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McConnell Rejects Pelosi Plea for New Coronavirus Aid Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants Congress to pass a fourth coronavirus aid bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expressing skepticism about this idea, however.

 

Over the past month, Congress has passed three aid bills related to the coronavirus pandemic that has stopped much economic activity across the U.S. and killed thousands. These bills received broad bipartisan support, with Republicans and Democrats in Congress working with the White House to craft bills that the president quickly signed into law.

 

That consensus is breaking down with the prospect of a fourth aid bill. Speaker Pelosi says it is necessary to boost spending on health centers and housing aid, as well as enact a large infrastructure spending package. President Trump has also signaled his support for passing a bill to pay for a multitude of transportation and infrastructure projects, arguing that interest rates are low so now is the time to build.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that it is too soon to do another aid bill. He said he would rather wait to see how this crisis develops and discuss such legislation later. He also noted the high price tag of already-passed aid bills, saying that the federal government needs to consider the affordability of future action.

 

If Speaker Pelosi wants to proceed with new coronavirus legislation in the House, she could do so. She has remarked, however, that she prefers to proceed in conjunction with the Senate and White House. It remains to be seen if Sen. McConnell will agree to talks with the House leadership.


Do you think there should be a fourth coronavirus aid bill?

Rep. Massie Forces House to Convene to Vote on Coronavirus Bill

The Senate passed the third coronavirus aid bill unanimously earlier this week. House leadership had hoped the bill could be passed by voice vote in that chamber, which would not necessitate members to return to the Capitol for a vote. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) stood in the way of that plan.

 

The $2 trillion aid bill has bipartisan support and will easily pass the House of Representatives. When every House member supports a bill, it can be passed without a roll call vote. Instead, the House can reconvene with minimal membership and legislation can pass by a voice vote. This only works so long as no one objects that there is not a quorum of House members to do business.

 

Rep. Massie suggested that he would object to a voice vote. He noted that the rules require that a quorum be present to vote on legislation, and a bill of this importance should not be considered by the House under a suspension of the rules. To forestall his objection, House leadership has arranged that enough House members would return to Washington, D.C., to have a quorum.

 

This move has not endeared Rep. Massie to House leadership. They say that it is dangerous to require House members to travel and gather together in a time when health officials say people should be social distancing. They also note that there is no chance this bill will fail in the House, so Rep. Massie is accomplishing nothing by his stand. President Trump has also weighed in, calling Rep. Massie a “grandstander” and asking that the Republican Party expel him.

 

Do you think House members should have been forced to return to Washington, D.C., to vote on the coronavirus aid bill?

Senate Rejects Cap on Uninsurance Benefits

The Senate passed the third coronavirus relief bill by a vote of 96-0 last night, but not without a fight over unemployment insurance.

 

This aid bill provides for expanded uninsurance benefits for four months as well as increasing the maximum benefit by $600. This $600 boost earned the ire of some Republican senators.

 

Led by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), these senators pointed out that this could lead to someone receiving more in uninsurance benefits than they received as wages from their job. They suggested this could lead to people preferring to remain on uninsurance rather than seek work, or could even cause some businesses to lay off employees because these workers could make more unemployed.

 

In response, they offered an amendment that would limit the maximum unemployment benefit to a level that is no greater than the wage paid to that person when he or she was employed. The Senate rejected the amendment 48-48.

 

Opponents of the measure said that it was targeting workers who had lost their jobs. They also pointed out that each state has a different unemployment insurance system, and the federal government could not impose a broad cap like this on benefits.

 

In the end, the senators who supported the amendment voted for the final aid package. The House of Representatives is now considering the legislation.

 

Do you think that unemployment insurance should be limited so that someone’s unemployment benefits cannot be any higher than the wage he or she made while working?

Congress, President Agree on Coronavirus Aid Bill

A $2 trillion coronavirus bill is quickly moving its way through Congress.

