What to Know in Washington: White House Sends Spending Wish List

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The Trump administration wants funding boosts for NASA space exploration, federal prisoner detention and the 2020 Census if Congress passes a stopgap funding measure through mid-December, in addition to a request to continue building border fencing, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News.

The White House Office of Management and Budget sent lawmakers a list last week of requested “anomalies,” or changes to the current funding levels and legislative language, if lawmakers rely on a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30, Jack Fitzpatrick reports.

The biggest funding requests asked for a $5.9 billion annualized funding level for the Census Bureau, compared to $3.8 billion in fiscal 2019; $1.9 billion for federal prisoner detention, compared to $1.6 billion in fiscal 2019; and $6.4 billion for NASA space exploration, compared to $5.1 billion in fiscal 2019. The administration’s document said the increases were necessary to prepare for the 2020 decennial survey, to maintain current federal detention levels after Congress’s border supplement al bill this summer, and to put U.S. astronauts on the moon by 2024.

For the border wall, a change in authorization language is needed, the document says. The fiscal 2019 funding bill provided nearly $1.4 billion for the Rio Grande Valley Sector. If Congress extends the same funding with the same language in a continuing resolution, it would be providing more money for areas for which border fencing is already appropriated.

Authorization language is also requested to extend the National Flood Insurance Program and the Department of Education’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality, which expire Sept. 30. And the administration requested language authorizing the Department of State to use funds to participate in the International Exposition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2020.

The administration also requested an annualized rate of $60 million for the Office of the United States Trade Representative to implement the fourth tranche of tariffs on Chinese imports.

Meanwhile, as fiscal 2020 talks heat up with lawmakers’ return next week and roughly 3 weeks of work ahead of the October deadline, Senate Appropriations subcommittees yesterday set the first markups of their spending bills for next week. The Senate Appropriations Defense and Labor-HHS-Education subcommittees will mark up their unreleased bills on Tuesday, according to the Senate’s schedule.


Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People work on the U.S./ Mexican border wall on Feb. 12, 2019 in El Paso, Texas

Pentagon to Shift Funds for Wall: Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it will shift $3.6 billion from its military construction budget to pay for 175 miles of new and replacement barriers at the border with Mexico.

The move will redirect money from 127 military projects in the U.S. and abroad that Congress has funded, and could cause delays in some of those, Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, said yesterday. The department said it won’t release a full list of projects until lawmakers have been notified, which was expected to be completed by today.

The use of military construction funds raised deep concerns among lawmakers, who face losing work on projects in their districts and states. Many saw the move as an end run around Congress after it denied Trump funding for a border wall during a budget fight that shut down the government at the beginning of the year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the $3.6 billion shift as “irresponsible.” It “makes America less safe and dishonors the Constitution,” Pelosi said in a statement late yesterday. She said the House will fight the decision in the courts, in Congress and public opinion, and called for steps to address “the root causes of migration.” Read more from Travis J. Tritten.

On Lawmakers’ Radars

Democrats Await USMCA Feedback: House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said yesterday that Democrats want to see specific changes in the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and are waiting for a full response to their proposals from the Trump administration.

“Democrats are committed to a renegotiated deal with strong enforcement mechanisms that helps working families, protects the environment, and preserves access to affordable medicines now and in the future,” Neal said in an emailed statement.

Pelosi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke briefly by phone yesterday about Democrats’ concerns, Erik Wasson reports, citing a Pelosi spokesman. Pelosi reiterated Democrats’ concerns about labor standards, prescription drug prices, environmental protections and enforcement mechanisms, the spokesman said. She stressed that Democrats are concerned with enforcement of the agreement and Mexico continuing to implement labor standards and other commitments.

Scalia Has Ex-Officials’ Support: A group of former Labor Department lawyers endorsed Eugene Scalia as the Trump administration’s pick for secretary of the Labor Department in a letter to lawmakers late last week. The letter, dated Aug. 30, was sent to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The former officials praised Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, for his deep knowledge of labor law and fair, open disposition. Scalia previously served as solicitor of the Labor Department. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Benjamin Penn.

Obamacare Insurers Tax: An Obamacare tax on health insurance plans could collect $15.5 billion in 2020 if Congress doesn’t step in to block it, the Internal Revenue Service announced yesterday. Under the Affordable Care Act, a fee is levied on all fully insured health plans to help cover the cost of the law. The plans affected include individual market plans, small group and large group plans, Medicare managed care plans, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, and Medicaid managed care plans. But Congress has suspended the tax some years, including in 2019. Read more from Sara Hansard.

