Shutdown Watch: spending agreement is a win for Democrats – see you in September (updated)


The Hill reports today, Congress strikes deal on funding for 2017 to avoid shutdown:

Congressional negotiators have signed off on a deal to fund the government through September, avoiding a shutdown of federal agencies over a dispute on President Trump’s border wall and other issues, according to two senior congressional aides.

The legislation does not provide funding for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border or eliminate money for so-called sanctuary cities that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration law, according to a summary provided by a senior congressional aide.

Nor does it cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

These are major victories for Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who threatened to block the bill over such poison-pill riders.

[F]or Republicans, the measure provides $1.5 billion for border security and $15 billion in additional defense funding — though it’s short the $30 billion in supplemental military funding Trump requested in his budget blueprint.

The defense increase is matched by a boost to non-defense programs for a total of $30 billion in additional funding over the sequester level set by a previous budget deal. None of Trump’s $18 billion in non-defense cuts were included.

The National Institutes of Health, a priority of Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike, will see a $2 billion funding increase, to give it $34 billion total.

The deal protects 99 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and increases clean energy and science funding in spite of Trump’s calls to cut all three priorities.

Schumer lauded the deal in a statement Sunday evening.

“This agreement is a good agreement for the American people, and takes the threat of a government shutdown off the table,” he said. “The bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders, and increases investments in programs that the middle-class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure.”

Democrats rejected Republican pressure to include 160 various riders that they deemed “poison pills.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, hailed the deal as a triumph for his party.

“I am especially glad this agreement does not include a single penny for the construction of a misguided wall along our southern border,” he said. “This bipartisan agreement eliminates more than 160 poison pill riders that would have been devastating for the environment, put restrictions on consumer financial protections and attacked the Affordable Care Act.”

The package includes $295 million to cover a Medicaid funding shortfall in Puerto Rico, one of the outstanding issue in the talks late last week.

Trump tweeted Thursday that, “Democrats want to shut government if we don’t bail out Puerto Rico.”

It also includes money to permanently extend health benefits for retired miners, a top priority of Senate Democrats facing re-election next year such as Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio).

There is $2 billion in disaster funding for California, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina to rebuild damage caused by flooding and storms and increased funding for transit infrastructure grants.

Negotiators also included $407 million for wildfire funding to western states, as well as money for the northeast Amtrak rail corridor, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Head Start, an early education program for disadvantaged kids.

Congress must pass the package by May 5, when a short-term stopgap approved last week runs out.

So another manufactured budget crisis has been averted, for now. This budget deal runs to the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

You may have missed this earlier this year, but the U.S. hit the debt ceiling in March, and this issue is not addressed in this spending bill. The U.S. hit its debt limit again. Now the Treasury Department is maneuvering to avoid a default until Congress acts:

The U.S. hit its debt limit again on March 16 — a whopping $19.9 trillion this time — and the Treasury Department started using accounting maneuvers to buy Congress several months to raise it to avoid a potential federal government default.

* * *

Lawmakers have until sometime this fall to act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported this month. But it noted the complexity of predicting incoming tax revenues, and spending outlays made it difficult to pin down an exact date.

An analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank found the debt limit would need to be raised by October or November, but said the possibility of major changes in fiscal policy by Congress and the Trump administration give projections “a higher level of uncertainty.”

Mnuchin wrote to congressional leaders on March 8, encouraging them “to raise the debt limit at the first opportunity.” He expressed more urgency in a letter to them Thursday.

”I respectfully urge Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting to increase the statutory debt limit as soon as possible,” Mnuchin wrote.

To avoid lawmakers voting to set a specific debt level — one that includes lots of zeroes — congressional leaders the past few years have advanced bills that simply suspended the limit for a period of time. At the end of that period, the debit limit automatically reset at the level of total outstanding federal government debt.

Congress used that strategy in the Bipartisan Budget Act approved in November 2015. It suspended the debt limit until Wednesday.

On Thursday, the limit was reinstated at about $19.9 trillion, the current level of outstanding public debt. To avoid going over the limit, Treasury has begun what it calls “extraordinary measures.”

The first accounting maneuver began Wednesday when the Treasury suspended the sale of state and local government series securities, which count against the debt limit. On Thursday, the department suspended issuing new debt for some federal employee retirement and disability funds, Mnuchin said.

