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Legislative / Policy Update

Congressional Schedule. Congress is in recess until April 29.

FY 2020 Budget Caps. House Democrats have a Goldilocks problem. If you know your fairy tales, you’ll recall that when Goldilocks tasted the porridge of the three bears, she deemed the first bowl too hot and the second bowl too cold, before finding perfection on the third try. Last week, one group of Democrats told their leadership that a bill to raise the budget caps didn’t include enough money for domestic programs. Another group said it added too much to the deficit. Unlike Goldilocks’ adventure, though, there was no perfect solution on the table, and the leadership decided it was best if the House didn’t vote on the proposal.

The problem for Democrats was that progressive members were not satisfied that the legislation crafted by House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) set the non-defense discretionary cap for FY 2020 at $631 billion. Even though this would be an increase of $34 billion over FY 2019 and $88 billion over the current-law cap for FY 2020, many progressive Democrats planned to support an amendment by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) that would add another $33 billion to the non-defense total.

This additional money would have set the FY 2020 spending caps for both defense and non-defense at the same levels — $664 billion, not accounting for an additional $69 billion for defense from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. This approach, however, was not acceptable to Blue Dogs and other deficit hawks who already had concerns with the bill’s overall spending levels.

With a 235-197 margin in the House, Democrats could not afford to lose more than 18 votes, given what was sure to be united opposition from Republicans. Lacking the votes to pass the budget cap bill, the Democratic leadership decided not to put the measure on the floor, as had been tentatively planned for Wednesday, April 10.

Deeming Resolution. Rather than try to modify the caps bill and re-schedule the floor vote, House Democrats will just move forward with the appropriations process. They are able to do so because the rule that the House approved April 9 for consideration of the budget caps bill included what is known as a deeming resolution. This resolution sets the top-line number for FY 2020 discretionary spending at $1.295 trillion, reflecting the total of the proposed new caps in Yarmuth’s bill — $664 billion for defense and $631 billion for non-defense. While the resolution does not specifically break out those two categories, Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) plans to use those two spending levels as her committee crafts the 12 appropriations bills.

As for timing, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is hoping that the House will pass all 12 measures by June 30. It appears likely that bills will be packaged together rather than considered individually on the House floor. For example, it’s expected that Defense will be paired with Labor-HHS-Education.

Cap Negotiations. The House deeming resolution, of course, didn’t change the spending caps, which can only be done through separate legislation that must be signed by the President. Congressional Democrats and Republicans, for the most part, agree the caps need to be adjusted. There are three parties to the negotiations though, and the third doesn’t want to change the caps. President Trump has been critical of raising the caps and has not given the green light to Administration participation in negotiations with Congress. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have agreed to allow staff to begin work on negotiating a two-year spending caps deal.

USMCA Report. On Friday, April 19, the International Trade Commission is expected to release its report examining the economic impact of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Political Update

The Latest Tally. Democrats now have 18 officially announced candidates running for the presidency in 2020. Last week Rep. Eric Swalwell of California became the latest member of Congress to enter the race, and on Sunday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his candidacy after a remarkable exploratory first quarter.

Campaign Finances. While official numbers from the Federal Election Commission will be slowly coming out over the next few hours, a look at the numbers from the FEC and from the candidates’ campaigns shows Senator Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic field with $18.2 million raised in the first quarter, followed by Senator Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Mayor Buttigieg continues to impress as he outraised Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar in the first quarter.

Of significance, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii reached the 65,000 donor threshold to ensure she will be on the debate stage for the first two debates so long as there are 20 or fewer Democratic candidates.

President Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, announced he raised more than $30 million this quarter for his re-election. The Republican National Committee, which will officially be supporting President Trump’s bid, raised an additional $45.8 million, the most it has ever raised in a non-election year. Both the President’s campaign and the RNC have a combined $82 million saved up with 567 days to go until the 2020 election.

For a quick view of where each declared candidate now stands check out our campaign finance spreadsheet. We will be updating the spreadsheet as totals from the FEC are disclosed. For now the numbers reflect individual candidates announced totals.

Campaign Stops. This week will see candidates crisscrossing the country while Congress is in recess. Most candidates have scheduled stops in either Iowa or New Hampshire, with South Carolina, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Nevada also proving to be popular.

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