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This week: Trump’s budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill

President Trump is set to release his fiscal year 2021 budget this week as Washington looks to put the weeks-long impeachment battle in the rearview mirror.

The White House will unveil the mammoth spending plan on Monday, marking the formal start of the effort to fund the government before the end of the 2020 fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Trump’s budget is more than a political wishlist and is likely to land with a thud on Capitol Hill, given the divided nature of government. Both the House and Senate expected to craft their own spending bills.

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But the fiscal blueprint gives the administration a chance to outline its spending priorities heading toward the November election and just a day before Democrats battle it out in the New Hampshire primary.

Trump will ask for $2 billion in new border wall construction funding—a steep cut compared to the $5 billion for the wall coupled with an additional $3.6 billion to replenish military construction accounts requested in fiscal year 2020. Democrats are likely to reject the $2 billion request; Congress previously signed off on $1.375 billion during the previous spending package.

Democrats already panned Trump’s proposal even before it was officially released.

“The budget is a statement of values and once again the President is showing just how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. 

“Less than a week after promising to protect families’ health care in his State of the Union address, the President is now brazenly inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts to Medicare and Medicaid,” she added. 

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said Trump, who he called a “destructive and irrational president,” was releasing a “destructive and irrational budget.”

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 “He is proposing deep cuts to critical programs that help American families and protect our economic and national security. Furthermore, the budget reportedly includes destructive changes to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security, and other assistance programs that help Americans make ends meet – all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations,” Yarmuth added.  

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that Trump is trying to cut “the benefits working class families have earned, all to pay for his tax cuts for his billionaire backers.”

“His draconian budget, which guts Medicare, food stamps, and more, is the direct result of that corrupt alliance,” Markey tweeted.

Trump’s budget agreement is expected to break with a two-year budget deal by including a 6 percent cut to nondefense spending.The topline numbers included in Trump’s request would provide$740.5 billion in defense spending but $590 billion for domestic spending.

Trump is asking for a 21 percent cut to the State Department and foreign aid spending—a request that lawmakers have rejected in previous years.  

Trump also wants to cut $4.4 trillion in spending over a decade to try to rein in the deficit, including taking $2 trillion from the nondefense discretionary programs and $2 trillion would come from trimming mandatory programs.

A rotating cast of top administration officials are expected to head to Capitol Hill this week to publicly discuss Trump’s budget request.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will appear before the Senate Finance Committee in back-to-back days to discuss the budget.

Meanwhile, Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will appear before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Phillip Swagel, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, will testify before the House Appropriations Committee.

Equal Rights Amendment

The House is slated to take up legislation introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that would remove the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced the bill would come to the floor on Friday.

“This bill would remove the deadline to ratify the ERA, paving the way to be added to the constitution and taking a historic step for women’s equality,” he said.

“I would add, Mr. Speaker, this is not an adoption of an assumption that, in fact, the 38 states who have ratified to date have not ratified within the framework of the constitution and therefore that amendment should, in fact, be judged to have been adopted.”

House Democrats’ decision to bring the bill for a vote comes in the wake of Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA.

The measure is expected to see some bipartisan support in the House, with a handful of moderates signing onto the bill.

“Virginia’s historic vote to be the critical 38th state needed to ratify the ERA echoes the resounding call for an America free from sex discrimination. Recently, DOJ released a nonbinding legal opinion claiming that states can no longer ratify the ERA – apparently forgetting that Article V of the Constitution unequivocally leaves the power to amend the Constitution with Congress and the States. DOJ also conveniently overlooks the fact that Congress has set and changed deadlines for constitutional amendments,” Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Speier all said in a joint statement following the ERA’s passage in Virginia last month. 

The legislation would need to pass the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he isn’t supportive.

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“I haven’t thought about that. I am personally not a supporter, but I haven’t thought about it,” he told reporters last week.

War powers

The Senate could take up a resolution this week to limit Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without congressional approval after tensions spiked earlier this year.

The resolution, offered by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), would require Trump to withdraw any troops from military hostilities against Iran within 30 days.

Because the resolution is being offered under the War Powers Act, Democrats are able to force a vote on the Senate floor, and it only needs a simple majority to pass. GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Todd Young (Ind.) are each expected to support the resolution after Kaine made changes intended to pick up more support.  

The resolution, if it passes the Senate and House, is expected to garner a veto from Trump.

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Nominations

With the impeachment trial behind them, McConnell is teeing up five judicial nominations for votes on the Senate floor.

The Senate will take a procedural vote on Monday to end the debate on Andrew Brasher’s nomination to be a judge on the 11th Circuit.  

After they dispense with Brasher’s nomination the Senate will turn to the nominations of Joshua Kindred, Matthew Schelp, Joshua Kness and Philip Halpern, all of whom have been picked to be U.S. district judges.

–Niv Elis contributed

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