There are other measures the Treasury can take to free up money to continue paying the federal government’s bills.

Although there are months to go before those measures would be exhausted, diverting Treasury employees to engage in them is wasting government resources, said Shai Akabas, director of fiscal policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. The effects increase and can include higher borrowing costs as the date gets closer — as does the risk of a default, he said.

“It’s troubling that it’s not on the agenda right now,” he said of a debt limit hike.

So Congress will have to approve the next fiscal year budget beginning October 1 and also raise the federal debt ceiling at that time. What could possibly go wrong?

President Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney was a member of the House GOP Freedom Caucus aka the “shutdown caucus” that supported a government shutdown which would have jeopardized the full faith and credit of the United States at the time.

Donald Trump sided with hard-liners in 2013, publicly opposing a debt ceiling increase. “I cannot believe the Republicans are extending the debt ceiling — I am a Republican & I am embarrassed!” he tweeted at the time.

Have either one of these yahoos learned anything since then, now that they are actually in a position to cause great financial and economic harm to this country by defaulting on the nation’s debt? Given the level of utter incompetence we have seen demonstrated so far from this GOP-controlled government, does anyone have confidence that they can get this done?

See you in September.

UPDATE: And there it is . . . . “President Donald Trump on Tuesday seemingly called for an end to the legislative filibuster in the Senate and suggested that a government shutdown in September might be “good” in order to accomplish his policy goals without interference from Democrats.” Trump calls for a ‘good shutdown’ in September:

Tuesday morning, Trump defended the compromise and laid out his suggestions to circumvent any need for future deal-making.

“The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

Changing the Senate rules in order to allow legislation to pass with just a simple majority instead of the current 60-vote threshold would dramatically reduce the need for bipartisan compromise on Capitol Hill and represent a titanic shift in the U.S. political system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who last month changed the Senate rules to block filibusters for Supreme Court nominations, has vowed he would not similarly undo the 60-vote threshold for legislation.

Trump wants to dispense with that messy democracy stuff and prefers authoritarianism so he can rule by decree as an autocrat. That’s why he identifies with and empathizes with the world’s  autocratic strongmen, like his pal Putin.

UPDATE: And now budget director Mick Mulvaney, a member of the House GOP Freedom Caucus aka the “shutdown caucus,” is joining his boss in this reckless and irresponsible threat to shut down the government. Trump OMB Director Mick Mulvaney: ‘We might need a shutdown at some point’. These yahoos have learned nothing.


  1. You are absolutely correct, AzBM. The Trump Administration and the GOP, in general, took it in the shorts with this latest budget extension. They gave up so much and gained so little. Republicans are good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and they are doing it this time in a BIG way.

    The only up side on this is that Trump supporters don’t seem to be losing faith in him just because he hasn’t put any of his plans into effect. Surprisingly, they seem very much aware that he has tried and it is simply Washington doing what Washington does that has stopped him.

    It is going to be interesting to see where this all leads…

  2. Amid all the silliness and aggressive ignorance coming from the White House, there is some rockin’ good news.

    Fake terrorism expert with a fake PhD and apparent ties to Nazi’s Sebastian Gorka is getting the boot from the White House.

    First Bannon is moded, now Gorka. Hopefully Miller is next.

    And I will say something good about the Trump family, a wretched batch of parasites if ever there was one: they’re smart enough to realize that associating the Trump name with overt racism is probably bad for business.

    • “…overt racism is probably bad for business.”

      Lucky you, Tom. McCarthy had his communists; you have your racists. They are everywhere, in every line of work, in every level of government, in every social club, in every website. Why you can’t toss a rock without hitting one. Even if they say they’re not racist, YOU know better. That they don’t agree with you is the first indicator because if they were an honest, by God, decent human being, they would agree with you. If they don’t, they’re racist. It’s that simple. You and McCarthy…different enemies but same approach…

      • Aw, don’t be mad at me, be mad at Ivanka. I’m not the one who is telling my daddy to chill on the racism because I’m a greedy little princess.

        You’re vitriol is misdirected, DA, you’re pouting about the messenger, it’s Jarred and the Trump family that’s worried about their inheritance.

        And wow, do your hackles get all ruffled anytime the word racist comes up!

        • “And wow, do your hackles get all ruffled anytime the word racist comes up!”

          Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hackles ruffled when you use the word “racist”? Ha! Ha! Ha! That is too funny. (Let me regain my composure here…)

          Okay…I am merely pointing out how often you use the word. Like Joseph McCarthy who found communists everywhere he looked, you find racists everywhere you look. It is interesting to me that almost anyone you disagree with winds up being labeled a “racist”. It seems to be your favorite name to call the opposition and you use it so easily that I wonder sometimes if you know what it really means or if it just an epithet you toss around at will. Whatever the reason, the name shows up in your posts more than all the other posts combined.

          • Again, you’re becoming unhinged at the wrong person.

            Ivanka Trump and her creepy brothers are the ones worried about the Trump brand being associated with some unsavory ideas.

            Go shake your fist at the Trumplings, I was just the messenger.

            Are all conservatives so thin skinned?

          • “Are all conservatives so thin skinned?

            Think about, Tom. Could any conservatve be thin skinned and still persist in being a troll on a liberal blog where all that can be expected is name calling, ad hominum attacks and raw vitriol being spewed at them? It is unlikely. You have to just accept the nastiness that comes at you or go home.

          • Liza, thank you for the informative attachment. However, the conversation that Tom and I were having really wasn’t about Trump and racism. It is more a personal exchange between the two of us and while racism is mentioned it is actually about something else entirely. Sorry for being so confusing.

            As far as Trump and Racism is concerned, well, it is what it is. There isn’t much point in debating it. ;o)

          • “You need to look up mansplaining. Liza was on topic.”

            Was she? I know what “mansplaining” means, and I don’t see how it applies to the exchange you and I were having about your proclivity for calling people racist if they disagree with you. I still don’t. I appreciated her offering examples about Trump, but that was not what you and I were discussing…at least that was my perspective. Perhaps you misunderstood the topic of the conversation…that would explain a lot.

          • Steve says to Tom: “It (racist) seems to be your favorite name to call the opposition and you use it so easily that I wonder sometimes if you know what it really means or if it just an epithet you toss around at will.”

            Just to clarify:
            1. A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

            1. Showing or feeling discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or believing that a particular race is superior to another.

            If people are talking about racism more than usual these days, Steve, it is because the Trump campaign and his so-called “administration” have tried to legitimize it. So, yes, racism and white supremacy are getting more attention.

          • “…yes, racism and white supremacy are getting more attention.”

            I agree with you, it is getting more attention lately and the Trump Administration is the reason why. My comments with Tom have a genesis that long precedes “Tom” and that is why I say that racism – while the general topic – is secondary to what I was discussing with Tom. If it seemed I was “mansplaining” something to you (as “Tom” postulates) it was not my intention. I simply wanted to let you know that I appreciated your contribution to the discussion, but the discussion was not quite what you thought it was.

          • CORRECTION: I intended to say long before “Trump” but wrote long before “Tom”. I think you probably already figured that out, but I wanted to make certain I was clear.

          • Steve says to Tom: “I don’t see how it applies to the exchange you and I were having about your proclivity for calling people racist if they disagree with you.”

            Steve, your saying that Tom calls people racist only because they disagree with him is just something that you are saying.

            Right now, if you are a progressive thinker, the opposition is Trump et al, and the opposition is racist (refer to above link for starters). That is based on facts, not opinions, not emotions, etc…

            Stop arguing. You are wrong.

          • “Stop arguing. You are wrong.”

            I’m sorry, Liza, but I can’t do that. I am stopping at this particular point because there realy is nowhere else to go, but I will most likely pick it up again when Tom starts up again. And he will start up again soon. And not just at the Trump Administration.

            “Steve, your saying that Tom calls people racist only because they disagree with him is just something that you are saying.”

            Of course I am the only one saying it. This a liberal blog and the posters here enjoy hearing him say it. That is one of the reasons Tom does it. But Tom and I go back a while, and his proclivity for calling people “racist” goes back to the beginning. I serve as a Greek Chorus pointing it out to him. It won’t make any difference, I suspect, but I like trying…

          • Obama. Huppenthal.

            It goes back before trump.

            And I was just reporting on the trumpets concerns about the family brand.

            Steve is just sensitive.

          • “The Greek chorus was part of Ancient Greek theatre. It was a group of masked performers who looked alike, and spoke all at the same time. All the chorus wore identical masks, because they represented the same character or group of characters.”

            Source: Google

            Interesting that you would compare yourself to a Greek chorus, Steve. I do see the similarity.

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