Jennifer Shutt

Congress is finally going to pot
Bills to loosen marijuana laws are gaining traction in both parties

An unlikely coalition of lawmakers is plotting how to revise the nation’s marijuana laws during the 116th Congress — a mission that’s become much more viable in recent years as public support for legalizing cannabis shoots up and members introduce bills in higher numbers than ever before.

That legislation languished at the bottom of the hopper during the last Congress as GOP leaders remained steadfast in their opposition. But now advocates are optimistic that Democratic control of the House and mounting pressure to clean up the disparity between state and federal laws could propel some incremental changes through the Republican-controlled Senate — even if it will be a challenge.

Wait, there’s a Cannabis Caucus? Pot proponents on the Hill say it’s high time for serious policy debate
 

Since 2012, a total of 10 states have legalized recreational marijuana and support among the American public for legal pot has jumped to 66 percent. CQ Roll Call policy reporter Jennifer Shutt explains what that change means for the Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group of members who, alongside allies in the House and Senate, are hoping to hash out the differences between state and federal cannabis laws.

FEMA ready for devastation in Alabama, despite administrator’s recent resignation
“We stand ready to assist as needed and requested,” a FEMA spokesman said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it is ready to assist Alabama residents recovering from devastating tornadoes, even though the agency’s administrator resigned less than a month ago. 

A cluster of tornadoes ripped through the Southeast Sunday. The most vicious storms upturned Lee County in Alabama with 170 mph winds, leaving a trail of destruction nearly a mile wide. Twenty-three people died. 

Senate to follow House, keep earmarks out of spending bills
Earmarks have also been banned in the Senate since 2011

Senate appropriators don’t plan to revive earmarks this year, following the House’s lead set late last week by the Democratic majority across the Capitol.

“I would listen to meritorious things, but I don’t see that happening right now. The House has just spoken,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday.

Earmarks won’t be back this year, at least in the House
‘Pork’ has been banned in the chamber since 2011

House Democrats don’t plan to revive home-state earmarks during the upcoming appropriations process, though they expect to continue discussing the issue with their Republican colleagues.

“Unfortunately, there is currently not the necessary bipartisan, bicameral agreement to allow the Appropriations Committee to earmark,” Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey wrote in a letter sent to members of the panel Thursday and released publicly on Friday. “For that reason, I do not expect fiscal year 2020 House spending bills to include congressionally-directed spending.”

Top appropriators reach ‘agreement in principle’ on funding border security, rest of government
Agreement could avoid government shutdown

The top four congressional appropriators said Monday they had reached an “agreement in principle” that would fund the Department of Homeland Security and the rest of the federal government through the end of the fiscal year and could avoid a government shutdown if President Donald Trump signs off on it. 

The agreement is now being drafted into legislative text that the House and Senate hope to advance before Friday’s government funding deadline, the appropriators said.

Negotiators closing in on border security conference deal
Shelby talks up chances after meeting with the president

House and Senate negotiators are closing in on a final $320 billion-plus omnibus fiscal 2019 package, after what Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby called a “productive” and “positive” meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday.

“[The president] said to me again he would like for us to wrap it up, to get a legislative solution,” the Alabama Republican told reporters at the Capitol after the meeting. “We’re negotiating on the substance, serious stuff now. ...This is the most positive I’ve been or I’ve seen in the talks since, oh gosh, maybe ever.”

McConnell wants border security conference to produce a bill, even if Trump signature is unclear
Senate majority leader is praying for the conferees to succeed

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants the House and Senate negotiators working on a border security spending agreement to reach a deal — even if there aren’t assurances that President Donald Trump will sign it.

The Kentucky Republican made those comments hours ahead of Trump’s State of the Union, which was rescheduled to Tuesday thanks to the most recent partial government shutdown.

Congress’ border wall funding emergency
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 97

Congressional negotiators are working to reach bipartisan agreement on a Homeland Security spending bill that can fend off another shutdown and thwart President Donald Trump’s threat of declaring a national emergency, CQ appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich tells co-host Jennifer Shutt.

