Capitol to Capitol | Aug. 20, 2018

Budget Showdown Begins and Time is Running Out


The modern word Senate is derived from the Latin word senātus, so-called as an assembly of the senior, which comes from senex, meaning “the elder” or “old man.” Thus, the literal meaning of the word “senate” is Assembly of Elders. 

Most of the Senate members returned to D.C. last week to approve two federal judgeships and begin debate on the $851.7 billion funding bill. This would be the final and largest funding bill of the year for the Senate and would cover 60 percent of the entire annual budget. This bill ties the Defense (S. 3159) and Labor-HHS-Education (S. 3158) bills together into a massive minibus and would provide a path forward for the FY 2019 federal spending debate.

Forty amendments were submitted, most attempting to increase funding for bipartisan programs like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Public Health Act, federal Perkins loans and homelessness assistance. Several partisan hot issues also emerged, including amendments barring funding for Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act and across-the-board cuts to domestic programs, among others.

The Senate will begin inching the appropriations process forward tonight as voting on amendments begins. While the Senate plans to finish this third spending bundle before Labor Day, many budget watchers are skeptical this bill will become law. That’s because the House and Senate will still need to reconcile their bills, which means the House would have just 11 working days when officials return after Labor Day to pass its own Labor-HHS-Education bill. It’s a feat fraught with hyper-partisan politics that will meet massive resistance from the right because of increasing domestic funding levels.

Some budget watchers have speculated that one way to move the bill forward would be for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to bypass the formal conference committee and have the House take up the Senate’s funding package as passed. Even though Ryan only has a few months remaining in Congress, this move is unlikely as it would infuriate conservatives including the Freedom Caucus, and would go against the Republican conference’s Hastert rule, which says bills only get floor time if they have support from a “majority of the majority.”

And finally, one of the largest remaining obstacles in the way of avoiding a government shutdown is President Donald Trump’s demands for funding to build a wall on the southern border. Just last month, the president tweeted, “I would be willing to ‘shut down’ the government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” While it is the hope of many in Congress to reach a budget deal by Sept. 30, one shouldn’t be surprised to see a continuing resolution that will fund the government through the lame duck session or risk a government shutdown.

NCSL Contact: Jake Lestock

NCSL 2018 Legislative Summit Resources

From July 30 to Aug. 2, legislators from across the country met during NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Los Angeles. The Legislative Summit featured more than 100 sessions and featured nationally renowned experts speaking on the most critical state issues. Resources, including streamed videos, session summaries and session resources and materials can all be found on NCSL’s website:

2018 Legislative Summit Streaming Video Gallery

More Than 25 Blogs Summarizing Summit Sessions

2018 Legislative Summit Agenda With Resources

‘Waters of the United States’ in Effect in 26 States


There’s only one letter that doesn’t appear in any U.S. state name. You’ll find a Z, a J and even two X’s, but not a single Q.

On Aug. 16, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency violated requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act this past February, when it issued a two-year delay of the applicability date of its 2015 Clean Water Rule, more commonly known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

The court’s finding means the rule, which aims to determine the scope of federal authority to regulate “waters of the United States,” and when states, local governments and others must seek federal permits to develop land because it contains WOTUS, will now go into effect in 26 states. Two separate injunctions of the rule in district courts in North Dakota and Georgia mean the rule will remain stayed in 24 states. For additional information on the court’s decision, please read this NCSL Info Alert, and for information on the two-year delay, please read this Info Alert.

NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

UMRA Reforms Pass House

Last month, the House passed (230-168) the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (UMITA, H.R. 50). The legislation, sponsored by Representative Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), aims to address some of the shortcomings of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by expanding reporting requirements to include new conditions of grant aid and some indirect costs.

The legislation also expands UMRA to independent regulatory agencies and creates a formal process for retrospective review of select federal regulations. UMITA was amended in committee to reduce funding for the Congressional Budget Office to reflect actual expenditures. A companion bill (reflecting the introduced version of H.R. 50) was also introduced last month in the Senate (S. 1523) by Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.); both the House-passed and Senate bills were referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC). Earlier this year, NCSL and other organizations representing state and local governments sent a letter to House and Senate Committee leadership supporting H.R. 50 and S. 1523. The Senate HSGAC is likely to schedule a markup of one of the versions in September.

NCSL Contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Neal Osten

U.S. Department of Education Announces New Federal Assistance Program for Displaced Students

On Aug. 14, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced federal assistance for the education of displaced students affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria or the 2017 California wildfires. Assistance includes a total of $359.8 million allocated to 20 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands under the Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students program. These awards were made based on the quarterly counts of displaced students that are included in the state educational agency applications for Emergency Impact Aid. The department anticipates granting a second round of awards in the coming weeks, which will include awards for both California and Puerto Rico.

Read more information related to states and allocated aid amounts.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

Department of Homeland Security Hosts Federal Commission on School Safety Meeting

On Aug. 16, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen hosted the fifth Federal Commission on School Safety meeting entitled “Creating a Citadel of Learning: New Tools to Secure our Schools, Inside and Out.” The event included three panels focused on best practices for school-building security; active-shooter training for schools; and practitioner experience with school-based threat assessment.

Watch a livestream of the meeting. For more information on FCSS, please visit the website.

NCSL Contacts: Joan Wodiska, Miranda McDonald

On This Day, Aug.  20, in …


One-third of the soldiers who fought for the Union Army during the American Civil War were immigrants. In fact, 1 in 4 regiments contained a majority of foreigners. Also, 1 in 10 Union Soldiers were African-American.

  • 1977, Voyager 2 was launched by the United States. The spacecraft carried a 12-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music and sounds of nature.
  • 1964, The Economic Opportunity Act, a $1 billion anti-poverty measure was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • 1866, President Andrew Johnson officially declared that the American Civil War was over.


Note: Capitol to Capitol will not be issued the week of Aug. 27.

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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.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Jake Lestock | 202-624-8171 | 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
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education