Paul Krawzak

Deficit widens, economic growth slows in new CBO outlook
Repeal of health care taxes the largest driver of 10-year deficit increase, according to projections

The Congressional Budget Office projects higher deficits for this year and the coming decade, with a fiscal 2020 deficit of $1.015 trillion — $8 billion higher than the agency estimated last August.

The fiscal 2019 deficit was $984 billion, by comparison.

Shelby skeptical of nascent House discussions on earmarks
‘The Republican Caucus is on record against that,’ Senate Appropriations chairman says

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said it’s unlikely Republicans in his chamber will bring back spending bill earmarks, regardless of what the House decides.

“The Republican Caucus is on record against that, so that’s not going to go anywhere right now,” the Alabama Republican said Tuesday. Himself a prolific earmarker before the practice stopped in 2011, Shelby declined to discuss his personal views on the topic at this point. “I’m part of the [GOP] caucus and the caucus is not going to support that. So unless the caucus is involved it won’t happen,” he said.

House members considering ending ban on earmarks
Lawmakers have cautiously expressed growing interest in allowing special projects inserted into spending bills

House appropriators are considering lifting a nearly 10-year ban on congressionally directed spending, known as earmarks.

While no decisions have been made, a House Democratic aide said lawmakers are in the “early stages” of considering allowing earmarks in spending bills for the coming fiscal year. “There is considerable interest in allowing members of Congress to direct funding for important projects in their communities,” the source said.

GAO: Trump’s hold on Ukraine aid violated budget law
1974 budget law limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending

The Government Accountability Office said in an opinion Thursday that President Donald Trump violated federal budget law when he ordered White House officials to withhold most of a $250 million military aid package for Ukraine last summer.

The finding comes after House Democrats delivered articles of impeachment on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress grounds stemming from the Ukraine affair to the Senate Wednesday evening, triggering the Senate trial expected to start next week.

Ukraine aid legal ruling could shake up impeachment trial
GAO’s legal opinion on whether Trump and White House officials violated a 1974 budget law could be released this week

Congress’ investigative arm may be about to add a new wrinkle into the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump sparked by the nearly two-month holdup of Ukraine security assistance last year, which Democrats charge Trump orchestrated to extract political favors.

As early as this week, the Government Accountability Office could release its legal opinion on whether Trump and senior White House officials violated the Nixon-era budget law that requires executive branch agencies to spend appropriated funds according to lawmakers’ wishes.  

Tax deal in hand, spending package grows in size
Targets expiring tax breaks for biodiesel, distilleries, racehorses and butane

A deal on tax extenders reached late Monday by top Capitol Hill and White House officials would renew most expired or expiring tax provisions through 2020, with a longer extension for lapsed biodiesel and short-line railroad maintenance credits through 2022.

Adoption of the rule for floor debate on an eight-bill spending package set for floor consideration Tuesday will incorporate the tax package, which will also carry disaster aid provisions and a couple of fixes to the 2017 tax law.

Lawmakers unveil two mega spending packages
Health taxes to be repealed, tobacco age raised in year-end deal

Updated Dec. 16 at 6:05 p.m.

House appropriators filed two mega spending packages for floor consideration Tuesday after hammering out last-minute details over the weekend.

Sources: Repealing health care taxes in play on spending deal
Tax talks appear to have picked up steam over the weekend

Congressional leaders were discussing a permanent repeal of three major health care taxes — on medical devices, health insurers and high-cost “Cadillac” insurance plans — as part of the final appropriations measures advancing this week, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The tentative development follows some skepticism about whether leaders would even be able to agree to attach an extension of expiring tax cuts and other tax policy changes to the package — and little expectation that the costly taxes would be repealed altogether.

OMB: Ukraine aid delay was consistent with law, past practice

The White House budget office on Wednesday defended its temporary withholding of almost $400 million in Ukraine security-related funds earlier this year, saying the episode was in keeping with longstanding authorities that allow the executive branch to control the flow of appropriated funds.

“It was OMB’s understanding that a brief period was needed, prior to the funds expiring, to engage in a policy process regarding those funds,” says the nine-page Office of Management and Budget letter to the Government Accountability Office, which had inquired about the legality of the move. “OMB took appropriate action, in light of a pending policy process, to ensure that funds were not obligated prematurely in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.”

Powerful patrons duel over California projects in final spending package
Pelosi seeks Presidio park while McCarthy pursues Shasta Dam expansion

The top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House are pushing for their own home-state projects in this year’s final spending bills — a spectacular park overlooking San Francisco Bay and a dam across the largest reservoir in California — but without agreement from each other in the negotiations’ final days.

