appropriations

The Crime Victims Fund is not just for victims
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 104

Leahy: higher costs, less money to go around in fiscal 2020, even if there's a caps deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A fund designed to help crime victims is also used by lawmakers as an annual budgetary gimmick to help pay for other programs. But the victims fund is starting to run dry, making appropriations decisions tougher, as our tax and fiscal policy reporter Doug Sword explains.

Show Notes:

Road ahead: As Congress digests Mueller conclusions, it has plenty more on its plate
House will attempt to override Trump’s veto, while Senate takes up Green New Deal

A Capitol Visitor Center employee sets up a shade umbrella last Tuesday outside the CVC entrance. The Senate and House minority parties may need an umbrella to block the shade the majorities plan to throw at them this week amid votes on the Green New Deal and overriding a presidential veto. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Capitol Hill spent much of the weekend waiting to find out what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III discovered about Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election. But as Congress digests the principal conclusions of his report, prepared by Attorney General William P. Barr, leaders will also try to get members to address other priorities.

Barr’s four-page letter sent to Congress on Sunday afternoon stated that Mueller “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts.”

Lawmakers from both parties resist humanitarian and refugee aid changes
A White House proposal would not only cut funding but reshape humanitarian assistance, particularly for refugees

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters as he arrives for the votes in the Senate to keep the government open on Feb. 14, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they are determined to block a White House budget proposal that would gut the State Department’s refugee operations and slash overall humanitarian aid levels.

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget request proposes consolidating three separate humanitarian assistance accounts operated by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. The new umbrella account would be managed by USAID and, in theory, have more flexibility to respond to rapidly evolving global crises.

Shrinking victims fund signals tough times for appropriators
The program’s finances are drying up, and committees may not be able to depend on it to fill funding gaps elsewhere

Leahy: higher costs, less money to go around in fiscal 2020, even if there's a caps deal. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s been an unspoken rule among appropriators for years: if the annual Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee allocation feels a little light, fear not. There’s always money in the Crime Victims Fund.

However, the good times may be coming to an end. The program’s finances are drying up, and the Appropriations Committees are facing major new obligations in fiscal 2020 that will stretch the means of panel leaders even if there’s a deal to lift austere spending caps for next year.

Trump’s new order aims to protect conservative voices on college campuses
His education secretary, Betsy Devos, has warned about the dangers of ‘government muscle’ on issue

President Donald Trump announced an executive order he will sign Thursday afternoon during his two-hour appearance at CPAC 2019 on March 2 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Thursday aimed at protecting conservative voices on public and private college campuses, an issue that energizes his political base as he revs up his re-election campaign.

The order will direct the White House Office of Management and Budget to work with grant-issuing federal agencies to ensure higher learning institutions are adhering to the First Amendment, as well as laws, regulations and policies that are part of existing criteria for receiving federal monies. The EO will add free speech to those criteria.

House Appropriations may start markups in April
Markups have to begin in April or May at the latest to have any chance of bills passing on the floor in June

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chair of the House Appropriations Committee walks across the Capitol from the House side for a meeting with House and Senate appropriators in an effort to revive spending talks and avert a second shutdown on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey and Democratic appropriators are looking at starting fiscal 2020 markups as soon as late April with the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education and Legislative Branch bills, people familiar with the process said.

The Military Construction-VA and Energy-Water bills also are on tap to be among the first five bills marked up, as part of an effort to begin advancing bills across the floor in June.

Trump issues first veto, killing resolution to block border national emergency
Bipartisan resolution 'dangerous’ and ‘reckless,’ POTUS says

President Donald Trump speaks during a Rose Garden event at the White House on Feb. 15, to declare a national emergency at the southern border. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“VETO!” President Donald Trump vowed in a Thursday tweet about a resolution to block his southern border national emergency, a pledge he made good on Friday.

Moments before he signed the veto, he called the bipartisan resolution “dangerous” and “reckless,” and said lawmakers’ votes to pass the measure were made “against reality.”

Disaster aid vote is expected after recess, but what’s in it is still in the works
Several issues, including Puerto Rico, continue to be sticking points

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., conduct a news conference in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate leaders are teeing up a vote after the weeklong St. Patrick’s Day recess on an as-yet-undefined disaster aid package for victims of major storms and other natural disasters during the last two years.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Thursday filed a motion to limit debate on proceeding to a $14.2 billion disaster aid bill the House passed in January.

Jim Jordan seeks to block increased funds for Oversight panel he helps lead
Chairman Elijah Cummings wants to rebuild staffing, but his GOP counterpart does not

Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, right, and ranking member Jim Jordan are the only House committee leaders to disagree about funding levels for their panel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As House Democrats ramp up their oversight investigations into President Donald Trump’s administration, businesses, and 2016 campaign, at least one Republican has found a new battleground to push back: funding for the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

That panel’s chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, asked the House Administration Committee on Tuesday for a funding increase of 4 percent this year and 10 percent next year over funding levels from the previous, GOP-controlled 115th Congress.

Trump leaving budget salesmanship to others, again
Silence comes at time of heightened attention to issues concerning wall, military

For the second consecutive year, President Donald Trump mostly has left selling his budget request to others. This year, acting OMB Director Russell Vought, right, seen here with Government Publishing Office acting Deputy Director Herbert Jackson, has been doing the honors. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump often has a lot to say, but what he doesn’t say can be just as illuminating. Take his latest budget proposal. 

The administration is asking Congress to spend $4.7 trillion next year despite the president’s gripes that the federal government is too bloated and spends too much. But so far, Trump is showing zero interest in making the case for his request, which experts say resembles a campaign document as much as one about governing. Trump opted against a public event on Monday, leaving the budget rollout mostly to his acting budget chief, Russell Vought, and surrogates on Capitol Hill and cable news.