Nita M Lowey

Shelby leaves door open for earmarks' return
House Democrats have floated the idea in recent weeks

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican, may be warming to the idea of earmarks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby appeared to soften a little Tuesday on a potential return of earmarks in spending bills this year, after saying last week his Republican colleagues probably wouldn’t allow it.

The Alabama Republican said that despite the Senate GOP Conference vote last year in favor of a permanent ban on the practice, he thinks there’s an argument to be made for a reversal.

Liberal group endorses Democrats in competitive primaries
PCCC says its backing includes outreach to supporters seeking grassroots donations

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton’s district in Michigan is one of the Republican seats Democrats are seeking to capture this year. A liberal advocacy group endorsed one of the Democrats vying to unseat him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Five Democrats in competitive House primaries in four states were endorsed Friday by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group pushing for liberal policies including the Green New Deal and expansion of Medicare and Social Security. 

The group called the move a “show of progressive energy,” in a news release obtained by CQ Roll Call, and said its endorsements follow those by preferred presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts senator earlier this week endorsed two of the PCCC-backed candidates, Mondaire Jones in New York’s 17th District and Candace Valenzuela in Texas’s 24th. A third, Georgette Gómez  in California’s 53rd, was endorsed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren’s rival for the progressive mantle in the Democratic presidential primaries.

Puerto Rico disaster bill would revive older tax breaks
House Democrats eye bigger refunds for low-income residents and tax relief for distilleries

California Rep. Mike Thompson pushed back on GOP criticism, saying it was common practice to combine relief provisions for disaster-stricken areas into one bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats have tucked tax relief for rum distilleries and more generous refunds for lower-income island residents into a disaster aid package intended to help Puerto Rico recover from an unusually destructive spate of recent earthquakes.

Backers say the add-ons are part of an ongoing effort to help Puerto Rico and other territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, also hit hard by hurricanes in recent years. But Republicans call the effort a typical congressional maneuver of piling on to a must-pass bill.

House earmarks decision likely next week, Lowey says
Resuming practice would mean members could push projects for their districts

Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat., said Thursday that the time for discussion on earmarks was fast coming to an end. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey indicated Thursday that the word would come down as soon as the week of Feb. 3 on whether lawmakers would be able to seek special projects for their districts in next year’s spending bills.

The New York Democrat’s comments follow weeks of behind-the-scenes conversations during which she has begun to formulate how the House might bring back the controversial earmarking process during an election year. She’s also sought to assuage fears from Democrats in swing districts who have concerns about how the practice could impact them in November.

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

Chairman Richard C. Shelby, center, and Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, attend the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement implementation bill on Jan. 15. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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.

Lowey to discuss earmarks with freshman, at-risk Democrats
Tuesday meeting marks first step in determining whether there's enough consensus to attempt to bring back the line items

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., is set to meet Tuesday with a group of freshman House Democrats and others considered vulnerable in 2020 elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democratic leaders are moving ahead with their sales pitch for the return of earmarks — which an aide dubbed “community project funding.”

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., is set to meet Tuesday with a group of freshman House Democrats and others considered vulnerable in the 2020 elections to talk about a possible return of local projects in the spending bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. 

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

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., briefly considered allowing earmarks last year, until announcing in March that they would not be allowed in fiscal 2020 spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

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.

Democrats seek to put teeth into ‘impoundment’ law
Going to court is only current option to force release of funds

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth wants to make it hurt if a president tries to block funding against lawmakers’ wishes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A fresh legal opinion challenging President Donald Trump’s hold on Ukraine military aid under a Nixon-era budget law may or may not move the needle with senators in the president’s impeachment trial.

But one thing is clear: Trump’s delay of $214 million in Pentagon funds is just the latest in a long line of findings by the Government Accountability Office going back decades that presidents of both parties have run afoul of the 1974 law. That statute was aimed at restricting “impoundments,” where the executive branch refuses to spend money appropriated by Congress.

Appropriators feel the squeeze of budget caps as veterans health funding grows
Nondefense programs could soon see spending cuts unless Congress makes adjustments

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Appropriators and stakeholders have begun coming to grips with the reality of narrow funding increases under next year’s budget caps, as politically sacrosanct veterans health care spending continues to grow and eat into what’s left for all other nondefense programs.

Last summer’s two-year budget deal front-loaded its spending cap increases into the first year, allowing about 4 percent more for discretionary spending in fiscal 2020. In fiscal 2021, increases are capped at less than 0.4 percent, or $5 billion, despite fixed costs for veterans health care that are likely to require substantially more.

Talking taxes 2020
CQ Budget, Ep. 138

UNITED STATES - Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., leaves a meeting with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, in the Capitol after agreeing to a spending deal. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tax reporter Doug Sword sits down with guest host Jennifer Shutt to explain why Congress added so many tax bills to a massive spending package and what exactly those provisions will mean during the upcoming year. CQ Budget delves into what didn't make it into the package and predicts how far those provisions will advance in 2020.