It’s appropriations time on the House floor
As it prepares to take up the first of 12 must-pass funding bills, the House will once again be divided by the so-called culture wars.
GOV’T FUNDING: THE LATEST CHAPTER IN A HOUSE DIVIDED
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is attempting to hold up his end of a bargain Congress has unfulfilled since 1996: Pass 12 massive funding bills by the Sep. 30 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
And this week, the House will consider the first two before members head home for the month-long August break.
1) MilCon-VA: This bill funds military construction and the Veterans Affairs Department and is usually one of the easiest to pass.
2) Agriculture-RD-FDA: This bill covers funding for the Agriculture Department, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies.
But after achieving a rare act of bipartisanship last week when the House approved a must-pass aviation reauthorization bill by a 351-69 vote, the funding bills, which House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) described as trending in the wrong direction, are expected to receive little to no Democratic support.
“Because again, Republicans have chosen to try and jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people and take us toward a nationwide ban on abortion care, bully the transgender community, undermine equal opportunity in every zip code in a diverse country,” Jeffries said. “And if they continue down this path, we will oppose their extreme efforts.”
How we got here: Less than two months ago, as the US rumbled towards a first-ever default on its debt, Speaker McCarthy and President Joe Biden reached a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and outline the funding priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
The deal was imperfect. But by most observations, President Biden brokered an agreement that capped domestic funding at current levels with a one-percent increase in 2025.
The deal didn’t go far enough for House conservatives, who wanted to set the funding caps at fiscal year 2022 levels, effectively cutting billions of dollars in domestic investments. The hardliners ultimately rebelled by tanking a rule that would have set up a vote to pass a messaging bill on gas stoves and grinding floor action to a halt for five days.
In the aftermath of this extraordinary embarrassment for McCarthy and his leadership team, the speaker agreed to allow his appropriators to mark the 12 funding bills at the FY22 levels, breaking the agreement he made with the president just two weeks earlier.
What’s in the bills: The MilCon-VA bill includes $317.4 billion in funding, with $161.7 billion set aside for mandatory funding and $155.7 billion approved for discretionary funding, including $17 billion for Pentagon military construction projects — $800 million above President Biden’s budget request.
The bill fully funds veterans’ health care programs and fully funds veterans’ benefits. But Democrats say Republicans only funded these programs after being publicly shamed leading up to and during the debt limit negotiations. Not to mention, they argue that if VA programs are fully funded, then other popular social programs will see cuts to reach the ‘22 funding levels House conservatives have demanded.
Plus, the bill features several divisive policy riders that Democrats are sure to overwhelmingly oppose, including:
Language to prevent federal funds for abortions with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother
A block on implementation of a Veterans Affairs Department rule on abortion that allows the ava to provide access to abortion counseling — and in certain cases — abortions for pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries
A ban on diversity, equity, and inclusion training and implementation
A ban on promoting and advancing critical race theory
A ban on hormone therapies and surgical procedures for gender-affirming care and the use of Pride flags
A ban on closing Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the military prison for alleged combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries during the War on Terror
The Ag-RD-FDA bill provides $25.3 billion for the relevant agencies, a 2.1 percent cut from the current level and 12.5 percent below the president’s budget request.
House Republicans say the bill will protect the nation’s food supply, support American farmers, ranchers, and rural communities, and make sure low-income Americans have access to nutrition programs.
But Democrats say the $17.8 billion cut is a level that hasn’t been so steep since 2007 and actually slashes investments in rural America, including for loans to financially distressed farmers and funds for rural electric co-ops.
The bill also slashes the cash value voucher for WIC that provides funding for fruit and vegetable purchases for the five million women and children enrolled in the program. House Dems say the poorest communities will suffer from underfunded water and waste grants direct loans to purchase homes and rural areas. And in another anti-abortion measure, the bill reverses the FDA decision to allow medication abortion to be available by prescription at pharmacies instead of only in hospitals, clinics, and medical offices.
All 27 Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee opposed both bills.
On the other side of the Capitol: The Senate last month passed their own versions of the Milcon-VA and Ag-RD-FDA bills in unanimous 28-0 votes. It was the first time the committee marked up funding bills in two years and demonstrates a bipartisan approach to the appropriations process that’s missing in action in the House.
“The contrast between the House and Senate is glaring,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters last week. “In the House, there’s all kinds of partisan divisions. There’s no votes by Democrats and Republicans. And there’s all kinds of MAGA amendments that just get in the way of getting anything done.”
Schumer also described the Senate’s approach as working well and smoothly.