The two items in dispute — the Presidio park project championed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Shasta Dam expansion sought by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy — are among some 200 disagreements that need to be resolved by leadership to finish up the appropriations legislation.

Wall funding talks ‘tenuous’ as appropriators report progress
Negotiations moving to a trade-off that could allow each side to walk away with a win

Senior appropriators on Monday were narrowing gaps on border wall funding that have held up a deal for months, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a key negotiator.

But the West Virginia Republican, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said after meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other senior Republicans that there wasn’t yet agreement. 

House pushes ‘dozen bills or none’ approach to spending talks
GOP senators express doubts as House leaders insist on finalizing appropriations by Dec. 20

House Democratic leaders are insisting that all 12 overdue spending bills for the current fiscal year must be finalized before any of them can reach the floor, according to sources familiar with strategy talks.

The demand for some kind of grand bargain could complicate hopes for completion of at least a portion of fiscal 2020 appropriations before stopgap funding runs dry on Dec. 20 and Congress adjourns for the winter holidays. 

Transcript highlights Ukraine concerns among career OMB staff
Two officials left the agency after the withholding of aid came to light

Two Office of Management and Budget officials grew frustrated with the hold on Ukraine military aid ordered by President Donald Trump and resigned from the agency, according to newly released impeachment inquiry testimony.

Mark Sandy, deputy associate director for national security programs at OMB, testified behind closed doors on Nov. 16 that the two officials left the budget office after the hold on some $391 million in aid became known. House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry released a transcript of Sandy’s testimony Tuesday.

House to take up Dec. 20 stopgap measure Tuesday
House Appropriations Democrats released the draft stopgap measure Monday afternoon after a morning of last-minute haggling

The House is moving forward to quickly take up a monthlong continuing resolution that would extend temporary funding levels for federal agencies. The measure will be on the floor Tuesday, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

House Appropriations Democrats released the draft stopgap measure Monday afternoon after a morning of last-minute haggling over special additions. The measure would replace the current CR, which expires Nov. 21, with a new deadline of Dec. 20 to finish up fiscal 2020 spending bills. 

Senate budget writers offer up a revamped budget process
CQ Budget, Ep. 133

The Senate Budget Committee drafted legislation for an overhaul of the broken budget process that includes a move toward biennial budgets. But any change is still an uphill fight, as Paul M. Krawzak and Kate Ackley explain.

Appropriations talks rejuvenated as possible shutdown looms
Meetings are a sign policymakers are seeking common ground and ways to avoid another government shutdown

Top aides to House and Senate appropriators, leadership from both parties and White House officials met Tuesday to try to kick-start spending talks, a sign that policymakers are seeking common ground and ways to avoid another government shutdown despite impeachment politics.

Dozens of policy disputes and thus-far intractable differences on subcommittee allocations between the chambers have held up progress. The House spending bills, written before the bipartisan budget deal in July that set final fiscal 2020 spending caps, are nearly $20 billion above the Senate’s for nondefense programs, for instance.

How the OMB used its powers to delay Ukraine aid
Order to withhold the funds came directly from the president

An obscure agency with outsized sway over federal spending is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry into an alleged “quid pro quo” orchestrated by President Donald Trump trading domestic political aid for security assistance against a common foe.

The White House Office of Management and Budget gave the order to withhold aid to Ukraine intended to combat Russian aggression for almost two months. The decision came directly from the top, catching some administration officials as well as bipartisan majorities on Capitol Hill by surprise.

Four appropriations bills slated for Senate floor this week
A procedural vote to take up the bill could occur Tuesday or early Wednesday

Senate leaders plan to jump-start the stalled appropriations process by taking up a package of four spending bills this week that have strong bipartisan support.

Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican, announced plans to bring to the floor a package that combines the fiscal 2020 Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-HUD bills. The Appropriations Committee had advanced all four measures on unanimous votes.

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

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.

House committee leaders demand budget documents related to Ukraine aid holdup
Letter asks OMB to provide trove of information, much of it by Oct. 1

The chairs of the House Budget and Appropriations committees took the Office of Management and Budget to task Friday for possibly illegally withholding foreign aid funds appropriated by Congress including assistance to Ukraine.

In a letter to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought, Budget Chairman John Yarmuth and Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said they are concerned OMB actions that withheld military aid to Ukraine “constitute unlawful impoundments in violation” of the landmark 1974 budget law.