This Week in Congress

The House is in session Tuesday through Friday. The big event of the week is a “continuing resolution” keeping the government open past September 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.

Before leaving town for the August recess, Congress passed a budget deal that will raise spending by $320 billion and also suspended the debt ceiling for two years.

The deal also required both parties to agree not to add “poison pills” to the appropriation bills. (Poison pills are provisions that make it impossible for a bill to pass.) The appropriation bills the house passed this summer contain plenty of poison pills, while the Senate just started working on their bills.  The odds of Congress passing all 12 appropriation bills bills before September 30 are slim, even if the process goes smoothly, so the House will need to pass a continuing resolution.

The continuing resolution extends government funding until November 21 and  keeps the government operating at current levels. It also extends the Export-Import Bank, and the Higher Education Act.

This CR has generated opposition from some members -- not because of what is in it but because of what is missing. The controversy stems from the trade war.

The administration has created the Market Facilitation Program (MFP). The MFP makes payments to farmers who have lost overseas markets due to the trade war. The program is being funded by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).  The CCC, a New Deal-era program, can spend up to $30 billion without an appropriation from Congress.

The CCC has already spent $28 billion on the MFP, so it will soon need Congress to provide additional appropriations. But Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) has said the committee plans to bring a ”clean” CR to the floor — meaning the bill will not include the additional spending for the CCC.

Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) has expressed his opposition to a CR without CCC funding. I would expect a number of Democrats from Agriculture-heavy states to join Peterson in opposing a CR that does not provide new funding for the CCC.

Support for the CCC is bipartisan.

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, has blasted the move as “squeezing farmers.”

Back to the Senate. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) forced the committee to postpone consideration of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations when she offered an amendment restoring funding for Planned Parenthood. Debate over abortion funding has also delayed consideration of the State Department Appropriations bill.

The Appropriations Committee is trying to define “poison pill” to allow the process to move forward. Other issues likely to delay the appropriations process include funding for President Trump’s regulatory efforts and the border wall.

The other rule bill on the floor this week is H.R. 1423, which outlaws mandatory arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights cases. Aside from being unconstitutional, this bill will further crowd courtrooms and increase costs of litigation, thus harming the very people the bill’s sponsor claim it wants to help.

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