“And we hope, hope, hope, hope that the House takes a lesson from the Senate and works in a productive way so we can pass these important bills.”
Well, keep hoping, Mister Leader.
What’s next: The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday at 2 p.m. to establish the guidelines for the bills’ debate and amendment. The dozen funding bills must pass both chambers and be signed into law by Sep. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
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DEMS CLAP BACK AGAINST NEW FL SCHOOL STANDARDS
Democrats seized on new standards adopted last week by Florida’s Board of Education for how public schools should teach Black history.
The 216-page document directs middle schoolers to be taught that some Black people received “personal benefit” from slavery because they learned useful skills.
This revisionist history is incorrect though: Your Supercreator author’s Black ancestors were enslaved because of their skills not so they could be taught them.
Three Black Democrats from Florida’s congressional delegation — Reps. Maxwell Frost, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, and Frederica Wilson — and Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) sent a letter to the Florida Education Department demanding it reverse the standards.
“These new standards and instructions are not the truth of American history but riddled with falsehoods that minimize the unique racial terror experienced by Black people in America throughout time,” the members wrote. “Not repealing these new standards would dig up the corpse of the worst version of our nation and force our nation to live in it.”
Vice President Kamala Harris found the standards so egregious, she flew to Jacksonville on Friday afternoon to give an impassioned speech about them.
“Let us not be seduced into believing that somehow we will be better if we forget. We will be better if we remember,” she said during one of many applause lines. “We will be stronger if we remember.”
Harris added: “Let us not be distracted by what they are trying to do, which is to create unnecessary debates to divide our country. Let us not call in that trap.”
Despite the backlash, Ron DeSantis, the state’s ultraconservative governor and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, defended the curriculum at an event in Utah while attempting to suggest he had no role in its development.
“They’re probably going to show that some of the folks eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” he told reporters last Friday. He later added: “I didn’t do it. I wasn’t involved in it.”
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ALABAMA DEFIES SUPREME COURT ORDER TO DRAW FAIR MAPS
After the Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court’s ruling to strike down an Alabama congressional map because it discriminated against Black voters, Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat who represents the lone majority-minority district in the state said she expected an additional majority-Black district to be added.
But the Alabama state legislature last week refused to create the second district. Instead, it created a map that increased the percentage of Black voters from 31 percent to 40 percent in Alabama’s Second District in a compromise plan.
Alabama state Democrats say the map doesn’t make it easier for a minority to win a second district. But state Republicans argue they complied with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“You see the racism that is happening in our country,” former Speaker Nancy Pelosi said to CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday morning when asked about the new map. “It’s getting to be pretty blatant.”
Pelosi added that Alabama’s defiance proves why the US needs national voting rights standards.
Last week, congressional Democrats reintroduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which would ban extreme partisan gerrymandering, among other provisions to protect and expand access to the ballot box. The week before, House Republicans introduced their own so-called “election integrity” bill.
As for what’s next, former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now serves as the head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, had four words for Alabama’s state legislature: “See you in court.”
SENATE TO RESUME NDAA THIS WEEK
The Senate will resume work on Tuesday to pass its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the must-pass annual defense policy and programs bill.
But Democrats will be down at least one vote this week: Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced late Sunday evening he tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine from home while working remotely.
Leader Schumer said the Senate will continue to take up the balance of the 50-plus amendments to the NDAA with a goal of passing the final bill by Thursday afternoon.
The House passed its NDAA along party lines earlier this month. Once the Senate passes it, the House and Senate will go to a conference committee to reconcile their differences.
The deadline for it President Biden to sign the NDAA into law is Sep. 30.
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
10 a.m. President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
10:55 a.m. Vice President Harris will leave Washington, DC to travel to Chicago, arriving at 12:55 p.m.
2:20 p.m. The vice president will speak at the UnidosUS 2023 Annual Conference.
4:45 p.m. Vice President Harris will speak at a campaign fundraiser.
6:15 p.m. The vice president will travel from Chicago back to DC, arriving at 7:45 p.m.
The House and Senate are out.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: President Biden will sign a proclamation to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument in Illinois and Mississippi. He will also speak about expanding access to mental health care.
Thursday: The president will be briefed on the extreme heat conditions across the country and speak about his administration’s response
to the climate crisis. He will also welcome Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy to the White House and speak at the Truman Civil Rights Symposium.
Friday: President Biden will travel to Maine to speak about Bidenomics before traveling to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the weekend.
Harris’s week ahead:
Tuesday: Vice President Harris will speak at the president’s signing of the Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley proclamations.
Saturday: The vice president will travel to Boston to speak at the NAACP Annual Convention.
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