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Senate votes to start debating Russia sanctions measure, but may lack votes to finish it
Joint resolution seeks to block sanctions relief for three Russian companies

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has led the joint resolution. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Eleven Senate Republicans split from the Trump administration Tuesday afternoon, backing an effort by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer to force a floor debate on sanctions on Russian firms.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had appeared at Tuesday’s Senate GOP lunch to make the case for letting sanctions relief for three sanctioned Russian companies to go forward.

States scramble to get February food stamps out amid shutdown

The lapse in funding for the Agriculture Department due to the shutdown is complicating people getting their food stamp benefits. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

State and county workers spent the weekend gathering information needed to make sure 38 million low-income people receive their February food stamp benefits early despite a partial federal government shutdown.

The Agriculture Department prompted the flurry of activity when it announced last week that it would tap the remaining budget authority in an expired continuing resolution to provide states $4.8 billion to cover February benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Virginia senators concerned that shutdown could jeopardize security clearances
Furloughed workers cite compounding problems, such as health insurance lapse

Brian Uholik, right, a furloughed Justice Department employee, holds his infant daughter Wynnie while discussing with his wife Jamie how the government shutdown has impacted their family during a roundtable discussion with government employees and Sens. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Brian Uholik is a proud father of a new baby daughter, but he’s also a furloughed trial attorney at the Department of Justice.

Uholik was among the federal employees from Northern Virginia who met Friday morning with Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats who have been pushing for a quick end to the partial government shutdown.

Republican defections on House spending bills to end shutdown tick up

Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., speaks during the National Air Traffic Controllers Association rally to “Stop the Shutdown” in front of the Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The number of House Republicans supporting Democrats’ bills to reopen the government increased slightly on Thursday.

On Thursday, the House voted 244-180 to pass a Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development spending bill and 243-183 to pass an Agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal 2019.

USDA Races to Use Budget Authority for Food Stamp Benefits in Shutdown
Announcement comes just before Trump’s television address

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said Tuesday evening that food stamp benefits will be covered in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Trump administration said it will cover food stamp benefits in February using its authority under a provision of an expired continuing resolution that allows it to obligate federal funds within 30 days of expiration.

That move to use the stopgap measure that expired Dec. 21 would give USDA the $4.8 billion it would need to provide funding if the partial government shutdown continues into next month. This is the first time the department has used the method because of a government shutdown.

Shutdown Effects: Breakdown by Department and Agency
Thousands of federal employees will be working without a paycheck

The Federal Reserve building is seen on Constitution Avenue address on Saturday, the first day of a partial government shutdown. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Thousands of federal employees face the prospect of working without a paycheck as the White House budget office Friday night directed the heads of government departments and agencies to begin implementing shutdown plans.

Funding for nine departments and other agencies lapsed at midnight as President Donald Trump remained in a standoff with Congress, his demand for funding for wall construction along the border with Mexico the sticking point in talks over appropriations and a stopgap funding measure.

Even at Farm Bill Signing, For Trump It’s All About the Wall
President signs five-year reauthorization at White House, but talks about border standoff

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, helped shepherd the farm bill to passage. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill after entering the ceremony to the theme from the “Green Acres” sitcom of the 1960s about a city slicker and his society wife who move to the country to become hobby farmers. But before praising farmers, Trump renewed his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding, making much of the ceremony about the ongoing fight over the border wall and an ensuing government shutdown. 

Trump called securing the U.S.-Mexico border an “absolute duty,” saying “any measure that funds the government has to include border security — has to.”

Trump Set to Sign Farm Bill, Minus the Food Stamp Changes He Wanted
Planned signing comes a day before current stopgap government funding expires

Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts expect to attend the farm bill signing later this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Lawmakers expect President Donald Trump to sign the farm bill legislation Thursday even though it excludes Republican priorities Trump supported such as changes to food stamps.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and ranking member Debbie Stabenow of Michigan plan to be at the White House, though the former said Tuesday that he doesn’t have a time or any details.

Democrats Push Back on Plan to Make Green Cards Harder to Obtain
Public health advocates, others warn about effects of ‘public charge’ crackdown

Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., pictured here, joined with Sen. Kamala Harris and public health officials in pushing back against a proposal to make it harder for people who utilize public assistance to obtain green cards. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic lawmakers are joining local health officials, community organizers and immigrant rights groups around the country in opposition to a Trump administration regulatory proposal that would make it harder for foreign nationals to obtain green cards if they have received government assistance.

Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Nanette Barragán, both California Democrats, said in a public comment submitted to the Homeland Security Department that the proposed regulation would represent “another misguided step in advancing this administration’s cruel, anti-immigrant agenda.”

Final Farm Bill Would Make Hemp Legal, Other Details Revealed
Lying in state of George H.W. Bush disrupts bill release schedule

Corn grows on a farm on July 13, 2018 near Amana, Iowa. Farmers in Iowa and the rest of the country, who are already faced with decade-low profits, are bracing for the impact a trade war with China may have on their bottom line going forward. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

The top House Agriculture Democrat says a final farm bill agreement rejects controversial House provisions to tie food stamp benefits to expanded work requirements, greenlights hemp cultivation and tweaks programs important to farmers and ranchers.

The death of former President George H.W. Bush and his lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda disrupted congressional schedules this week, including the release of a final farm bill. Lawmakers have spent weeks negotiating to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the legislation.