Washington Update - May 12, 2019

Billy Moore    Dc2

The month of May has brought ominous warnings of the consequences of Washington dysfunction born of broken rules of behavior between the White House and Congress – norms President Donald Trump says he was elected to rewrite. 

The reliably bipartisan work involving appropriations and the Defense authorization is threatened by confrontations between Congress and the President. The transfer of funds from unrelated accounts to build more border walls has broken trust between Congress and the Executive. The President's opposition to hurricane recovery funding for Puerto Rico threatens a disaster assistance bill passed by the House last week. House appropriators are churning out annual spending bills that would ban transfers for border wall construction, even as the Defense Department cut Afghanistan war funding to build more walls.

Appropriators wonder if Congress can't pass a perennially popular disaster-spending bill, how will it enact a Defense authorization, avoid a government shutdown or an unthinkable default on U.S. Treasury bonds? 

Echoing the question, congressional trade advocates wonder how they can enact a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico as the White House imposes new tariffs on Chinese imports that will cost U.S. consumers and erode U.S. exports, especially agricultural goods. 

In addition, House Democrats are exploring ways to punish Executive branch officials for failing to respond to subpoenas and the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the testimony of the President's son. 

The widening gulf between Congress and the President comes at a time when military risks are escalating with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea - when the norms of behavior and trust among the parties in Washington should grow in value and importance.

Most Washington leaders recognize the volume of disputes and level of distrust and are determined to avoid the worst, perhaps by creating some good will with a bipartisan infrastructure initiative