Mnuchin to Testify on Housing Reform: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mark Calabria, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, will testify on a government-sponsored enterprise overhaul at a Senate Banking Committee hearing next Tuesday. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson will also testify on a housing finance overhaul, according to statement from the panel, Ben Livesey reports.

Elections & Politics

2020 Democrats to Talk Climate Change: Whoever wins the the Democratic presidential nomination will likely incorporate seven major ideas for fighting climate change that have widespread buy-in among the crowded 2020 field.

Although they disagree on environmental policy in other ways, the contenders have broad areas of agreement that point to an emerging Democratic consensus on confronting climate change should they retake the White House. Those ideas will be on display today during a nationally televised town hall, with top-tier candidates Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The Democratic baseline includes restoring Obama-era policies that Trump has rolled back and re-orienting federal taxes and spending toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. The seven proposals represent the common ground among moderates and liberals on fighting climate change; easier to defend in a general election than some of the bolder — and much more expensive — ideas outlined in the Green New Deal. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.

Warren Ups Her Climate Plan Ante to $3 Trillion: Meanwhile, Warren yesterday proposed spending $1 trillion for “decarbonizing our electricity, our vehicles, and our buildings.” That, she said on Twitter, was “on top of the $2 trillion I’ve already committed to green research, manufacturing, and exporting. We’ll create millions of jobs and achieve the goals of the #GreenNewDeal.” In her latest plan, she said that her decarbonization goal was based on a proposal by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has left the Democratic presidential race. Read more from John Harney.

Harris Sets $10 Trillion Climate Change Plan: Kamala Harris has unveiled a $10 trillion private-public plan to tackle climate change by creating a fully clean-energy economy by 2045, Sahil Kapur reports. Harris announced the ambitious target hours before a climate change town hall for Democratic presidential candidates today on CNN. Her “Climate Plan For the People” would also “end federal support for the fossil fuel industry through both executive action and legislation, putting a fee on pollution, and increasing penalties and forcing companies to prove they are not polluting.”

In addition, she would pursue justice for communities most affected by climate change, protect national resources and re-enter the Paris climate accord. Harris called for 100% of American electricity to be carbon-neutral by 2030, phasing out fossil fuels in the transportation sector, and a swath of new investments designed to build out the clean energy economy.

Sanders Too Far Left for Some Liberals: Half of self-described liberals say that Sanders is too far to the left to be elected president, according to a new Harvard-Harris online poll. The survey results put Sanders, a self-avowed democratic socialist, on the far end of the Democratic presidential field. Warren, who’s eye-to-eye with some of Sanders’ major policy proposals, was also deemed too far left by 33% of liberals, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) by 32%, Gregory Korte reports.

North Carolina Court Strikes Partisan Maps: A state court invalidated North Carolina’s state legislative districts ahead of the 2020 election, finding the state GOP predominantly focused “on maximizing Republican partisan advantage.” That partisan focus ran afoul of the state constitutional requirement that “[a]ll elections shall be free,” the court said. It’s just the third time a state court has invalidated legislative maps for partisan gerrymandering, said redistricting lawyer Michael Li—but it may not be the last. Read more from Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson.

Foreign Affairs

Trump’s New U.N. Envoy Comes Without Bombast: Kelly Craft is expected to leave bombast to Trump, swagger to Michael Pompeo and hard-line strategy to John Bolton when she takes her seat as U.S. ambassador at the U.N. next week. In an administration known for its confrontations with both allies and adversaries, Craft, a wealthy Trump campaign contributor who previously served as envoy to Canada, has signaled that she intends a lower-profile role at the United Nations than the one carved out by her predecessor, Nikki Haley.

Interviews with people familiar with Craft’s thinking say she’ll focus on a narrower range of issues at the world body where her involvement — and her connections to Trump — could help move the needle. She’s cited the need to muster more resources from “other responsible nations” to respond to “massive and protracted” humanitarian crises from Sudan to Yemen and Syria. Read more from David Wainer.

Pence Visits Iceland: The storm over Trump’s ill-fated pitch to buy Greenland hasn’t yet faded completely, and already another Nordic nation is about to get some contentious attention from the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is due to arrive in Iceland today for a visit in which he plans to highlight the growing strategic importance of the Arctic, as well as “NATO’s efforts to counter Russian aggression” and “opportunities to expand mutual trade and investment,” the White House said as it announced the visit. Pence h as this week visited Poland and Ireland, while Trump, having already canceled a state visit to Denmark over the Greenland affair, stayed at home to deal with Hurricane Dorian.

