Budget

That ’70s Show: Biden edition
Political Theater, Episode 93

Former Vice President Joe Biden arrives for his 2020 campaign kickoff rally at the Eakins Oval in Philadelphia on May 18. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Say this for the Democratic presidential field: Voters certainly have choices. From former vice presidents to tech entrepreneurs, from senators to mayors, from wizened veterans to young upstarts.

Out of this crowded roster, Joe Biden is arguably the most recognizable. The affable No. 2 to President Barack Obama and longtime former senator is among the most known political quantities.

Meet the key appropriations players of the fall
List includes budget war veterans as well as relative newcomers

Eric Ueland has been the White House legislative affairs chief since June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s the behind-the-scenes work of top legislative aides that makes the Capitol Hill machinery work, and that’s never truer than when lawmakers are trying to hash out spending bills as Congress and the White House will be focused on this fall and winter.

After initial decisions by Republican and Democratic clerks — the top staffers on the Appropriations subcommittees — full committee staff will step in to help work out any remaining issues. Leadership staff will be on hand to address the most intractable disagreements and questions about what legislation can ride with the spending bills, and to make sure the measures have enough votes to pass.

Pelosi says key component of drug pricing bill not open to negotiations
Pelosi rejects idea of negotiating bill that doesn’t allow the government to negotiate prices

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House committee leaders started briefing members on Democrats’ drug pricing plan this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats on Thursday released the outline of a long-awaited drug price proposal, taking a step toward fulfilling one of the party’s signature campaign promises: requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The bill would allow commercial insurers to benefit from the Medicare-negotiated price as well, and base Medicare’s highest-acceptable price on the lower prices other wealthy countries pay.

Democrats say they want to prioritize legislation over impeachment. Here’s their chance
Thursday release of prescription drug pricing bill provides opportunity for messaging shift

House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine M. Clark and Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries say House Democrats are most successful in communicating their policy messages directly to constituents in their districts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Democratic leaders’ plan to release a top-priority prescription drug pricing bill on Thursday presents the caucus with an opportunity to refocus its messaging on legislating over investigating — one that many Democrats say is desperately needed.

Moderate Democrats in particular are concerned that the caucus’s policy work isn’t breaking through the impeachment cloud that has overshadowed the 116th Congress.

House stopgap bill would fund farm payments, health programs
The bill could move to the full House for floor consideration as early as Thursday

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., walks down the House steps after a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending bill after ironing out last-minute disagreements. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending bill late Wednesday that runs through Nov. 21 after ironing out last-minute disagreements about payments to farmers hit by retaliatory tariffs.

The measure would reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation for trade relief and other payments as of Sept. 17, so the agency doesn’t breach its $30 billion borrowing cap as it continues to send checks to farmers and ranchers.

Farm payment disclosure language delaying stopgap funds
Disagreement remains on how to information on payments made under Trump’s trade mitigation assistance program

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., talks with reporters after a news conference in the Capitol on August 13, 2019. On Wednesday, Hoyer said he hopes a stopgap funding bill would be filed as soon as lawmakers can iron out final details, including on language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade mitigation assistance. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Disputes over language that would let the White House keep making payments to farmers and ranchers under President Donald Trump’s trade war mitigation program were delaying release of a stopgap appropriations measure needed to keep the government open beyond the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.

“Almost ready,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., said Wednesday afternoon. She said outstanding issues include how to draft language that would provide adequate reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation for payments made under Trump’s tariff relief program. The CCC is approaching its $30 billion borrowing cap and without the appropriations “anomaly” White House officials say they’d have to stop making payments to eligible farmers and ranchers.

Smithsonian has almost $1 billion in outstanding maintenance, committee told
Buildings with outstanding repair needs include the Castle and the National Air and Space Museum

Cathy L. Helm, inspector general of the Smithsonian Institute, testifies before the House Administration Committee on Oversight of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The Smithsonian Institution has almost $1 billion in outstanding maintenance needs across the more than 600 facilities it oversees, an issue that concerned lawmakers at Wednesday’s House Administration Committee hearing and one that the recently appointed head of the museum complex pledged to address.

Prominent Smithsonian buildings in need of deferred maintenance — maintenance and repairs that were not performed when they should have been — include the Smithsonian Institution Building, known as the Castle, the Arts and Industries Building and the National Air and Space Museum. The $937 million backlog for fiscal 2017 is an assessment of every building it oversees, according to to Cathy Helm, inspector general for the Smithsonian Institution.

Senate panel wants probe into nuclear weapons glitches
Panel is concerned that problems might reflect fundamental oversight shortcomings that have broader implications

An Air Force F-16C carries a B61-12 bomb on a test flight at Nellis AFB, Nev. Problems with commercially manufactured electrical components have caused months of delays. (Staff Sgt. Brandi Hansen/U.S. Air Force photo)

The Senate Appropriations Committee wants to order the Energy Department to launch an investigation into technical problems that have recently plagued U.S. nuclear weapons programs.

The committee’s mandate is buried deep inside the report accompanying the $48.9 billion Energy-Water spending bill that the committee approved on Sept. 12.

Esper brings China focus as Defense secretary
Plan to seek savings in Pentagon operations could face roadblocks

In search of savings, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is looking at spending by organization that provide back-office services to the Pentagon. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Like every new Defense secretary, Mark T. Esper says he wants to make the Pentagon more efficient. He will get some results, but not many and not quickly, experts say.

Esper, now a few months into the job, wants to save money to spend it on preparing for war against China, and to a lesser extent Russia.

Health care riders, farm payouts slow stopgap deal
Bill pulled from House Rules agenda late Tuesday afternoon

Montana Sen. Jon Tester is among those objecting to potential provisions in a stopgap spending bill needed to keep the government open after Sept. 30. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Trade assistance for farmers hit by retaliatory tariffs and the details of several health care program extensions were standing in the way of agreement on a stopgap funding measure Tuesday, sources said.

According to a senior Democratic aide, the bill was likely to include an increase in the Commodity Credit Corporation’s $30 billion borrowing cap that the Trump administration asked for earlier this month. But provisions on “accountability and transparency” were still under discussion, the aide said.