 

After days of negotiations, Democrats and Republicans in Congress worked with the White House to craft a bill that contains a multitude of provisions related to coronavirus. Here are some of the things in the legislation:

  • Expanded unemployment benefits for 4 months
  • A one-time $1,200 payment to Americans whose income is under $75,000
  • A $500 billion fund administered by the Federal Reserve to provide liquidity to businesses
  • A $367 billion small business loan program
  • $130 billion in aid for hospitals
  • $150 billion in aid for state and local governments
  • A $25 billion aid package for airlines

 

The Senate will vote on this bill today. It is likely to pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.

 

The House of Representatives is out of session, however. If there is unanimous consent to pass the bill, it can move through that chamber with only a short session. However, if a member objects to this, the House will have to be called into a longer session to debate and vote on the bill.

 

This is the third coronavirus-related bill considered by Congress.

 

Do you support expanding unemployment befits for four weeks? Should every American household with a income under $75,000 receive a government check for $1,200?

Pelosi Unveils Her Coronavirus Stimulus Bill

Democrats in the House and Senate are trying to come to agreement on a bipartisan stimulus bill to respond to the coronavirus epidemic. In the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has outlined her view on what the government’s response should be – and Republicans are quick to blast her ideas as well outside the mainstream.

 

Under Speaker Pelosi’s bill, the federal government would, among other things:

  • Send monthly checks to of $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child to individuals who make under $115,000 (and households with incomes under $230,000)
  • Expand the power of unions to organize workers
  • Forgive $10,000 in student loans for each borrower
  • Mandate family leave for larger companies
  • Spend $600 billion in small business assistance
  • Spend $100 billion in assistance for low-income renters
  • Mandate that businesses receiving money from this bill must pay workers at least $15 an hour

 

Speaker Pelosi says these provisions are necessary to protect workers and ensure that corporations do not take advantage of government aid. Critics, however, argue that the is using this crisis as a way to enact a liberal wish list that has little to do with the epidemic.

 

The Senate legislation that is likely to pass today does not contain many of the ideas proposed by Speaker Pelosi. It is unclear what will happen when the Senate bill reaches the House of Representatives. If Speaker Pelosi insists on passing a version of her legislation, it would set up lengthy negotiations with the Senate and the president in order to see this third coronavirus relief legislation enacted.

 

Do you support mandating a higher minimum wage for workers in companies that accept coronavirus aid? Should a coronavirus relief bill include provisions for federal student loan forgiveness?

Third Coronavirus Aid Bill Stalls in Senate

Democrats in the Senate yesterday voted to filibuster the third coronavirus aid bill. Today senators and Trump Administration officials are trying to come to agreement on a package that could cost $2 trillion.

 

There appeared to be agreement over the weekend as senators and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin worked on details over the massive aid package. Then Democrats voted against cloture (ending debate) on the bill. The 47-47 vote prompted anger by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump.

 

Republicans say the Democrats are filibustering much-needed aid for workers and businesses. Democrats said the bill had too much in it for businesses and not enough protections for workers and aid for health care personnel. They especially objected to a large pool of money authorized by the bill that the Trump Administration could use to provide loans or grants to bigger companies. Republicans countered that Democrats just wanted to add numerous items that they had long-favored but had nothing to do with this emergency.

 

The Senate is considering the legislation again today, and both sides are hoping for a bipartisan vote in support. There is broad agreement on provisions that would give direct checks to families, expand unemployment insurance, give loans to small businesses, and also provide money to larger companies to keep them from going insolvent.

 

Do you support passage of a third coronavirus aid bill?

