Washington Update - February 12, 2024

Billy Moore    Dc2

Congress has adjourned until the end of February. Upon return, they will have three days to avoid a partial government shutdown on March 1, with the balance of government shutting down March 8.

The Senate last week approved a bipartisan aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan. House Speaker Mike Johnson has not signaled whether he will allow a House vote on the issue and is under pressure from hardline conservatives to kill it. President Joe Biden, Senate leaders and a bipartisan group of Representatives are pressing the Speaker to bring the issue to a vote, in which case it will pass.

The Speaker’s control of the House agenda eroded further last week with the bipartisan defeat of a rule to pass a tax cut. This Congress has defeated 6 rules so far and could soon match the 93rd Congress (1973-1975) record of 8 defeated rules, which would make Johnson a historically weak leader. On a second try, the House last week impeached Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas by a single vote margin.

Appropriations negotiators have reached agreement on half of the dozen annual spending bills, not including the social issue riders that will be decided by the top four appropriators or House and Senate party leaders. Given the Speaker’s weakness, any final spending bills will have to pass the House by suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority and relying on support from Democrats, meaning the poison pill riders will have to be abandoned, further eroding Johnson’s Republican support and ability to lead.

In court action last week, former President Donald Trump was fined $540 million for civil fraud while the eligibility of his prosecutor in the Georgia criminal trial was challenged. A principal witness in the House effort to impeach President Biden was indicted for lying to the FBI.