Continuing Resolution

Thursday eyed for Senate budget vote, August recess start
The timing of final votes uncertain as senators look to jet out of town for August recess

Scott, a former Florida governor, says Washington spends too much. He has indicated he will vote against the debt limit deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate appears set to spend another day in session before lawmakers can go home for August recess.

The chamber appears likely to vote Thursday on legislation that would avoid a $125 billion discretionary spending cut next year, as well as push off the threat of default on the nation’s debt until possibly late 2021.

House sends spending caps, debt limit bill to Senate
Measure next heads to the Senate for consideration

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads House Democrats down the House steps to hold a news conference on the first 200 days of the 116th Congress on Thursday, July 25, 2019. On Thursday, the House passed a debt limit and budget measure, sending it to the Senate for consideration. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After late lobbying from President Donald Trump, House leaders mustered the votes to pass a two-year spending caps and debt limit bill Thursday that will provide some structure around the appropriations process and stave off potential default on U.S. obligations until the end of 2021.

The 284-149 vote was the first legislative test for the package Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Monday after hard-fought negotiations. The measure would add $324 billion to otherwise austere spending caps over the next two fiscal years, and avert cuts averaging about 10 percent to federal agencies for the upcoming budget year starting Oct. 1.

NASA chief warns yearlong stopgap could cripple return to moon
Sen. Moran asked Administrator Bridenstine for help winning over former House colleagues

The image of a Saturn V, the rocket that sent Apollo 11 into orbit on July 16, 1969, is projected on the Washington monument on July 16, 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to land the first man on the moon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With celebrations underway marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the NASA administrator is warning that a full-year stopgap spending bill, like one recently floated by the Trump administration, would be “devastating” to U.S. efforts to get back to the moon.

Administrator Jim Bridenstine was at the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday for a hearing on space exploration to the moon and Mars, when Chairman Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, asked about the potential consequences of a yearlong continuing resolution, or CR.

Papaya outbreak highlights FDA’s food safety challenge
‘Inability to track and trace foods with speed or precision’ is agency’s ‘Achilles’ heel’

Salmonella infections caused by contaminated papayas highlight the challenges Food and Drug Administration officials face in fighting foodborne illness. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Salmonella infections caused by contaminated papayas highlight the challenges federal officials face in fighting foodborne illness, as a law from nearly a decade ago meant to modernize the food safety system is starting to show its age. 

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to bring its efforts to track and prevent outbreaks in line with the technology now at its disposal. But because spending for next year is uncertain, Congress could make it difficult for the agency.

Road ahead: Pressure rising for debt limit deal
Lawmakers face deadline on debt even as other priorities come to floor

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other congressional leaders and the administration only have a few legislative days to strike a deal  on raising the debt limit. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is set to consider several high-profile measures this week, including holding two Cabinet officials in contempt, raising the minimum wage and ratifying tax treaties, but lawmakers will be unable to avoid the contentious issue of raising the federal debt ceiling. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been speaking by phone, trying to reach agreement on avoiding a potentially calamitous debt default.

Debt limit may be reached before end of August recess, Mnuchin says
Treasury secretary formally notified Congress of the uncertainty on Friday

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the debt limit may be breached before Congress gets back from August recess. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put his request on paper for Congress to act on the debt ceiling before the August recess, writing to congressional leaders Friday that there’s a chance Treasury could run out of cash in early September.

“Since there is a reasonable uncertainty in projecting government cash flows, it is impossible to identify precisely how long extraordinary measures will last,” Mnuchin wrote in his four-sentence letter, referencing accounting maneuvers Treasury can engage in to carve out room under the $22 trillion debt limit.

Familiar offsets could resurface in spending caps talks
Budget watchdog groups start to dust off older proposals, as well as some new ones

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants offsets for any increase to discretionary spending caps. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Another year, another spending caps negotiation — accordingly it’s time once again to check the couch cushions for “pay-fors” just innocuous enough to skate by without kicking up too much lobbying dust.

For instance, extending automatic cuts to Medicare and dozens of other “mandatory” spending accounts, which have become so routine they’re almost unnoticed, has been a mainstay of all three deals in the last five years to relieve the pressure on appropriators. Extending fees collected by Customs and Border Protection on passenger and cargo arrivals in the U.S., first enacted in 1985, has been rolled over constantly as a go-to offset for all manner of legislation, including the 2013 and 2018 spending deals.

Tempers flare as leaders, White House fall short on spending deal
Failure to reach agreement after top-level meeting in Capitol

Senate appropriators, led by Chairman Richard Shelby, right, and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy have held off on beginning their regular process of moving spending bills pending some agreement among the House, Senate and White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A meeting of top White House officials and congressional leaders broke up Wednesday without agreement on topline funding allocations for appropriators, raising fresh doubts over their ability to avert another fiscal crisis later this year.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Democrats of upping the ante on nondefense spending from what they’d put on the table previously.

Congressional leaders, White House give spending caps talks another try
Fall government shutdown looms if both sides can’t agree on a deal

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, center right, here with ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, says both sides are closer to a deal on spending caps than they have been to date. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

White House officials plan to meet with congressional leaders Wednesday — for the second time in as many months — to reach a deal on spending limits that would prevent another government shutdown this fall.

The first meeting, on May 21, produced some initial hopes that a bipartisan deal could be reached relatively quickly, avoiding a breakdown in the appropriations process when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Spending talks between White House, Hill leadership to resume Wednesday
A round of meetings on May 21 with the same principals involved got off to a positive start, but then petered out in the afternoon

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., conducts a news conference in the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. He told reporters he planned to push for “robust” funding levels during spending talks, and also said he’d make a pitch for election security funds to combat foreign interference. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The four top congressional leaders from both parties plan to sit down again Wednesday morning with senior Trump administration officials to try to hammer out an agreement on next year’s spending levels.

The talks at the Capitol will include acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and acting budget director Russell Vought, according to sources familiar with the plans.