Nov. 21, giving lawmakers and the White House more time to reach agreement on the annual appropriations process. The vote was 81-16, with all of the ‘no’ votes coming from Republicans.

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the continuing resolution, holding off another partial government shutdown for at least 52 more days. But this could be the first of several stopgap bills amid tense debates about abortion policy and the border wall.

2020 hopefuls ditch Senate vote to end border emergency in favor of trail
The Senate voted to end the southern border emergency declaration but without sufficient votes to override a presidential veto

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., walks through the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2019. Harris, and several 2020 White House hopefuls, did not vote Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate voted Wednesday to end the national emergency declaration on the southern border but without sufficient votes to override an all-but-inevitable presidential veto.

Eleven Republicans joined 43 Democrats in support of ending the emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to repurpose $3.6 billion in funds appropriated for military construction projects. That money has been diverted to border wall construction.

House, Senate appropriators talking despite impeachment calls
Senate appropriators have begun early talks with House counterparts on next year’s spending bills, despite an impeachment inquiry

Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., right, and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., prepare for a Senate Appropriations Committee markup on June 19, 2019. Senate appropriators have vowed to press on with next year's spending bills as a formal impeachment inquiry begins in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Impeachment inquiry? We’ve still got spending bills to pass.

That’s the attitude of top Senate appropriators, who have begun preliminary talks with their House counterparts about a possible path forward for next year’s spending bills, in advance of formal conference negotiations.

House passes temporary funding bill; Senate vote next week
The vote punts final decisions on fiscal 2020 to just before the Thanksgiving recess

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., departs from a press conference at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The House passed an interim funding bill Thursday afternoon, extending appropriations through Nov. 21. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed a stopgap spending bill that would continue government funding until Nov. 21, after spending the last few days arguing over aid to farmers caught up in the U.S.-China trade war.

The 301-123 tally saw just three Democrats vote ‘no’ and 76 Republicans supporting the measure. The strong bipartisan showing bodes well for quick Senate passage of the continuing resolution next week.

House stopgap bill would fund farm payments, health programs
The bill could move to the full House for floor consideration as early as Thursday

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., walks down the House steps after a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending bill after ironing out last-minute disagreements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending bill late Wednesday that runs through Nov. 21 after ironing out last-minute disagreements about payments to farmers hit by retaliatory tariffs.

The measure would reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation for trade relief and other payments as of Sept. 17, so the agency doesn’t breach its $30 billion borrowing cap as it continues to send checks to farmers and ranchers.

Farm payment disclosure language delaying stopgap funds
Disagreement remains on how to information on payments made under Trump’s trade mitigation assistance program

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., talks with reporters after a news conference in the Capitol on August 13, 2019. On Wednesday, Hoyer said he hopes a stopgap funding bill would be filed as soon as lawmakers can iron out final details, including on language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade mitigation assistance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Disputes over language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade war mitigation program were delaying release of a stopgap appropriations measure needed to keep the government open beyond the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

“Almost ready,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said Wednesday afternoon. She said outstanding issues include how to draft language that would provide adequate reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation for payments made under Trump’s tariff relief program. The CCC is approaching its $30 billion borrowing cap and without the appropriations “anomaly” White House officials say they’d have to stop making payments to eligible farmers and ranchers.