Capitol to Capitol | March 26, 2018

The Calm After the Storm

DYK?

Baseball season begins this week on Thursday, which will be the first time since 1968 that all 30 teams begin play on the same day.    

The past three days in Washington have been especially noteworthy. It began on Friday when President Donald Trump signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill into law. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied in every state, as well as the nation’s capital, against gun violence. On Sunday evening, CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired an interview with Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, who alleged she had an affair with the president in 2006. Needless to say, Congress is relieved that today is the beginning of its two-week spring break.

After Threatening Veto, Trump Signs Spending Bill Into Law

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package that the president signed into law on Friday will likely be the last major piece of legislation to make it to his desk before the November elections. In addition to funding the government through the remainder of FY 2018, which concludes on Sept. 30, the 2,200 page bill, H.R. 1625, included numerous policy provisions that congressional negotiators debated right until the legislation was finalized on Wednesday evening. The House passed the measure (256-167) on Thursday and the Senate followed suit in the early hours of Friday, clearing the package by a vote of 65-32.

Several hours after the Senate sent the legislation to the president, Trump tweeted that he was “considering a VETO” of the package, largely because the bill failed to include $25 billion in funding for his proposed border wall in exchange for extending protections for “Dreamers.” The president also criticized Congress, Democrats, and called for the Senate to reinstate the line-item veto in their procedures (a practice ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998).

However, after five hours of anxiety, the president put his signature on the $1.3 trillion fiscal 2018 omnibus on Friday afternoon. Trump ultimately signed the bill “because of the incredible gains we’ve been able to make for the military.” Although, he has threatened to never sign another bill like this again, stating that “I’m not going to do it again. Nobody read it. It’s only hours old. Some people don’t even know—it’s $1.3 trillion.”

Over the weekend, Washington had a little more time to dissect the giant bill entitled the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018” to see what made the cut. The major items of note include:

  • A budgeted $700 billion for defense (an increase of $80 billion) and $591 billion for non-defense spending (an increase of $63 billion).
  • All military personnel are getting a 2.4 percent pay raise.
  • A budgeted $1.57 billion for border security, including barriers and technology.
  • A fix to the “grain glitch,” a problem in the GOP’s federal tax reform bill that created incentives for farmers to sell their products to co-ops at a disadvantage to other private buyers. In exchange for the fix, Democrats added a provision expanding the low-income housing tax credit.
  • Provides $4 billion in funding across agencies to help state and local governments tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic.
  • The bill includes $380 million for election security grants for state election officials to upgrade their equipment to ward off digital attacks in the upcoming November elections.
  • Provides $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund, $1 billion above the FY 2017 levels, to five major federal highway formula programs. In addition, the bill provides an extra $2.5 billion in discretionary highway funding that will be allocated through the existing formula grant programs.
  • The deal provides $650 million to Amtrak for capital projects in the Northeast Corridor. Money that will likely be directed toward the Gateway project (new tunnel) under the Hudson River. President Trump halted the $900 million in federal funds the Gateway project was supposed to receive.
  • The bill includes $600 million for a new program within the United States Department of Agriculture aimed at rural broadband.
  • Created an emergency pot of money for the U.S. Forest Service to use when it exceeds its fire-suppression budget.

DYK?

On Opening Day of the 1910 baseball season, William Howard Taft became the first president to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Since then, every president besides Jimmy Carter has thrown at least one ceremonial first ball for Opening Day, the All-Star Game, or the World Series.

Harry Truman was the only president to throw out left-handed and right-handed first pitches on Opening Day. He showcased his ambidextrous talents on April 18, 1950.