President Trump Signs Coronavirus Aid Bill

On Wednesday, President Trump signed legislation aimed at offsetting the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The House voted 363-40 to pass HR 6201 on Saturday. The Senate followed suit on Wednesday by a vote of 90-8. Among other things, this legislation includes:

  • A paid sick leave mandate that covers businesses with fewer than 500 employees
  • Waivers for health insurers to provide cost-free testing
  • An increase in federal Medicaid payments
  • More funding for federal food programs
  • A ban on tougher work requirements for food stamps
  • $1 billion in additional unemployment insurance funding for the states

 

In the House of Representatives, some members objected that they did not know what they were voting on and complaints about being forced to vote too quickly on a massive aid bill. While the House of Representatives is on recess this week, it did convene a brief session on Monday to approve legislation that contained dozens of pages of technical corrections to the original bill.

 

In the Senate, Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment that would end military activities in Afghanistan and make permanent a federal requirement to provide a Social Security number to claim the child tax credit. He argued these could help offset the cost of the bill. Senators voted down his amendment on a 3-95 vote. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) also attempted to amend the bill by removing the federal sick leave mandate and replacing it with a state grant program. While this amendment received a vote of 50-48, it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to pass.

 

Those who voted in favor of it said it was necessary to aid in an economic meltdown that is happening in response to the coronavirus. However, some conservative members of the House said that the bill was considered too quickly and contained things that were unrelated to the coronavirus.

 

This was the second bill dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate is now considering an even larger aid package that will likely be voted on next week.

 

What do you think the federal government should do to respond to the coronavirus pandemic?

 

Senate Considers How to Structure Coronavirus Aid

The House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus bill on Saturday. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to tackle the issue of trying to alleviate the fallout from the coronavirus. Senators are rushing to come up with ideas that can achieve bipartisan support.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled the scheduled recess in order to allow the Senate to consider coronavirus aid legislation this week. However, given the complexity of the issues involved, negotiations over the legislation’s details may move into next week.

 

Senators are considering how to deal with the issues of the public health response, tax policy, aid to small businesses, and aid to major industries. Among the ideas being discussed are:

  • Direct payments to Americans of between $1,000 and $2,000, and additional money for each child
  • A $50 billion loan fund for airlines
  • A $250 billion fund for small businesses
  • Incentives for businesses to manufacture more medical equipment

 

The Senate could add these ideas to the bill passed by the House, which would then lead to a conference committee to work out differences. Or it could pass the House relief legislation and then another bill of its own aid ideas. It is unclear how the Senate will structure its bill.

 

While there are differences between Republicans and Democrats over details of the stimulus, there is broad support for some kind of federal help. While some Republicans are balking at the price tag of the bill, there is unlikely to be much opposition once it is formulated.

 

The total aid package being promoted by the White House and considered by senators could cost as much as $1 trillion.

 

Do you support spending $1 trillion in federal aid to stimulate the economy in the wake of the coronavirus?

Coronovirus Relief May Include Cash Payments to All Americans

The Trump Administration and members of Congress are scrambling to put together policy proposals aimed at alleviating an economic crisis due to the coronavirus. One idea with growing support is direct cash payments.

 

On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that the Trump Administration was seriously considering sending checks to Americans within the next two weeks. He did not specify what the amount of these checks would be or the details of how they would be sent.

 

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) had floated the idea of sending every American $1,000 to stimulate the economy and help blunt the economic decline that the coronavirus has caused. Sen. Romney and Secretary Mnuchin had discussed this idea on Monday night, and it seems to have gained favor in the White House.

 

President Trump had previously endorsed a payroll tax cut as a way to get more money into the economy. Secretary Mnuchin now says that this may take too long to have an effect. These payments would be part of an aid package that would have a total cost of around $850 billion.

 

Democrats in Congress have also expressed support for this type of aid payment to Americans.

 

Do you think the federal government should send Americans $1,000 to stimulate the economy?

House Passes Coronavirus Aid Bill

Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation aimed at offsetting the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The House voted 363-40 to pass HR 6201. Among other things, this legislation includes:

  • A paid sick leave mandate that covers businesses with fewer than 500 employees
  • Waivers for health insurers to provide cost-free testing
  • An increase in federal Medicaid payments
  • More funding for federal food programs
  • A ban on tougher work requirements for food stamps
  • $1 billion in additional unemployment insurance funding for the states

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked with the White House to develop the details of this bill and then rushed it to the House floor. This led to objections from some House members that they did not know what they were voting on and complaints about being forced to vote too quickly on a massive aid bill. The Congressional Budget Office could not provide an estimate for the cost of the bill due to not having enough time to analyze it.

