The White House and Congress spent the early part of the week negotiating the parameters of an end of year spending package that would avert a partial government shutdown at midnight on Friday. The negotiations focused on the President’s strong desire for $5 billion to build a border wall. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a clean continuing resolution (CR) extending current funding levels for upwards of seven departments and agencies (among them the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, and Commerce) through February 8. The bill also extends several government programs, mostly for the duration of the CR, including the National Flood Insurance Program, the Violence Against Women Act, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday evening by voice vote.
The House was expected to vote on the measure late tonight, but conservative members oppose kicking the can down the road, especially to a Democratic majority, and failing to fill the President’s $5 billion request. The President told House Republican leadership this afternoon that he will not sign the CR as is, prompting outgoing Speaker Ryan (R-WI) to say the House will add “border security” to the bill and increasing the likelihood of a partial shutdown.
Criminal Justice Reform, Tax Bill, Farm Bill
Congress moved several other pieces of legislation this week. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 87-12 to pass sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation. With the President’s endorsement, the House is scheduled to follow suit on Thursday under suspension of the rules. The House will also move a Republican end of year tax bill today with little hope of the Senate doing the same. In the meantime, the President signed the farm bill into law.
Personnel and Membership-Related Announcements
As the Administration and Congress grappled over government funding, each also saw a slew of personnel and membership-related announcements. Last Friday evening, the President named Mick Mulvaney Acting White House Chief of Staff upon the departure of John Kelly. Mulvaney, a former representative from South Carolina, is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and until recently was also serving as the Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). OMB Deputy Director Russell Vought will take over as Acting Director. On Saturday, the President announced that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will also step down at the end of the year.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that Senators-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) will sit on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in the next Congress. Senators Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Hassan (D-NH) are leaving the Committee. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said last Friday that he will resign at the end of the year, prompting Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) to name another appointment to the late Senator John McCain’s seat until a 2020 special election. On Tuesday, Ducey tapped Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who narrowly lost her bid in November for the state’s other Senate seat to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee also announced this week that he will not seek reelection in 2020.