In broad terms, the bill increased federal spending across the board compared to FY 2017 spending levels:

  • Agriculture: $23.259 billion (+$2.379 billion from FY 2017).
  • Commerce-Justice-Science: $59.6 billion (+$3 billion from FY 2017).
  • Defense: $589.5 billion base funding (+$73.4 billion from FY 2017).
  • Energy-Water $43.2 billion (+$5.4 billion from FY 2017).
  • Financial Services: $23.4 billion (+$1.9 billion from FY 2017).
  • Homeland Security: $55.6 billion (+$13.2 billion from FY 2017).
  • Interior-Environment: $35.25 billion (+$2.97 billion from FY 2017).
  • Labor-HHS-Education: $177.1 billion (+$16.1 billion from FY 2017).
  • Legislative Branch: $4.7 billion (+$300 million from FY 2017).
  • Military Construction-VA: $92.7 billion (+$9.7 billion from FY 2017).
  • State-Foreign Operation $54 billion (+$900 million from FY 2017).
  • Transportation-HUD: $70.3 billion (+$13.826 billion from FY 2017).

NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee has summarized the legislation for programs in the committee’s purview. Read the summary.

While the massive funding bill included increased funding for most programs, many high-profile policy provisions did not make the cut, including:

  • Protections for “dreamers,” or children that illegally entered the country as minors. Trump announced that the program, formally known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), would terminate on March 6. However, that move has been delayed by court action.
  • The president called for $25 billion in funding for a border wall. Only $1.6 billion was appropriated for border security, most of which will be used for increased border protections unrelated to the construction of the wall. However, the legislation did provide funding for 33 miles of a new barrier along the southern border.
  • Obamacare stabilization: Despite a push from key Senate Republicans, including Susan Collins (R-Maine), the funding package did not include federal subsidies that Trump ended for insurers who provide lower deductibles and co-payments for lower-earning consumers, as required by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Internet Sales Tax: Despite the efforts by South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R), the omnibus did not include language that would allow states to enforce their sales tax laws on remote sellers that do not have physical presence in their state. As Congress failed to act, states will now have to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear the South Dakota v. Wayfair case on April 17.

NCSL Contacts: Max Behlke, Jake Lestock

Trump’s Tariffs: China Retaliates Against U.S. Agriculture

In response to Trump's implementation of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, China, the No. 2 purchaser of U.S. farm goods, released on Friday morning a list of $3 billion worth of products it is considering raising tariffs on—including pork, nuts, fresh and dried fruits and wine. This list could grow, in response to a separate announcement, also on Friday, that the president was imposing an additional $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch (Agriculture), Kristen Hildreth (Agriculture), Jon Jukuri (Trade)

Also of Note …

DYK?

Only once in history has each player on a professional baseball team finished a game with the same batting average with which they started.

That team was the 1940 Chicago White Sox, who entered and exited their April 16 game against the Cleveland Indians with a batting average of .000.

The reason? On April 16, 1940, Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller threw the first and only Opening Day no-hitter in history.

  • Trump to expel 60 Russian intelligence officers | POLITICO: The U.S. will expel 60 Russian intelligence officers and order the Russian government to close its consulate in Seattle, the Trump administration announced Monday morning. The moves are retaliation in part for the Russian government’s alleged attempt to murder a former spy living in the United Kingdom.
  • March for Our Lives: Six key takeaways from the US gun control rallies | BBC: It was the biggest gun control protest in a generation. Hundreds of rallies were staged across the US and beyond as marchers filled the streets calling for the implementation of tighter measures following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida school in February.
  • GOP senators fuel Justice Kennedy retirement talk | The Hill: Senate Republicans are privately saying they hope Justice Kennedy announces his retirement in the coming months, before the fall midterm elections, arguing the move would give Republicans something to rally their base as they work to maintain control of the Senate.
  • Cambridge Analytica raided by UK data watchdog | TechCrunch: The UK’s data watchdog, the ICO, finally obtained a warrant to enter and search the offices of Cambridge Analytica late Friday — carrying out an evidence gathering sweep of the company into the small hours of Saturday morning.

Note: Due to the congressional recess, Capitol-to-Capitol will not publish on April 2 and will return on April 9.

Read the March 19, 2018, Capitol-to-Capitol.

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House, and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Neal Osten | 202-624-8660 | Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Directors
  • Max Behlke | 202-624-3586 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell | 202-624-3569 | Human Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Ethan Wilson | 202-624-8686 | Commerce and Financial Services
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education