 

This legislation received bipartisan support and President Trump has indicated he will sign it. Those who voted in favor of it said it was necessary to aid in an economic meltdown that is happening in response to the coronavirus. However, some conservative members of the House said that the bill was considered too quickly and contained things that were unrelated to the coronavirus.

 

The Senate will consider this legislation in the coming days.

 

Do you support the coronavirus aid legislation?

Republicans, Democrats Fight over Coronavirus Legislation

House Democrats have unveiled a coronavirus aid bill and are pushing for a quick vote. Republicans, however, disagree that the measures in this bill are the best way to deal with the pandemic’s effects.

 

The House Democrats are proposing a variety of initiatives to deal with the coronavirus fallout. These include:

  • $2 billion for state unemployment programs
  • $1 billion in spending on nutrition
  • Medicaid expansion
  • A federal sick-leave program for those affected by business closures

 

Republicans in the House said that they would not vote to support such measures. They want to see relief legislation more along the lines of what President Trump proposed, which included payroll tax cuts.

 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is negotiating with White House officials on a bipartisan relief package. Their hope is that they can come up with legislation that is acceptable to both sides. If this occurs, it would likely include both spending increases as favored by the Democrats and tax cuts as favored by the Republicans.

 

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on whatever relief legislation emerges.


What do you think should be in coronavirus relief legislation?

Trump Pushes Tax Cut to Deal with Economic Effect of Coronavirus

The fallout from the coronavirus is already having an effect on the stock market. Analysts think it may have larger ramifications for the global economy. To help give the U.S. economy a boost, President Trump is today talking to members of the Senate about a tax cut.

 

The details of the tax cut have yet to be worked out, but the president has suggested it should be a payroll tax cut. Payroll taxes are levied on income to pay for Medicare and Social Security. Cutting these taxes would affect every worker, especially those with lower incomes. An income tax cut mainly benefits higher-income workers, since lower incomes are not subject to the tax. Payroll taxes, on the other hand, are levied on the first dollar of income, and are capped for higher-income workers.

 

Since 2009, there have been other payroll tax cuts that have been aimed at stimulating the economy. Some economists argue that since they affect lower-income workers, they provide money to go back into the economy more quickly. Some Democrats in Congress are pushing back on President Trump’s proposal, however, saying that such a tax cut would not provide relief to those who lost jobs or who are in the gig economy.

 

President Trump is urging Congress to take action to avoid a recession. It is unclear what the economic effects of the coronavirus will be at this early state. However, if there is widespread restriction on travel and public activity, many businesses will suffer.

 

Do you think that Congress should cut payroll taxes to prevent a recession related to the coronavirus?

House to Consider Providing Immigration Detainees a Right to Legal Counsel

Currently, if someone seeking to enter the U.S. is detained at a point-of-entry, he or she does not have the right to consult a lawyer. Under legislation being considered by the House of Representatives this week, that would change.

 

The House will be voting on The Access to Legal Counsel Act this week. Here is how VoteSpotter summarizes that bill:

 

To provide that anyone held or detained at a port of entry or a detention facility overseas with a right to see a lawyer or other person, such as a relative, within an hour after the inspection process begins.

 

This legislation does not provided a taxpayer-funded lawyer for a detainee, but does give that detainee a right to see a lawyer or a family member during the time they are being examined by immigration authorities.

 

The House is considering this bill in response to complaints by detainees at U.S. points-of-entry that immigration officials are not letting them see lawyers prior to them being denied entry into the country. They say that if lawyers could advise them of their legal rights, their situations may be different.

