Kellie Mejdrich

Education Department’s ‘Gainful Employment’ Repeal Carries High Price Tag
Topic could come up when Senate begins debating Education Department spending

The Trump administration’s proposal to repeal Obama-era requirements for recipients of federal student aid comes with a price tag of about $5.3 billion over a decade, a figure that is already giving critics ammunition as the Senate prepares to turn to Education Department appropriations this week.

The administration’s proposed rulemaking would rescind 2014 regulations requiring colleges and universities to ensure graduates have low debt-to-income ratios or risk losing access to loans and grants that help students afford to attend their programs. The proposal will be open for a 30-day comment period once it’s published in the Federal Register on Tuesday before the department can turn to drafting a final rule.

Top GOP Leader ‘Not Sure’ Where Trump is ‘Coming From’ on Shutdown Threat
John Thune says there is not much appetite for funding showdown over border wall

President Donald Trump has threatened to shut down the government if he does not get his way on funding for his proposed border wall, but that does not mean his Republican colleagues know where he is going with such hardball tactics.

“I’m not sure ... where the president is coming from,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota said Monday of Trump’s threats over funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. “We understand he wants wall funding and we all get that, but I don’t think there’s any appetite up here for anything, you know, particularly at the end of the fiscal year, that would create problems for government funding.”

Kudlow: Trump Administration Will Lower Deficit Despite Projections
WH economic adviser says ‘economic boom’ an important factor

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that the administration plans to lower the deficit, despite recent upward projections that suggest otherwise.

“The effects of this economic growth boom are going to be a major important factor to this, very important,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He then cast the deficit as a byproduct of economic stimulus that would bring in more tax revenue over time.

Crickets on the Chopping Block in Senate Spending Bill
Jeff Flake not too keen on bug-based food development

Arizona’s junior senator has a beef with crickets, and the use of federal funds to develop easier and more delicious ways to eat them.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has submitted an amendment to the four-bill spending package (HR 6147), under consideration on the Senate floor this week, that would prohibit funds “to support the development of insect-based foods for human consumption, including cricket farming and taste-testing of insect-based foods.”

Do-Nothing Amendments Give Lawmakers Bragging Opportunity About Successes
Provisions have no real-world impact

The House adopted amendments on a two-bill spending package last week purporting to redirect sums ranging from $100,000 to study the impact of a mineral found to cause cracking in concrete home foundations, to $36 million for “public safety and justice facility construction” at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

There’s just one catch: the provisions simply give the illusion of moving money around — with no real-world impact on agency funding priorities. The net financial impact of all 14 such amendments considered during debate on the $58.7 billion Interior-Environment and Financial Services measure — out of 87 total floor amendments on the bill — was precisely zero.

Trump’s Trade Policies Get a Senate Slapdown
Lawmakers support congressional authority over tariff decisions

Senators delivered a bipartisan, if nonbinding, rebuke to President Donald Trump’s trade policies on the floor Wednesday, voting 88-11 to express support for congressional authority over presidential decisions to impose tariffs for national security reasons.

The motion, offered by GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, would instruct conferees on an unrelated $147 billion spending bill covering the Departments of Energy, Veterans Affairs, Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to “include language providing a role for Congress in making a determination” under a law enabling presidents to impose trade restrictions on security grounds.

House Passes ‘Minibus’ Over Democratic Objections
Sen. Shelby: ‘The sooner the better’

The House passed a roughly $147 billion three-bill fiscal 2019 spending package on a partisan 235-179 vote Friday, overcoming Democratic objections to environmental policy riders and funding priorities in the GOP-drafted Energy-Water title.

The “minibus,” which also carries the Military Construction-VA and Legislative Branch measures, is the first of what House GOP leaders expect to be a series of three-bill packages to try to expedite passage of at least a few of the 12 annual spending bills before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

EPA’s Pruitt Faces Bipartisan Criticism at Senate Spending Panel
Discussion of agency’s budget takes back seat to scandals

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faced a bipartisan lashing at a Senate Interior-Environment Appropriation Subcommittee hearing where agency scandals largely eclipsed discussion of the fiscal 2019 budget.

“I am concerned that many of the important policy efforts that you are engaged in are being overshadowed because of a series of issues related to you and your management of the agency,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said as she kicked off a hearing on the EPA’s fiscal 2019 budget.

Election Year History Belies Ambitious Talk on Appropriations
Lawmakers’ spending goals could run right into midterm hex

November might seem far away, but the midterm elections’ impact on spending bills is already on display, amplified by internal Republican jockeying for leadership positions in the House.

Election years tend to chill swift movement on appropriations bills — especially when there’s potential turnover in leadership of one or both chambers. That’s in part because lawmakers want to focus on campaigning and are back home more than usual, and party leaders tend to want to shield vulnerable members from tough votes.

