Biden keeps Florida focus on hurricane recovery
House ready to hit the campaign trail after today
Also in today’s edition of “Regular Order” for September 30, 2022:
The Senate leaves town until a lame duck session.
A bill to ban stock trades by lawmakers is stuck in the House.
Key GOP Senator wants more aid for Ukraine in December.
HURRICANE IAN. As the enormity of the damage in Florida from Hurricane Ian became apparent on Thursday, President Joe Biden turned aside suggestions from reporters that he might be unable to work with Gov. Ron DeSantis - because of politics or the Governor’s possible 2024 bid for the White House. "It’s totally irrelevant, but I’ll answer it."
BIDEN. "This is not about anything having to do with our disagreements politically," Biden said of DeSantis, seen as the main GOP challenger to former President Donald Trump in 2024. "This is about saving people’s lives, homes, and businesses. That’s what this is about," Biden added, staying away from politics.
TRIP. Mr. Biden told reporters he wanted to go soon to both Florida and Puerto Rico to review recent storm damage. Asked if he would need the Congress to approve more disaster relief money, the President said it was a possibility. "We may," Biden said during a stop at FEMA headquarters in Washington.
DAMAGES. The devastation was also a brutal reminder of what I wrote about earlier this week - the bad state of the property insurance market in Florida. "Congress needs to create a national catastrophic fund for the insurance industry," said Jared Moskowitz, a former Florida emergency management chief.
NFIP. But the Congressional foray into disaster insurance - most notably with the National Flood Insurance Program - shows that might not work. The NFIP is more than $20 billion in debt right now - and that's only because the Congress wrote off $16 billion in flood insurance debts in 2017.
STOPGAP. The House will vote today to approve a temporary funding plan to keep the government running through December 16. The measure sailed through the U.S. Senate on Thursday in a vote of 72-25, as 22 GOP Senators joined all Democrats in backing the plan. "Funding the government should never be up for debate," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
ALASKA. There was one bit of drama - Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) wanted the feds to pay more of recovery costs for areas hit by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. "FEMA must pay 100 percent of the costs in Western Alaska," Sullivan said, noting that’s the plan in Puerto Rico. Once the White House agreed, Sullivan dropped his threat to hold up the CR.
GOP. Republican opponents argued Congress should have been making spending cuts. "Further spending will only worsen and prolong inflationary pressures on the American people," said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). "Americans can't continue to pay the bill for Congress' dysfunctional budget process," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).
DYSFUNCTION. How dysfunctional is it? The last time the Congress approved all 12 government funding bills on time - by the end of the fiscal year on September 30 - was in 1996. It's been 26 years. The last four times it has happened were in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996. That's a bad bipartisan record.
LAME DUCK. After today's votes in the House, lawmakers won't be back on Capitol Hill until the week of November 14 - after the elections. "We still have much to do," said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer - though he opted against calling the Senate back in October in order to debate a major defense policy bill.
WORK. "Members should be prepared for an extremely - underline extremely - busy agenda in the last two months of this Congress," Schumer said. (I’m not so sure about that - given that lawmakers will likely work one week in November - and then immediately take a week off for Thanksgiving.)
AGENDA. There are two main bills which Congress will try to pass after the elections - the defense authorization bill and a year-end Omnibus funding bill for the federal government. Each bill has the chance of becoming a Legislative Christmas Tree for other unrelated legislative items.
HALLWAYS. I have to say there was sort of an odd feeling in the hallways of the Capitol yesterday. It was clear that Senators were ready to go home as a stopgap funding plan was approved without any parliamentary brinkmanship. But it also felt like both parties were worried about the midterm elections.
STOCKS. The House leaves town today without having voted on a bill to stop lawmakers from trading in stocks and other financial securities while they are in office. Democrats released a plan earlier this week - but never took the next step to try to bring it up on the House floor for a debate and vote.
BACKERS. Despite broad support in both parties, the idea received a lukewarm embrace from leaders in both parties - much to the chagrin of reformers. "Members of Congress have a duty to serve their constituents — not their own stock portfolios," argued Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).
WATCHDOG. Spanberger was not a fan of the new bill unveiled by her party’s leaders this week - though outside groups were split on the best course of action. For example, the National Taxpayers Union said the plan had a giant loophole which would allow ‘weak’ blind trusts for members.
ETHICS. From afar, this issue seems like an easy one for lawmakers to vote for right before an election. What could be more appealing to voters than some kind of reform package aimed squarely at members of Congress? But evidently it hit too close to home - so nothing was done.
REGULAR ORDER. It’s Friday, so we welcome back our weekly subscribers. Please consider a paid subscription for ‘Regular Order’ - or give the gift of straight news to one of your friends or relatives.