 

The Constitution provides that individuals in criminal cases can consult with attorneys. Immigration detention cases, however, do not involve criminal law. Those being detained currently have no right to see legal counsel. To obtain such a right, federal law must be changed with this type of legislation.

 

Those opposing the bill argue that allowing detainees to see legal counsel would slow the system down, overwhelming immigration agents and leading to a breakdown in the border crossing process.

 

The House of Representatives is likely to pass this bill, but the Senate is unlikely to consider it.

 

Do you think that individuals detained at U.S. points of entry should be able to talk to lawyers?

Congress Passes $8.3 Billion Coronavirus Bill

Acting quickly and in a bipartisan manner, both houses of Congress passed legislation this week to provide money aimed at combatting the spread of the Coronavirus.

 

With the House of Representatives voting 415-2 and the Senate voting 96-1, members of Congress sent a $8.3 billion spending bill to President Trump. The money in this legislation will be used for vaccine development and use, prevention activities, preparedness for the virus, and for federal response if the virus spreads widely.

 

There was little opposition to this legislation in either the House or the Senate. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) offered an amendment to cut funding from international programs to offset the new spending in this bill. By a vote of 81-15, senators tabled, or killed, the amendment. Sen. Paul was the only senator to vote against the final version of the bill.

 

President Trump had requested $2.5 billion in emergency spending for the Coronavirus. Members of Congress in both parties said this amount was too low, and they worked together to craft a much larger spending bill. The president has indicated that even though he did not initially propose as much money, he would sign this higher funding amount.

 

Do you support spending $8.3 billion to combat the Coronavirus? Should funding for international programs have been cut to pay for this new spending?

Senate to Consider Energy Bill This Week

Energy issues will be in the forefront of Senate debate this week. Senators will consider legislation that contains a host of new energy initiatives.

 

Among the items in S. 2657 are:

  • Set energy efficiency standards for federal buildings
  • Extend incentives for hydropower
  • Provide credits for consumers who purchase energy efficient appliances
  • Promote research of nuclear power
  • Authorize more funding for research into renewable energy technology
  • Provide funds for carbon capture
  • Ease restrictions on mining for critical minerals

 

This legislation largely avoids taking on more controversial energy policies, such as greater efforts to tackle climate change.

 

Sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), this bill has bipartisan support. However, some Democrats have expressed concern that provisions may be too friendly to mining interest. They also say that the bill should go further in tackling climate change. However, even in the face of this opposition, the bill is expected to pass easily later this week. It is unclear if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring it for a vote in that chamber.

 

What should Congress do about climate change?

Senate Fails to Pass Abortion Ban Bill

A majority of senators voted in favor of two bills to limit abortion this week. But the votes were not enough to overcome a Democratic filibuster that prevented the legislation from advancing.

 

Here’s how VoteSpotter describes the two bills:

 

U.S. Senate Bill 311: Require care for child born after an abortion

To mandate that health care workers must provide a reasonable degree of care to a child born after an abortion or an attempted abortion and immediately admit that child to a hospital. This motion is to invoke cloture, which requires 60 votes, and would mean ending the debate and proceeding to a vote on the bill.

 

U.S. Senate Bill 3275: Ban abortion after 20 weeks

To prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless it is to save the life of the mother or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. This vote is to invoke cloture, or to end debate on the bill, so requires 60 votes to pass.

 

On S. 311, Democratic Senators Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Doug Jones (AL) joined the Republicans in supporting it on a 56-41 vote. On S. 3275, Sen. Manchin broke with his party to support it while Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) joined the Democrats in voting “no.” The tally for that bill was 53-44.

 

These two roll calls were not actual votes to pass the bill. Instead, they were votes for cloture, or to cut off debate on the bills. A cloture motion requires 60 votes to succeed. The failure to end debate means that the Democrats can continue to filibuster the bill, or refuse to allow a final vote.

