appropriations

Craft distillers, retailers wait anxiously for tax extenders
Stakeholders predict layoffs, hiring freezes if deal is not struck by end of year

Rep. Denver Riggleman says it would be “disastrous” for his wife’s Virginia distillery if a 2017 provision that cut excise taxes is not extended past its Dec. 31 expiration date. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman says a looming tax increase on small craft distillers will lead to layoffs at the distillery his family operates in Afton, Virginia, where they make a handful of spirits with colorful names like Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback Bourbon.

And Jeff Quint, a Swisher, Iowa, distillery owner who makes bourbon from corn grown on his family farm, says the demise of the small distillers’ break will force him to rethink new hires he’d been planning.

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

A section of the border wall stretches through the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Texas border on Aug. 20, 2019. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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. 

Foreign aid rider tangles up final spending talks
The White House is concerned the rider could cut out faith-based aid groups from USAID contracts

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., listens during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. Shaheen says her amendment, creating concerns for the White House in year-end spending talks, has nothing to do with funding abortions. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Urged on by anti-abortion activists and religious groups, the White House is raising concerns in year-end spending talks about language secured by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in the Senate’s State-Foreign Operations bill they fear could cut out faith-based aid groups from U.S. Agency for International Development contracts.

Shaheen argues the provision in the bill would simply require USAID contractors to adhere to current law, which stipulates they can’t deny services to individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, political affiliation or other factors.

White House tells Dems it won’t cooperate with Judiciary impeachment hearings
Top lawyer tells Congress to end proceedings

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone indicated the White House would not participate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone signaled to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler Friday that President Donald Trump will not have his attorneys take part in his panel’s remaining impeachment hearings.

“As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness,” he wrote in a brief letter that never states the White House will not participate but makes Trump’s feeling about the probe clear.

Lowey: Appropriations deal could be struck this weekend
House Appropriations chairwoman says House could vote next week

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., sounded optimistic that negotiations over a spending bill could wrap up over the weekend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey said Friday the House could begin voting on final spending bills for the current fiscal year next week.

After months of partisan stalemate, the New York Democrat struck a decidedly optimistic tone in predicting that negotiations on a final spending deal could wrap up this weekend, clearing the way for floor votes to begin. Lawmakers have been scrambling to complete a deal before current funding runs dry on Dec. 20.

At Trump White House, that elusive China trade deal is always ‘close’
On Oct. 11, president saw final deal in a few weeks. Eight weeks later, talks drag on

A container ship sits docked at the Port of Oakland in May in Oakland, California. The Trump administration has yet to finalize an elusive trade pact with China that has at times shaken global markets. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

ANALYSIS — A trade agreement with China that President Donald Trump boastfully announced nearly two months ago remains stalled, despite a top White House economic adviser’s Friday pledge that a final deal is “close.”

On Thursday, the often-verbose president was notably succinct when a reporter asked about the on-again/off-again/on-again China trade negotiations, including whether he would follow through on a threat to slap 15 percent tariffs on $160 billion worth of Chinese-made items on Dec. 15.

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 6 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

The Capitol Christmas Tree was lit on the West Front of the Capitol on Wednesday evening. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Appropriators seek to wrap up talks this weekend
But panel members acknowledge ‘hurdles’ as Dec. 20 deadline for bill passage looms

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, on Thursday said he was “more enthusiastic than I was a couple of days ago” that final negotiations on spending bills could be done this weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Spending bill negotiators set their sights on wrapping up a year-end deal by this weekend, but they differed on how realistic that deadline might be.

With only two weeks left before current funding runs dry, appropriators are hoping to finalize work on all 12 spending bills and pass them by Dec. 20 to avoid another stopgap measure or possible government shutdown. But unless a deal comes together in the next several days, lawmakers have warned, there likely won’t be enough time to write the bills and move them through both chambers before the holiday recess.

White House says it’s ready for impeachment votes and trial
However, one Trump aide says: ‘We don’t know if Pelosi has the votes or not’

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone leaves the Capitol after attending the Senate Republicans' lunch  Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump and senior aides reacted to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that articles of impeachment are coming by essentially calling for a vote and a Senate trial.

The White House messaging is similar to that used by President Bill Clinton and his aides in 1998: pressing lawmakers to expedite the impeachment process and Senate trial so Washington can focus on other matters.

Congress frets over program to streamline Pentagon procurement
Some worry that companies won’t spend own money on research, may not compete for important programs

Some in Congress worry that, without assurances of a payoff in production, industry will not spend its own money on research work and some companies may not even compete for some important programs, denying the Pentagon access to certain talent. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Four years ago, Section 804 of the defense authorization law freed certain Pentagon programs from the usual acquisition rules, from documenting why a program is needed to how much Pentagon experts who do not work for the same armed service think it will cost.

But now virtually every congressional panel, including both authorizers and appropriators, has expressed in legislation or in reports some degree of concern about how these programs to develop new missiles, satellites, helicopters and combat vehicles are being implemented.