Tiny Iceland is now punching above its weight, at least judging by the dignity of U.S. officials stopping by. During a visit to Reykjavik in February, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered American resources to counter the growing role of Russia and China and achieve a “a peaceful low tension environment” in the region. Read more from Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir.

Ivanka Trump to Visit Colombia-Venezuela Border: White House adviser Ivanka Trump will visit the border today, after holding a dinner meeting last night with Colombian President Ivan Duque to discuss U.S.-Colombia relations, according to a statement from the Colombian Embassy in the U.S. Trump and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan visit the Colombia-Venezuela border to see Colombia’s effort to address the migrant crisis, according to the statement. Trump and Sullivan are traveling in Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay through Friday, Kim Chipman reports.

Hong Kong’s Lam Scraps Bill That Sparked Months of Unrest: Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, said she had formally withdrawn legislation to allow extraditions to China, an about-face that may help ease — but not end — months of unrest in the Asian financial center. Lam announced the move in a televised address Wednesday, after a meeting with pro-establishment politicians including local legislators and the city’s representatives to national legislative bodies. She also announced an independent study of the government’s performance and reaffirmed her commitment to reviewing the police’s response to the protests. Read more from Iain Marlow, Blake Schmidt and Shawna Kwan.

Russia and Turkey Say They’re in Talks on Fighter Jet Sales: Russia and Turkey said they’re discussing sales of Su-35 fighter jets and possible supplies of the latest Russian stealth warplane, as Moscow seeks to exploit divisions between Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the U.S. “Consultations have begun on both the Su-35 and, as a longer-term subject, the Su-57” fifth-generation fighter, Dmitry Shugaev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told reporters Wednesday at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. Still, it’s “premature to speak about any contract talks” and Turkey hasn’t submitted any specific request for Su-57s so far, he said. Read more from Stepan Kravchenko and Taylan Bilgic.

What Else to Know

Dorian Lashes Florida: Hurricane Dorian menaced the U.S. East Coast with devastating flooding and winds, lashing Florida after laying waste to the Bahamas in a brutal two-day battering that caused damage that may cost the islands billions of dollars. The center of the Category 2 hurricane was located about 90 miles east of Daytona Beach, Fla., with maximum sustained winds of about 105 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in a public advisory at 5 a.m. local time. Earlier, it reported bands of rain moving into northeast Florida and squalls in the region.

The storm is moving north-northwest at about 8 miles per hour and should move “dangerously close” to the Florida and Georgia coasts through this evening, with its center approaching the Carolinas by Thursday, according to the NHC. Trump declared a state of emergency in North Carolina, clearing the way for his administration to coordinate disaster relief efforts as needed. Read more from Brian K. Sullivan and Matthew Bristow.

San Francisco to Name NRA Terrorist Group: San Francisco wants to declare the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization and is preparing to start asking the city’s vendors to reveal whether they’re doing business with the nation’s largest gun lobby. The Board of Supervisors yesterday unanimously approved a resolution saying that San Francisco “should take every reasonable step to assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with this domestic terrorist organization.”

The resolution, which has to be approved again in a second vote before it can take effect, cites the U.S. Department of Justice definition of terrorist activity, which, in part, is using any weapon or dangerous device “with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property.” Read more from Joyce E. Cutler.

Conservative Group Presses Trump on Auto Tariff Report: The Trump administration is legally required to release a report it prepared about tariffs that the president is considering on imports of automobiles and car parts, a conservative group said yesterday in a lawsuit over the issue. Section 232 of the Tariff Act of 1930 allows the president to restrict imports in the name of national security. Trump already has exercised this power to impose controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum. Trump in May announced that imports of passenger vehicles, lig ht trucks, and auto parts were threatening U.S. manufacturers and jeopardizing U.S. research and development, which is necessary “to retain competitive military advantage and meet new defense requirements.” Read more from Brian Flood.

D.C. Will Eliminate ‘Diaper Tax’ : The District of Columbia is eliminating its ‘diaper tax’ starting Oct. 1, by tapping a $4.5 million investment in the mayor’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The city currently imposes a 6% sales tax on diapers.  Read more from Ryan Prete.

With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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