Washington Update - August 5, 2019

Billy Moore    Dc2

Last week, the Senate joined the House for the August recess to return September 9. Before departing, Senators passed and President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan two-year budget agreement that suspends the debt ceiling until mid-2021. 

Over the August break, House and Senate appropriators will agree on spending allocations to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. After recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin sending bundles of bills to the floor, with Defense, Labor-Health and Human Services and Energy-Water first in line. The Homeland Security bill, featuring disputes over border security and immigration, is the least likely appropriation to reach bipartisan compromise and may end up in a yearlong Continuing Resolution.

Before adjourning, the Senate confirmed 13 more federal judges, bringing the total to 144 judges confirmed under President Trump.

In the first seven months of the 116th Congress, the deliberative process of amending bills has reached new lows. Representatives were able to offer amendments on about half of the bills on the floor. Just 18 amendments received roll call votes in the Senate, 246 in the House. House or Senate leaders cleared every floor amendment considered - no legislation in 2019 has been considered under an open amendment process free of leadership control.

The lack of open debate probably influenced the decisions of 18 incumbent members of Congress who have already declared they will not seek reelection. During the August recess, incumbents will poll their districts and their families to inform their decisions about seeking to serve again the 117th Congress in 2021. Many more retirements are likely to result.

The economy added 164,000 jobs in July, and the Federal Reserve reduced interest rates by 0.25 percent in response to signs of an economic rough patch due in part to tariff uncertainty. In response, President Trump threatened new tariffs, causing Wall Street to retreat from last week's record highs.

Like Congress, your Updater is taking a recess until September.