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Our Congress and the mid-term election year ahead

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Let’s review the timeline of significant events ahead for Capitol Hill.

At midnight on March 23, the continuing resolution will expire.

This is the fifth continuing resolution since the fiscal year (FY) started last October.

A sixth continuing resolution is unlikely, so unless the appropriations omnibus is passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, the government will shut down. Again.

AUSA hopes that a shutdown doesn’t happen, and that FY18’s appropriation will pass so that Congress can focus on FY19.

During the remainder of this month and next month, Congress will hear testimony from the Army regarding the fiscal year 2019 budget request.

Then, in May, the House is likely to pass their version of the National Defense Authorization bill, followed by a Defense Appropriations bill in June.

The Senate usually trails the House by a few weeks on the authorization bill, and then gets hung up on the appropriations bill.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has decided to step down due to health reasons, and it is widely expected that Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., will take the gavel for both the full Appropriations Committee and the Defense Subcommittee.

Perhaps this will be the catalyst to allow the Senate to finish its bills sooner.

With the recent budget agreement that sets a higher topline for 2019, there is a small hope that the appropriations process might return to “regular order” and complete the spending bills before the new fiscal year begins next October.

As we approach the August recess, we will have a better sense of how likely this is.

However, as an optimist, I risk the same fate as Charlie Brown each time Lucy offered to hold the football for him.

Realistically, in a mid-term election year, the actual likelihood that the FY19 Defense Appropriations bill will be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the president before Oct.1st is as miniscule as the chance that you or I will win the Powerball lottery.

(Still, I buy a lottery ticket occasionally. You have to have hope. Maybe this will be the year.)

Therefore, as we get into September, Congress will probably pass the inevitable continuing resolution to keep the government open. Creating a shutdown the month before Election Day is not helpful to either party.

The midterm election is already creating significant buzz inside the D.C. Beltway, as Democrats predict a “wave” election that will sweep them into control of the House, and maybe even the Senate.

The Republicans are doing their best to maintain their majority control of Congress, and the primary election season this spring may give us additional clues about how November might play out.

Either way, both parties will be trying to motivate voters to show up on Election Day and do their civic duty to vote.

If the House and/or Senate flip, 2019 will have all kinds of new topics to cover in View from the Hill.

See you on the high ground.