 

The use of this technique to stop legislation was once used sparingly. Today, however, any action of significant interest is subject to a filibuster. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ended the filibuster for lower court judges when Republicans were subjecting them to filibuster during President Obama’s time in office. Current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees during President Trump’s term. The filibuster for legislation continues, however.

 

Do you think that the federal government should ban abortion after 20 weeks?

 

House to Vote on Flavored Tobacco Ban

Vaping has been under attack in Washington, D.C., and state capitals recently. This week, the House of Representatives will take another shot at vaping and the tobacco industry when it considers a bill that would ban flavored tobacco products.

 

This is how VoteSpotter describes HR 2339, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ):

 

To ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including vaping products and chewing tobacco. The bill also bans the sale over the Internet of tobacco and vaping products and mandates graphic warnings on cigarettes, among other things.

 

Those who support this bill contend that flavored vaping liquid is used to hook children on tobacco, leading to health problems. They say that the tobacco industry uses flavored tobacco products as a way to lure kids into an addictive habit. They argue that banning these products will reduce youth smoking.

 

Opponents, however, point to studies that indicate that adults use flavored vaping products as a way to quit smoking. They say that this ban will harm efforts to move people from cigarettes to vaping. They point out that vaping is far less harmful to one’s health than smoking, so this bill will actually hurt public health.

 

Over the past year, states have enacted bans on vaping products in response to concerns over the health effects of this practice. Congress also inserted a provision into the annual spending bill that increases the smoking age from 18 to 21. This legislation is a continuation of those efforts.

 

Do you think that the federal government should ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, such as flavored vaping liquid?

House Votes to Remove ERA Ratification Deadline

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) thought that its chances of being added to the U.S. Constitution ended in 1982. But thanks to a vote in the Virginia legislature and the U.S. Congress, their hopes are being kept alive.

 

This week the House of Representatives voted to remove the deadline on ratification initially imposed in the 1970s. Congress passed the ERA in 1972 and sent it to states for ratification. The original resolution required that the necessary number of states (38, or three-fourths of the states) must act within 7 years or the amendment would die. Not enough states ratified the amendment within that time, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. Even with this extended deadline, the ERA still failed to meet the necessary number of states for ratification.

 

During the time between 1972 and 1982, 35 states ratified the ERA. However, as controversy grew over the amendment, 5 states rescinded their ratification. Since 2017, 3 states have ratified the ERA. Among these 3 are Virginia, which just this year ratified the ERA. This means that the ERA has met the threshold in the Constitution for ratification, as long as the states who rescinded ratification are not included.

 

The ratification deadline is an obstacle to this amendment being added to the Constitution, however. The Trump Administration says that the deadline is enforceable, so the ERA is not part of the Constitution. Some legal scholars disagree, however. The House vote is an attempt to clear up the controversy. The view of its sponsors is if Congress imposed the deadline, Congress can remove it.

 

The ERA states:

 

Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

 

Although there is a bipartisan resolution to remove the ERA’s ratification deadline in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring it to the full Senate for a vote.

 

Do you think the ERA’s ratification deadline should be removed?

Ocasio-Cortez Introduces Fracking Ban Bill

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would disappear from the United States under a new bill filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 

Fracking is used by energy companies to produce oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting a highly-pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock to break it up and release oil or, more commonly, natural gas.

 

The use of fracking has been primarily responsible for the large increase in U.S. petroleum production over the past decade. It has made it much cheaper to access oil and natural gas in shale rock, leading to increased production and lower prices. However, residents in communities where fracking has occurred blame it for earthquakes, polluted water, and health problems.

 

Under the legislation sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, fracking would be banned in 2025. In 2021, fracking could only occur if it was not within 2,500 feet of homes or schools. She says this legislation is necessary to protect health, land, and water. Others point out that her bill would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and hurt U.S. energy production, leading to higher oil and natural gas prices for consumers.

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

 

Do you think that fracking should be banned?

