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Monday, September 22nd, 2014
Before leaving Washington, D.C. for the campaign trail, the House and Senate passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that enacts spending through December 11, 2014. By doing so, Congress ensures that federal agencies will have the appropriate level of funding to prevent a government shutdown. The Resolution puts into effect an across-the-board funding reduction of 0.0554 percent from the 2014 levels-with some exceptions such as emergency situations and certain overseas operations.
For Community Action, the CR provides additional provisions ensuring that LIHEAP will be distributed by the same formula as in 2014 and at the same rate. This means that HHS may release as much as states request for the first 10 weeks of the quarter if it does not exceed 90 percent of their total 2015 allotment. For most programs, only 19 percent (ten weeks' worth) of funding can be drawn.
An additional cut of 1 percent in any of our programs may be transferred to other activities in the same Department, and it is expected that HHS may use this authority to add funding to the support for "border children." Last year, LIHEAP and CSBG contributed less than 1 percent to a general transfer of funds to implement Obamacare.
The CR does not affect Weatherization funding because a long-term appropriations Bill will replace it before the program opens April 1, 2015. Since both House and Senate draft bill levels exceed the 2014 funding, the enactment of a conferenced "regular" Energy and Water Appropriation Bill is of great importance to our campaign to restore and stabilize WAP funding.
In general, the approach of an across-the-board cut damages domestic discretionary programs disproportionately. It keeps us from achieving the increases that may be possible for some important CAA programs while stabilizing our core funding. Therefore, the lame duck session negotiations over each of the 13 appropriations Bills will be critical to our agenda.
All the best,
The House has voted to pass a Continuing Resolution through December 11, 2014. December 11th is 72 days or 10 weeks+ into the new year or as federal funding goes, about 19% of the year. When the Senate passes the CR and then the President signs it, we will see how long it takes for money to flow in the new federal fiscal year, especially for LIHEAP which should be fully funded instead of having to be subjected to partial year CR’s like the rest of us.
On to more campaigning!
OACAC Executive Director
By Steven Dennis and Humberto Sanchez
Posted at 5:47 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2014
Congress appears set to sprint for the exits after voting to fund President Barack Obama’s new war on ISIS — although not by name — after rejecting a smattering of calls from lawmakers to go on record explicitly debating and authorizing it.
The get-out-of-town votes could come Wednesday, as the nation celebrates Constitution Day, the brainchild of the late-Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who was long the defender of Congress’ prerogatives, especially with regard to war.
“Sen. Byrd would be on the floor demanding that the United States Senate fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, which are debate, amend and vote,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one voice in a fairly small bipartisan group pushing unsuccessfully for a full debate and votes on the authorization to use military force before going home. “This is another act of cowardice, which contributes to the low esteem in which we’re held by the American people.”
Today, the closest heir to Byrd may be Sen. Tim Kaine. The Virginia Democrat has long been an ally of the president, but he has nonetheless sharply criticized Obama — and his colleagues — for not seeking a vote from Congress authorizing the war.
“It’s the most important power that Congress has and it’s the most momentous decision that the nation makes,” Kaine told CQ Roll Call after a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on ISIS, also known as the Islamic State. He called the issue an “obsession” of his, but suggested any comparisons between himself and Byrd are “presumptuous.”
Kaine argued at the hearing that ISIS is a growing threat, but not an imminent one, so it doesn’t trigger constitutional defense powers. He also believes the 2001 and 2002 authorizations to use military force do not apply. He noted that while ISIS was at one time affiliated with al-Qaida, it no longer is, and pointed out that the 2002 AUMF targeted the government of Saddam Hussein, which is long gone.
“To try to take these two statutory elements and stretch them so broadly I think is a significant problem and it will create a precedent that if we go along with it in Congress we will live to regret and possibly regret very soon,” Kaine said at the hearing. “That said, I think the mission as described is reasonable, but I think Congress is necessary.”
Kaine later noted in an interview that he made the point when he was running for Senate that the president’s actions in Libya were a mistake because he lacked congressional authorization.
“I am never looking to make enemies, but it’s a principle that I feel very strongly about, and I think the president understands that and my colleagues do too,” he said.
Kaine praised Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., for saying his panel would draw up a broader authorization. He also said Congress will at least vote this week on part of the strategy — arming Syrian rebels.
But that’s not sufficient, he said.
“When you hear Gen. [Martin E.] Dempsey say ‘multiple years,’ when you hear Secretary [Chuck] Hagel use the phrase ‘war against ISIL,’ I think that the president’s definition of the mission is leading most of [us to the conclusion] that Congress has to put their thumbprint on it and sign it,” Kaine said.
But barring a last-minute epiphany by congressional leaders, that’s not going to happen before the elections.