RUSSIA. As Vladimir Putin officially annexed seized territory from Ukraine, lawmakers in Congress were having none of it. "The sham 'referendums' being conducted by Russia's proxies on sovereign Ukrainian territory are completely illegitimate," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) on Thursday.
SANCTIONS. Some in Congress want to take their opposition a step further - by punishing any country which approves of the Russian move. "I’ve introduced legislation that would require cutting off economic and military aid to any country that recognizes this annexation," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
ASSISTANCE. The call for action came as the Senate approved another $12 billion in aid for Ukraine as part of a temporary government funding plan which gets a House vote today. One key GOP Senator suggested even more should be approved before Christmas.
GRAHAM. "I hope we'll also send a very clear signal here that we're going to have more aid if we do an Omnibus in December," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said President Biden should send heavy armor as well. "Tanks should be part of the mix," Graham added. "Putin has to withdraw his forces from Ukraine."
U.S.S. JOHN MCCAIN. Back in 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that the military had intentionally tried to keep the U.S.S. John McCain out of sight while President Donald Trump was visiting American sailors in Japan. Trump said the reports were fake news. But it wasn’t.
TRUMP. The emails, obtained by the Journal and Bloomberg News prove that Trump White House officials did want the McCain ship to be hidden - evidently worried about Trump's possible reaction to someone who was everything he was not. "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight," was the directive.
MILITARY. The reaction from military officials in one email chain was notable. "This just makes me sad," one person wrote.
STUDENT LOANS. Six Republican-led states - Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina - have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block President Biden's student loan forgiveness program. "President Biden does not have the power to arbitrarily erase the college debt of adults who chose to take out those loans," said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
LAWSUIT. The main theme of the 36 page suit is that Congress never gave the President such authority. "No statute permits President Biden to unilaterally relieve millions of individuals from their obligation to pay loans they voluntarily assumed," the complaint states.
TOSSED OUT. This suit came as a federal judge in Indiana threw out a challenge by a conservative legal group - mainly because the Education Department made a late change in how the loan plan will be administered. By doing that - it took away any debt relief from the plaintiff - rendering his legal challenge moot.
BABY FORMULA. With consumers still encountering shortages of baby formula despite efforts by the Biden Administration to bring in new supplies, Congress has sent the President a bipartisan bill which backers hope can ease supply problems - the Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act.
DETAILS. Introduced just on Monday, the plan would temporarily lift U.S. tariffs on imported 'base powder' - which is mixed with other ingredients to make baby formula. "No family should have to struggle to get essential baby formula for their child," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
JUDGES. Senate Democrats took advantage of the absence of three GOP Senators on Thursday, and confirmed two nominees who had been sidetracked earlier this year. Democrats had to get creative, since Vice President Kamala Harris was out of the country this week - meaning her tie-breaking vote was not available.
APPEALS COURT. Democrats first pushed through the nomination of Arianna Freeman to be a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, on a vote of 50-47. The winning margin was secured because three Republicans - Lee of Utah, Rubio of Florida, and Portman of Ohio - missed the vote.
LABOR. The second vote secured the nomination of Lisa Gomez to be an Assistant Secretary of Labor. Back in June, her confirmation vote was tied at 50-50 - but Vice President Harris was out of town, and could not break the tie. This time, Gomez won 49-36, as some Senators decided to head for the airport early.
COMMITMENT. House Republicans rallied on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday, highlighting their new 'Commitment to America' plan - the 2022 version of Newt Gingrich's 'Contract With America.' They are much the same, but the 'Commitment' is lacking in specifics. That's my column this week for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
TRUMAN. The Missouri delegation to Congress - with members past and present - celebrated the arrival on Thursday of a new statue of President Harry Truman, which will be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda.
MUSE OF HISTORY. September 30, 1850. This was the final day of the first session of the 31st Congress, as lawmakers had already agreed that business would end at midnight. The House began a roll call vote six minutes before that deadline - but it wasn't enough time. "As the name 'John A. King' was called," at precisely midnight, the Congressional Globe reported that Speaker Howell Cobb immediately interrupted the vote clerks. "I now declare that this House stands adjourned sine die." The House Journal noted: “And the House accordingly adjourned.”
The House meets at 9 am.
The Senate next has votes on November 14.
President Biden’s daily schedule link.
Follow me on Twitter @jamiedupree. Email me at email@example.com
Stock trading ban is not going to pass. Personal financial gain is one of the main perks of elected office. They're not giving that up without a huge fight. Ask Rep. Tim Burchett what he thinks. He'll tell you he came to Washington for that very reason.
adverb: sine die
(with reference to business or proceedings that have been adjourned) with no appointed date for resumption.
"the case was adjourned sine die"