House GOP Renews ‘Holman Rule’ Targeting Federal Pay
Provision allows cuts to individual employee salaries

House Republican leaders on Tuesday re-upped a rule that lets lawmakers slash the salaries of individual federal employees, in a move that some Democrats condemned as an attempt to dismantle the federal workforce.

Tucked into a floor rule that teed up consideration of two unrelated bills on financial services and health policy is a provision that extends the “Holman rule,” a standing order whose revival has sparked controversy in recent years. 

Lawmakers Push for Sexual Harassment Bill in Spending Package
Bipartisan coalition, Speaker want legislation included in omnibus

House Republicans and Democrats are making a last-minute bid to add legislation that would address the sexual harassment of staffers by members of Congress on the omnibus appropriations bill.

With dozens of policy issues still in flux as part of the full-year fiscal 2018 spending package, some lawmakers are upset by indications a bill that would implement robust sexual harassment policies in Congress is currently not part of the omnibus. The House passed the anti-sexual harassment measure, as well as sweeping rules changes aimed at protecting staffers, by voice vote on Feb. 6.

Departing Appropriations Chairmen Set to Reap Omnibus Bounty
Fiscal 2018 spending bill a swan song for Cochran, Frelinghuysen

The outgoing chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are set up for a bountiful swan song as a sprawling $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill comes to fruition this week.

For Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, resigning April 1, it’s a “mic drop” moment as the ailing 80-year-old Mississippi Republican will walk off the stage just after the omnibus measure is expected to become law. Cochran’s departure leaves his state with an enormous loss of clout that he will be anxious to ameliorate in his final go-round.

Porn Still Turning Up in the Federal Workplace Despite Ban
Congress made rules to block employees from watching porn. But will it act to enforce them?

It’s been six years since Congress began banning federal employees from watching pornography in the workplace. But even though lawmakers have gradually added the rule to spending bills, implementing it agency by agency, some workers are still pulling up porn — and some departments still aren’t covered.

As the spotlight on sexual exploitation intensifies in Washington and around the nation, it’s clear that the problem of online porn in the federal workplace hasn’t gone away.

Mike Pence Breaks Another Tie Senate Vote
With veep help, Senate confirms Vought for deputy OMB director slot

Senators voted to confirm Russell Vought as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote Wednesday with the chamber deadlocked at 49-49. It was the ninth time Pence has broken a tie since he took office last January. 

GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Mike Rounds of South Dakota were absent, necessitating Pence’s drive down Pennsylvania Avenue as the Senate split along party lines on the vote.

In Budget Talks, the ‘Dreamer’ Tail Wags the Spending Caps Dog
Immigration has been a major drag on wrapping up appropriations bills, members say

Lawmakers are hurtling toward a Feb. 8 spending deadline, when the fourth stopgap of fiscal 2018 expires, with little demonstrable progress toward agreement on new spending caps they have known would be necessary since the last two-year budget deal was reached in October 2015.

“Anybody would be very, very optimistic or unrealistic — take your choice — if they said by next Tuesday we’re going to have a global agreement. As a matter of fact, we appear to be moving in the opposite direction, which is sad,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday.

Return of the Earmark? If Trump Gets His Way, Yes
President tells lawmakers they could help get things done

Congress should consider reviving geographically directed spending known as earmarks, President Donald Trump unexpectedly told a group of Republicans and Democrats at Tuesday’s White House meeting on immigration policy.

“You know our system lends itself to not getting things done. And I hear so much about earmarks, the old earmark system, how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks but of course they had other problems with earmarks,” Trump said. “But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks,” he added to a boom of laughter in the room and a few strong yells of “yeah!” and “no!” from individual lawmakers.

Covering the Capitol: Adjusting to New Realities
 

Getting quickly from one part of the sprawling Capitol Building to another has always meant negotiating a labyrinth of stairwells and hallways, but these days more places tend to be off-limits due to security concerns at a moment’s notice. Four CQ and Roll Call journalists talk about how critical access to lawmakers is becoming more of a challenge....
Limiting Sexual Harassment Payouts ‘Complicated,’ Lawmakers Say
Funding limitation could be one response to sexual misconduct scandals roiling Capitol Hill

Updated, 4:05 p.m. | Lawmakers have been quick to express their disgust with sexual harassment payments that come out of federal coffers to cover the cost of elected officials’ behavior. But members are more guarded when asked whether they would take action by attaching a funding limitation to a spending bill — a common instrument used by lawmakers in appropriations.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a top Republican appropriator, sounded cautious after last week’s revelation that the Office of Compliance has doled out tens of thousands of dollars since 2013.

CBO: Tax Plan Could Cut Medicare By $25 Billion
OMB would be required to order sequestration 15 days from end of session

Some members are concerned the GOP tax overhaul would lead to mandatory multi-billion dollar cuts to programs such as Medicare.

There’s not enough mandatory spending up for grabs under current law to execute the full automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to entitlement programs that would be triggered if Republicans push through deficit-increasing tax cuts by year’s end.