The legislative freight train rolling down the tracks is the must-pass continuing resolution to keep the government open past Sept. 30, which provides $85 billion for “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism” — the account the White House is tapping for the war on ISIS.
The get-out-of-town rush comes amid bipartisan questions about the president’s strategy — whether it be concerns about the reliability of the “vetted” Syrian rebels or what might happen if Obama’s no-boots-on-the-ground strategy fails to defeat ISIS.
The administration’s message was further muddied Tuesday, when Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Senate hearing he would recommend ground troops if needed to fight ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
That left the White House scrambling to clean up the comments, with Press Secretary Josh Earnest repeating to reporters in a gaggle that the president would not send ground troops into combat.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., who has been pushing for an authorization vote and said there already are boots on the ground, chalked up the lack of a debate and votes to overly cautious lawmakers, and a White House that wants to minimize the conflict.
“You have a lot of people who are over-reading what the American people are thinking and they’re wrong,” he said, citing polls showing support for going after ISIS, with large majorities thinking the group represents a threat.
“This is a war. … The president tries to act like this is just another ragtag terrorist group. … It’s not. … Perhaps some politicians are misreading the people back home and are running a little bit scared and are not willing to do the right thing,” Inhofe said.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican whip, said Kaine’s arguments, which he also made in a recent New York Times column, were “compelling.”
“If the president is concerned that he’ll come to Congress and he won’t get the authority, I think circumstances have changed,” Cornyn said. He predicted there would be a bipartisan vote to take on ISIS and said it would help secure a broader base of support for the war among the Congress and the public.
When Byrd introduced Constitution Day legislation a decade ago, the West Virginia Democrat spoke to the relationship between the president and Congress with respect to war powers.
“So Congress is the paymaster, the armorer, and the rulemaking body for the military — not the president, not the commander in chief, nor his generals. The president commands the militia only when the militia is called into action by Congress or when necessary to repel an invasion,” Byrd said in a floor speech. “The framers ensured that the people, through their elected representatives in Congress would control the military so that it could not become a tool of government repression against their own people or a way for presidents to lead the nation into foreign misadventures.”
McCain joked that Constitution Day should be Thursday instead of Wednesday, “the day when National Airport gets crowded” with lawmakers rushing to get the first plane out of town.
“The issue is just political cowardice. That’s all. No more, no less,” he said.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
By Niels Lesniewski and Bridget Bowman
Posted at 5 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2014
There’s no “fiscal cliff” or global financial crisis for this year’s post-election lame-duck session, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Lawmakers will be faced with a couple of old favorites: another extension of government funding and the menagerie of lapsed tax breaks that comprise the “extenders” package. A continuing resolution that will need to be adopted before Sept. 30 is widely expected to run until around Dec. 11. And just about everyone in Washington has a favorite bill they’d like to get across the desk after the most do-nothingest Congress ever.
But should the election winds blow in favor of Republicans on both sides of the Rotunda, they would likely be eager to punt to 2015, when a GOP-led Senate could work together with its House counterparts on advancing an agenda designed to blunt the effects of the last two years of President Barack Obama’s administration.
Regardless of which party has the gavels in 2015, the lame duck will be the last chance for a handful of retiring Democratic chairmen to advance their priorities. Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., is the most likely to get a big bill signed into law. For 53 straight years, the annual defense authorization bill has overcome partisan stalemate.
Lawmakers in both parties said the election results would be crucial in deciding just how close to Christmas Congress will work.
“If it’s kind of a split decision in November and let’s say we narrowly hold the Senate, which I think is a reasonable probability, might as well have a lame duck and get it out of the way before next year. So, I really think the outcome of the elections will help shape just how much of any substance is addressed in a lame duck,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va. “I do not anticipate, however, that a lame duck, given the contour of this Congress, is going to be overly productive. I think you’re going to see the same kind of glacial response to pressing national issues that we have seen throughout the 113th.”
“Generally that pressure to really get a whole bunch of stuff done that you haven’t been able to get done in the previous almost two years, you know, happens only in sort of cataclysmic elections,” Connolly said.
The lame duck also could give new life to a host of stalled, fairly noncontroversial bills. Take, for instance, bipartisan energy efficiency legislation championed by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. The bill itself has broad support, but it flopped repeatedly in the 113th Congress as part of the much broader feud about amendments.
And then there is the hot-button issue of immigration — with President Barack Obama vowing to take executive action after the elections even as Congress is wrapping up its work.
Speaking before members left town for the August recess, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Republicans would want a quick session if the elections go their way.
“I hope there’s not one and I wonder if, and I emphasize if, the Republicans got the majority, if we did it at all I think it would be incredibly short because we’re not going to pass stuff when they, when we’re going to be in the majority,” he said.
While McCain’s legislative logic makes sense, there’s another piece of the puzzle: pending nominations. There remains a backlog of executive branch nominations, particularly within the diplomatic corps.