President Trump Releases His Budget

President Trump released his annual budget today, which has led to many news stories about how he plans on cutting certain programs or changing the way the federal government works. President Trump may indeed have ideas about how the federal government should spend money, but he cannot do anything alone. The $4.8 trillion budget (an increase of $700 billion over the previous fiscal year) he released is merely the official start of the budget process.

 

The process for determining how much money the federal government will spend in the next fiscal year will take until at least October, more likely longer. There are many steps that Congress must take between now and then until we know how much money individual departments or agencies will receive.

 

The President’s Budget

 

While the law states that the president must submit his budget by the first Monday of February, in many years presidents submit them later (President Trump only missed this deadline by a week – last year he submitted his budget in March). The president’s budget has a few parts:

  • Recommendations on spending for the next fiscal year (which runs from October 1 through September 30)
  • Proposals for major policy changes that have budget implications, such as reforms to programs like Social Security or Medicaid
  • Projections for future spending levels, revenue collections, and budget deficits
  • Historical data on spending and revenue amounts

 

It is important to outline a few things that the president’s budget does not do:

  • It does not set any spending. It merely recommends what the president would like to see spending levels set at.
  • It is not law. This is not the president announcing how spending will proceed in the next fiscal year. If he recommends the elimination of a certain program or cuts in another program, these eliminations or cuts will not happen unless Congress agrees.
  • It does not bind Congress to do anything. The president’s budget is delivered to Congress, but Congress does not have to adopt any of it. In fact, Congress routinely ignores it.

 

So why is the president’s budget resolution important? Its importance lies in laying out the president’s overall vision for federal spending. It indicates the programs he thinks are important, those he thinks should be cut (or eliminated), and often outlines a path towards a balanced budget.

 

However, as a practical matter, the president’s budget resolution does not directly affect spending. It may indicate that, as Congress finishes up its spending process (described below), the president may veto spending bills that deviate from his priorities. Even that is not necessarily true, however, as negotiations over actual spending bills later in the year often ignore the president’s budget priorities in favor of more immediate concerns.

 

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal, released on February 10, can be found here.

 

Congressional Budget Resolutions

 

Once the president releases his budget, the House and Senate Budget Committees consider them. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also analyzes the budget. The committees consider the CBO analysis and are supposed to release their budget resolutions by April 1. The full House and Senate then consider these resolutions and adopt them, usually with amendments, by April 15.

 

The adopted budget resolutions are not laws, so are not subject to presidential veto. However, they do set the funding allocations that the appropriations committees in each house use to set their spending bills. These committees, described in more detail below, set the actual spending levels for the fiscal year for discretionary government programs (that is, for programs that are not entitlements such as Social Security or Medicaid).

 

While passing a budget resolution is helpful in setting a federal spending blueprint, it is not mandatory. In fact, in Fiscal Years 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2020, Congress did not pass a budget resolution. When that happens, the prior year’s budget resolution sets the spending blueprint that appropriations committees follow.

 

These budget resolutions can also contain “reconciliation instructions.” These are instructions to committees to make changes to the law that have budget implications. The reconciliation process is not subject to a Senate filibuster, and must be considered on a faster timeframe than other legislation. That makes it a useful tool to enact policy that does not have strong bipartisan support.

 

The Appropriations Process

 

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are the committees that actually set spending levels for discretionary government programs. These committees each have 12 subcommittees that use the budget resolution allocations to determine how much government departments and agencies spend.

 

These 12 appropriations bills are supposed to be completed by Congress and signed by the president by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1. That rarely happens. This leads to a variety of maneuvers to fund the federal government for temporary time periods or, failing that, a government shutdown.

 

What Does This Mean to You?

 

The budget process is how the government determines how much it will spend on the programs it administers. It also helps determine how much the deficit will be and how much the government will add to the national debt. If this process breaks down due to disagreement between the President and Congress, it could also lead to another government shutdown. Since President Trump has just released his budget, it remains to be seen what will happen with spending, the deficit, and a possible government shutdown this year.

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