House Democrats offering less money for a wall this year than in 2018 omnibus
The outline, not yet released in legislative form, eliminates $1.34 billion for fencing that party leaders were ready to accept just weeks ago

House Democrats on Thursday unveiled a counterproposal on border security that moves them further away from President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall money than they were just weeks ago.

The six-page outline, which has not yet been released in legislative form, would eliminate the $1.34 billion for fencing along the southwest border that party leaders were ready to accept just weeks ago, and which was included in the fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations law enacted last March.

Border security bargainers get to work, still miles apart
First conference committee meeting does little to close the divide

House Democrats showed few signs of giving in to President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall as a conference committee began talks Wednesday to strike a border security deal that would also fund the Department of Homeland Security for fiscal 2019.

But both sides expressed optimism and pledged to work toward an agreement by the Feb. 15 deadline that the president can sign, and thus avoid another partial government shutdown.

Congress looks to avert another shutdown
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 96

CQ budget and appropriations reporters Kellie Mejdrich and Jennifer Shutt unpack what could happen in the next three weeks as lawmakers and the White House wrestle with how to prevent another government shutdown in three weeks. ...
Shutdown could cost federal workers second paycheck
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 95

The House and Senate are poised to consider legislation that could end the partial government shutdown — if the competing bills had any chance of passing both chambers, explains CQ budget and appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich. Listen for the latest details on how lawmakers are greeting President Donald Trump's immigration-related  offer.

Senate GOP unveils omnibus bill to fund wall, reopen government
The 1,301-page draft bill includes parts outlined by Trump in his Saturday speech

Senate Republicans have released a $354.5 billion fiscal 2019 spending package that includes $5.7 billion for border wall construction as well as temporary relief for enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and immigrants receiving Temporary Protected Status.

The 1,301-page draft bill was released Monday night, and it includes parts outlined by President Donald Trump in his Saturday speech. It is expected to receive a vote in the Senate this week.

Burned in the past, Democrats reluctant to give ground in wall fight
Democrats and allies concerned conceding would set a precedent for more rounds of brinksmanship

The partial government shutdown, now in its record-setting 24th day, is about more than just a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats and their allies are concerned that if party leaders cut a deal with President Donald Trump on wall funding, it would set a precedent for more rounds of dangerous brinksmanship in the months and years to come.

Lindsey Graham throws in towel on talks to end government shutdown
Lapse in appropriations has entered its 20th day

One of the Republican senators who had been trying to find a compromise to end the partial government shutdown is now calling on the president invoke executive powers to try to build the wall at the border with Mexico.

“Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate on funding for a border wall/barrier -- even if the government were to be reopened -- virtually ends the congressional path to funding for a border wall/barrier,” Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said in a statement. “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier. I hope it works.”

Senate Republicans Huddle to Break Shutdown Impasse

A group of Senate Republicans camped out in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office Thursday morning seeking to come up with a solution to the ongoing partial government shutdown that threatens paychecks for 800,000 federal workers starting Friday.

The group includes senators who have sought to broker an immigration compromise that would provide additional funds for border barriers that President Donald Trump wants, while allowing certain categories of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. That includes some 700,000 “Dreamers” brought here illegally as children, and possibly a broader discussion about overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

On Appropriations, Daines, Lankford will not have their cake, eat it too
After being added to Finance Committee, cardinals get clipped

The Senate Appropriations Committee is about to get two new subcommittee chairmen after the top Republicans on the Financial Services and Legislative branch panels got approval to serve rare double duty on the Appropriations and Finance panels.

“There will be some changes,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said Tuesday when asked whether Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and James Lankford, R-Okla., would continue in their previous roles. “When they went to Finance they lost their seniority. They knew that.”

Overheard: Pat Leahy on the acting director of OMB
Heard on the Hill hears all

Senate Appropriations ranking member Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on Office of Management and Budget acting Director Russell Vought.

Pelosi, McConnell Have Plenty of Reasons to End Shutdown
Two House votes planned for Thursday

Soon after the new Congress convenes Thursday, the Democratic House will take the first steps toward ending a shutdown that began under unified Republican government.

The politics of Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi putting forward bills that could reopen about 25 percent of the government are decidedly positive for the California Democrat — especially when it comes to unifying the diverse caucus she’ll lead for the next two years.