If Democrats lose control of the Senate, there will be a huge incentive to push through as many nominations as possible before Republicans take over.
With a Republican majority led by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Obama would have to come hat-in-hand to confirm his picks.
Even if Democrats don’t lose the Senate, clearing nominations while they hold a larger majority would remain a priority. And unless Democrats go “nuclear” again to tweak the rules, rules at the beginning of the next Congress are set to give the minority more power to delay nominations.
There’s also a real chance the lame-duck session could begin with a period of suspended animation, with party organizational activities and decision-making about the agenda frozen by a potential Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana, if neither incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu nor a Republican challenger clears the 50 percent threshold on election day in November.
In such a scenario, it would be no surprise to see the Senate slogging through those nominations.
To be sure, lawmakers still want to get some things done in September, despite the pre-election inertia and posturing.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is promising one last appropriations push.
“When we come back in September, I’m going to make another effort to get us to an omnibus. I believe, now that we’ve passed the groundbreaking bill to look out for veterans’ health care, that’s a long range bill, but right now we have money for fiscal ’15 that would enable us to move VA medical care,” Mikulski told CQ Roll Call at an event in Baltimore.
For McCain, it’s a use-of-force resolution against ISIS.
“We have to have hearings. I know we’re scheduling hearings in the Armed Services Committee, and we have to act, in my view, on the authorization of use of military force,” McCain said in Norfolk, Va. “And we don’t have to leave after two weeks. We can stay in session. This is an international crisis. This is a direct threat to the United States of America. That’s according to the intelligence people, the secretary of Defense, etc.”
McCain’s statement points to something that has been proven once again this August recess, foreign policy doesn’t follow the ebbs and flows of the congressional calendar, making the lame duck session all the less predictable
Monday, September 8th, 2014
CONGRESS BACK IN SESSION
Congress returns from August Recess today at 2 pm. The priority is passing a Continuing Resolution for the budget through mid-December that would allow currently funded programs to continue on with the same funding level. Republicans may consider having the CR continue until January when the new Congress is in session, in hopes that they will control both chambers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has mentioned that the last day that the Senate will be in session is September 23rd, and House Majority Leader, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, has suggested that the House will tie up their affairs by the end of next week, not returning to Washington until after the Election.
During this time period, major topics of discussion will include: the Export-Import Bank, the Keystone Pipeline, and EPA regulations. It is unlikely any congressional action will reach the President regarding action in the Middle East. We also shouldn't be surprised if Republicans bring up Obamacare given open enrollment in November.
In regards to our network, we are continuing our efforts at creating opportunities for congressional consideration of HR3854, during the lame duck session. Stay tuned.
All the best,
By Jeannie Chaffin, Director, Office of Community Services
Many of you may have heard me joke that I was a baby left on the door step of Community Action. It was actually at the age of 20 that I started my career at the Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) as an intake specialist under the Job Training Partnership Act summer worker program. I enjoyed the position so much that I begged my then-supervisor to keep me on if at all possible. Fortunately, he did.
FY 2015 Weatherization Funding:
Finally! The Turnaround Begins
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Weatherization's future brightened today. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water marked up and reported its FY 2015 Bill to the full Appropriations Committee this morning.
Although the details of every program are not yet available, our friends on the subcommittee told us that it contains a significant INCREASE for Weatherization which we believe will bring the program to well over $190 million. The 2014 level is $173.9 million.
As we had advocated, there is no carve-out for other purposes or groups in the Bill.
Until now, Weatherization has not been a priority for the majority of Members on this subcommittee. Under the new leadership of Rep. Mike Simpson [R-ID] the tone is completely different; our champions, especially Ranking Member Rep. Marcy Kaptur [D-OH], were supported by the chair in increasing WAP's share of a flat Energy Department budget. Chairman Simpson even affirmed the importance of efficiency in making energy affordable in his opening statement.
Just as we have slowly rebuilt our Senate coalition in support of WAP over the past five years, we are working on the same process in the House. Today's terrific outcome reflects these efforts. And we are not done yet!
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Overview: The President's overall budget and each Department 's and major account's budget meets the target agreed to in the two-year bi-partisan Budget agreement for 2014 & 2015. It provides for an overall increase of a little over 2%, achieved by allocating cuts to larger increases in areas of Administration emphasis.
This summary of the Budget Request for FY 2015 as it affects four core Community Action programs shows the Administration has not changed the priorities of the 2014 Budget presented a year ago.
President Obama submitted his FY 2015 Budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday March 4th. It was sent to Congress a month later than usual. Two factors contributed to this delay. The first was last October's government shutdown and the second was the December Murray/Ryan budget agreement that set both FY 2014 and FY 2015 spending levels.
