Congress Skips Town as Shutdown Deadline Looms

Congress Skips Town as Shutdown Deadline Looms

By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Friday, February 16, 2024

Happy Friday!

A New York judge today ordered former president Donald Trump and the Trump Organization to pay nearly $355 million penalties for their actions to defraud lenders and insurance companies. “In order to borrow more and at lower rates, defendants submitted blatantly false financial data to the accountants, resulting in fraudulent financial statements,” Judge Arthur F. Engoron wrote in his ruling. “When confronted at trial with the statements, defendants’ fact and expert witnesses simply denied reality, and defendants failed to accept responsibility or to impose internal controls to prevent future recurrences.”

The judge also enjoined Trump from serving as a corporate officer or director in New York for three years and barred him and the organization from applying for loans from any financial institution chartered by or registered in New York State for three years. Engoron added that the defendants’ “complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.”

You can read more about the verdict here.

Now back to fiscal matters…

Shutdown Deadline Looms as Congress Skips Town

Congress may be out next week for its Presidents’ Day recess, but the clock is still ticking toward a March 1 deadline to keep portions of the government from shutting down and a second deadline covering the rest of federal agencies a week later.

With time running out and appropriators still working to complete fiscal year 2024 spending details, one Republican leader has already warned that the GOP-led House will not pass another temporary funding extension to avert a shutdown. “You are not going to get another continuing resolution out of our conference,” Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the House majority whip, told Bloomberg Television.

While that stance raises the chances of a shutdown, Emmer and top appropriators have also expressed confidence that talks to finalize spending plans were making progress.

Still, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democratic appropriator, reportedly warned that Republican demands for conservative policy riders remain an obstacle.

Republicans have reportedly been at odds over such demands, and Punchbowl News reported Friday that, at an occasionally heated GOP meeting in Speaker Mike Johnson’s office earlier this week, “appropriators effectively told the hardline conservatives that they have no chance of exacting the kinds of ‘poison pill’ riders that the House approved in GOP-only spending bills.”

Republican appropriators reportedly warned that government shutdown would hurt their members.

“Republican leaders and appropriators have urged conservatives to focus on one or two achievable goals — something modest on border security, for example — and to drop their focus on other poison-pill amendments,” Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman, Mica Soellner and John Bresnahan reported.

Conservatives at the meeting reportedly responded with anger and suggested that Republicans should allow a government shutdown or push a full-year stopgap package that would require a 1% across-the-board spending cut. “Conservatives’ goal for months has been to string the appropriations process along until that cut kicks in” at the end of April, Punchbowl added.

The bottom line: Emmer effectively ruled out one of the few options to avoid a partial government shutdown after March 1. Johnson could still reverse course and allow another short-term funding bill to buy time for the appropriations process. Or he could push a full-year stopgap or look to pass spending bills with Democratic help, which would invite a conservative push to oust him.

House Moderates Pitch $66 Billion Security Package

Seeking to break the current logjam over a supplemental spending bill that would provide aid to U.S. allies, a bipartisan group of moderates in the House released a proposal Friday to send billions in military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan while tightening immigration policy.

The $66.3 billion package is offered as an alternative to a $95.3 billion bill passed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis earlier this week, which has been rejected by conservatives in the House led by Speaker Mike Johnson. The new proposal reduces the size of the security package by eliminating humanitarian aid and includes a number of immigration policy changes demanded by House Republicans.

In terms of assistance for allies, the House bill includes $47.6 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $10.4 billion in military aid for Israel, $4.9 billion to support U.S. and allied operations in the Indo-Pacific and $2.4 billion to support U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

On immigration policy, the bill would require officials to immediately expel inadmissible migrants if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines it necessary to secure “operational control” of the border. The bill also restricts the government’s ability to move migrants from one place to another within the U.S. And it calls for the reimplementation of the “remain in Mexico” policy that requires migrants to wait outside the United States while their status is being determined. (We should note that Mexico has stated that it is not willing to cooperate with this effort.)

Looking for a breakthrough: The bill’s 10 centrist sponsors — five Republicans, led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and five Democrats — are all members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, looking for a way to provide aid to key allies while satisfying conservative demands for tighter border security.

But the bill has virtually no chance of getting through the House, let alone the Senate. Democratic leaders said earlier this week that they would oppose it and called on the House leader to take up the Senate bill, which has bipartisan support.

“Mike Johnson simply needs to put the bipartisan national security bill on the House floor for an up-or-down vote, and it will pass,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Wednesday. “That’s it.”

In an effort to get around Johnson’s refusal to bring the Senate bill to the House floor, Democrats are reportedly considering the use of a parliamentary maneuver called a discharge petition that would allow them to bring it up for a vote, though it’s not clear whether they can get the required number of signatures. Bowing to the demands of former president Donald Trump, many Republicans have rejected the Senate bill, saying it’s too weak on the border and too strong on aid to Ukraine. Some Democrats have also criticized the bill for its aid to Israel.

The bottom line: Even as the Pentagon warns that Ukraine is suffering losses on the battlefield due to the cutoff of American aid, congressional leaders still have no clear plan for providing more assistance, even as a majority of lawmakers in both chambers support doing so. The situation will likely grow even more difficult when lawmakers return from their nearly two-week break, as they turn their attention to funding the government just days ahead of yet another shutdown deadline on March 1.

“This whole situation is difficult,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal told The Washington Post. “There’s no question about it.”

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