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Stephen Boyd: THE MONDAY BRIEF | Monday, November 6, 2023

Stephen Boyd’s weekly Capitol Hill briefing for Alabama’s business, financial, defense and government affairs executives.

 

THE SCHEDULE… Back to work: the House of Representatives and the Senate each return to action today in Washington. The chambers will be in legislative session this week and next before a scheduled recess the week of Thanksgiving.   

SHUTDOWN WATCH (AGAIN)… Just nine legislative days remain before temporary government funding expires. To keep the lights on, the House and Senate must pass, and the president must sign 12 mutually acceptable annual appropriations bills—that’s unlikely—or another stop gap Continuing Resolution (CR). The deadline is Nov. 17, and it’s no coincidence that it comes just before the holiday break. … The last temporary Continuing Resolution, enacted on September 30th, ultimately resulted in the ouster of the Speaker of the House and a 22-day search for a replacement. 

CR STATUS… Under the leadership of newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson, the House last week moved two appropriations bills (Interior and Legislative Branch) and others (likely the transportation and financial services appropriations bills) may be considered this week. That momentum will become part of Johnson’s argument for another CR that buys time for the House to act on the outstanding spending bills. But after what just happened to Kevin McCarthy, it’s hard to see the Republican Conference supporting a clean extension of funding without a fight. Expect the debate to turn on which, if any, provisions are added to the CR that make it more palpable to Republicans and, in turn, less appetizing to Senate Democrats: spending cuts and immigration enforcement provisions are two go-to areas. If the add-ons are modest, it might work. If Republicans push for draconian cuts in a CR or the full suite of their border security priorities, a showdown between the two chambers becomes more likely. 

FOREIGN FUNDING FIGHT… Despite the looming deadline for annual domestic funding, Capitol Hill is also focused on emergency funding for America’s allies and friends. On October 20, the Biden Administration requested $105 billion in supplemental “national security” funding, which included approximately $61 billion to support Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $7 billion for Taiwan, and $13.5 billion to address issues on the Southwest Border. … For context, the entire U.S. Department of Defense budget last year was $816.7 billion. … In some corners of the Republican party, support for Ukraine has softened, a trend likely accelerated by a Ukrainian General’s recent analysis that the war with Russian invaders had settled into a stalemate. … Johnson’s strategy of approving the popular funding for Israel separately was smart, but Republicans may have mis-stepped when they moved to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere, an unusual condition for emergency funding. Also, their choice to make those cuts by slashing the IRS, a reliable political punching bag, created an opening. Though the legislation passed, it lost steam when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office evaluation revealed that the proposed spending cuts would actually add to the deficit due to less future tax enforcement. … Now, the Senate has good reason to amend the House bill, and Democratic Senate leaders may strip the IRS provisions, add back the Ukrainian funding, and send it back to the House to force a tough vote. 

NEW POLL SHOULD CONCERN BIDEN. Politicos know never to make too much of any one poll, but… a fresh New York Times/Siena survey out yesterday surely has national Democrats—and many other Americans—rattled. The poll shows Biden trailing Trump in a barely hypothetical 2024 presidential contest in five of six key states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. “Voters under 30 — a group that strongly voted for Mr. Biden in 2020 — said they trusted Mr. Trump more on the economy by an extraordinary 28 percentage-point margin after years of inflation and now high interest rates that have made mortgages far less affordable,” the Times wrote. Biden’s approval rating is lower at this point than any modern president other than Jimmy Carter. Trump—also deeply unpopular with wide swaths of the American people—is expected to take the stand in a civil fraud trial this week, just one case in a complicated set of civil and criminal legal challenges the former president currently faces. 

NDAA INCHES AHEAD. Public action on the National Defense Authorization Act, key annual defense legislation that sets DOD policy and programs, has been limited since the House and Senate both passed respective versions of the legislation this summer. That doesn’t mean work on the legislation stopped. It’s normal for the committee staff to settle into a lengthy post-vote, behind-the-scenes negotiation to reconcile most differences between the bills, leaving just a few, high-profile issues for members to grapple with. That process continued largely unaffected by the speaker turmoil in the House last month. One key question that remains: how do negotiators handle the conservative social provisions attached to the House version of the bill? For now, there’s no reason to think a final version of the legislation won’t be approved, but it likely comes closer to Christmas than Thanksgiving. 

AN EARLY SUNRISE. It’s 6:40 AM ET in Washington and the sun just came up.  Regular readers will know that THE MONDAY BRIEF has tracked Congressional action, or lack thereof, on the Sunshine Protection Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) to “end the antiquated practice of changing clocks twice a year.” As Rubio bluntly put it, “This ritual of changing time twice a year is stupid.” Rubio’s bill passed the Senate last Congress—admittedly, it was a bit of a fluke—but the House never acted. Today, there is regrettably no legislative action to report. But Sen. Tuberville, a vocal supporter of the move, did again raise the issue on the Senate floor last week.

“This is probably one of the top issues that I get phone calls about, and we deal with a lot of them. It’s amazing how many phone calls that we do get over this one topic. People across America agree that changing our clocks back and forth twice a year really makes no sense,” the Senator said. 

Stephen E. Boyd is a Partner at Horizons Global Solutions. Previously, he served as a Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Chief of Staff for Alabama members in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and as a Communications Director of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Opinions expressed herein are his own. This news report is not intended to influence or persuade. Contact Stephen at [email protected] or via X at @SEBOYD79 or via LinkedIn

 

 

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