The President's budget exceeds the Murray/Ryan budget caps by $56 billion. This summary of the Budget Request for FY 2015 as it affects four core Community Action programs shows the Administration has not changed the priorities of the 2014 Budget presented a year ago.
Four Programs: The LIHEAP and CSBG requests are essentially the same as the requests made for 2014 and later rejected by Congress in favor of higher funding. The rationale for a $350 million CSBG is: "to build ladders of opportunity into the middle class and promote economic mobility by proposing to target funds to high-performing and innovative grantees that successfully meet community needs, and suspend funding in instances of fraud and abuse."
The Weatherization Request is a welcome affirmation of administration interest in the program: it is considerably higher than in recent years. The figure, $227.6 million, is about $5 million higher than the FY 2008 appropriation, therefore winning it would, technically, achieve NCAF's first-phase goal of restoring the program to is pre-ARRA level, although not the inflation adjusted dollars we seek. Unfortunately, the Department of Energy proposes to use $15 million of the total for "approximately 20 high-impact projects on financing models for the retrofit of low-income, multifamily buildings" thus leaving $206 million for the core programs or 7% less than in 2008.
Head Start is again slated for an increase, but not as large an increase as the President requested a year ago. With $150 million of the increase devoted to Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships and nearly as much to quality increases in Head Start, the focus on early childhood development continues. The Education Department Budget again asks for large increase in early childhood education.
The President's budget will be seen for what it is: a political document that appeals to the party's base and provides a sharp contrast with the House Republicans vision on the role of government in this day and age.
We expect the House Republican Budget proposal to be unveiled by House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan later this month to also be essentially a campaign document with virtually no chance of being accepted by the Democratic Senate.
In the end, I would expect that some spending levels proposed in the Obama Budget as well as in the Ryan Budget will be rejected and the FY 2015 appropriations well end up slightly above their FY 2014 levels.
Why the Obama budget is already dead
By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post
March 4 at 3:11 pm
Congress has passed a two-year budget agreement that sets spending levels through the end of 2015, meaning that members of the House and Senate can justifiably dismiss the budget President Obama unveiled Tuesday as irrelevant.
But the White House is required by law to present a budget proposal each year, so Obama used the moment to release an ambitious proposal that relies on more than $1 trillion in new taxes and includes more than $55 billion in new spending. Next week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to follow up with a proposal that will focus on welfare reform and an overhaul of social programs, including Head Start and Medicaid.
Neither proposal will go anywhere — and that's by design.
"Everybody realizes that both sides are going to continue to put out their message documents to show what they would do if they gained seats in the House or Senate," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday. "But at the same time, there’s a very strong desire to start legislating."
With a budget fight out of the way until late next year, attention is expected to focus in the coming weeks on the House and Senate appropriations committees that will decide how federal agencies can spend money next year. But before that begins, both parties paused Tuesday to take shots at the opposing side.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama had "opted for the political stunt for a budget that's more about firing up the base in an election year than about solving the nation's biggest and most persistent long-term challenges."
Other Republicans followed in lock-step. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) called it "dead on arrival," while Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) dismissed it as a "lame-duck budget." Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), a freshman member of the House Budget Committee, preferred to call it a "campaign document." He said he looked forward to reading Ryan's budget plan next week.
“I think what you’ll see from us is a budget that resembles what we’ve passed the last several cycles, with an effort to put forward a conservative vision of what we need to do to put people back to work, reform our welfare systems and get America going again," Messer said.
But GOP aides said there are no current plans to hold votes on Ryan's budget plan.
Democrats, meanwhile, cheered Obama's proposal. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) credited the White House for including new investments in the nation's infrastructure, while Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) said he supported calls for new investments in manufacturing and education. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) thanked Obama for including money to help cut carbon pollution that might help prevent deadly weather events like Hurricane Sandy. But Democrats expressed only perfunctory hope that Republicans would allow debate on Obama's plan.
"Budgets are statements of our values as a nation," Pallone said.
The Senate Budget Committee will meet Wednesday morning with the White House budget chief to review Obama's proposals. Senate Democrats have no plan to debate or pass another budget bill this year, but Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she hopes Republicans will consider Obama's ideas "as a supplement" to ongoing work on appropriations bills.
That's unlikely to happen. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) flatly rejected Obama's proposal Tuesday, saying it was "extremely disappointing" that the White House plan "blatantly disregards the budget limits" established in the budget passed in December. Rogers said he plans to stick with the $1.014 trillion spending plan approved in December.
And other lawmakers said that's how it should be — that there's no need for another fight over spending.
"Do we need to go through it again if we’ve already done it?" said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Budget Committee. "It’s not like we don’t have other things we could be doing."
Ed O'Keefe covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post. He previously covered the 2008 and 2012 campaigns and reported on federal agencies and federal employees as author of The Federal Eye blog. Follow Ed on Twitter.