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Obama acts to deal with border crisis

With Congress unable to come up with a plan to deal with the crisis on the Mexico border before the August recess, President Obama is now acting unilaterally to deal with it.

The potential short-term solution comes in the form of a money transfer, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is looking to reprogram $405 million to address the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing the border—a sum even less than the bill House Republicans passed Friday approving $694 million in emergency funds.

As the administration called on Congress to pass a $3.7 billion clean emergency supplemental bill last month, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson warned lawmakers of the ramifications of a future with no additional money to address what has been dubbed a humanitarian crisis at the border. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection would run out of money in mid-August and mid-September, respectively, Johnson repeatedly said.

With the House and the Senate in recess and far from an agreement, DHS plans to transfer funds from several programs, which Reuters initially reported and department spokeswoman Marsha Catron confirmed:

  • $267.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund of roughly $11.3 billion;
  • $31.5 million from the Coast Guard, which could postpone maintenance projects for vessels;
  • $34.7 million from the Transportation Security Administration, which could delay the upkeep of its aviation security screening equipment; and
  • $70.5 million in internal realignment of Customs and Border Protection's priorities, shifting money to the border.

Without more money, the administration believes ICE would have been unable to transfer children to the Health and Human Services Department's care, create new places for migrants to stay and be processed, and continue to fly adults with children back home.

Clock ticking for Congress when they return

When Congress returns from their August recess in September, there are just 12 scheduled legislative days (and that number may be cut) before the Nov. 4 midterm election, which leaves precariously little time for Congress to tackle pressing issues. And talk of a lame-duck session after the election is murky at best.

Much of the unresolved legislation in this Congress is significant, including dozens of tax breaks that expired in December and the full array of appropriations bills for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Already, House Speaker John Boehner is teeing up action in September on a stopgap spending measure so that the government does not run out of money after September.

Decisions are also needed on miscellaneous tariffs, terrorism risk insurance, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, rechartering the Export-Import Bank, and perhaps re-upping long-term unemployment-insurance benefits.

Congress has passed just 142 public laws since this two-year session began in January 2013—including 70 that became law this year. And that puts this House and Senate, as of August, on a trajectory to be the least-productive Congress for making laws since at least 1947, as far back as numbers go in the official "Resume of Congressional Activity," updated monthly in the Congressional Record.

CIA admits spying on Senate

Senators are beginning to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan after the agency admitted it spied on Senate staffers' computers.

The CIA admitted that its employees had "acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding" agreed to between the agency and its Senate overseers, according to CIA spokesman Dean Boyd. The mea culpa marked a sharp reversal of previous denials by Brennan, who said allegations of hacking of Senate computers was "beyond the scope of reason."

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) earlier this year took to the Senate floor to deliver bombshell allegations that the CIA had secretly accessed her panel's computers that were being used to review documents related to the government's torture, detention, and rendition policies allowed during George W. Bush's presidency. She accused the CIA of impeding her staffers' investigation and charged the agency with possibly violating the Constitution.

Prospects for Export-Import Bank improve

Prospects for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank seem to be improving after a very rough month for proponents of the bank.

Last month, new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he opposed reauthorizing the bank. McCarthy joins House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and a slew of conservative groups in opposing the Export-Import Bank. The tide certainly seemed to be in favor of the opponents, that tide - however - might be turning.

Conservative Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) came out this week in support of reauthorization. Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), Stephen Fincher (R-TN) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) all signaled their support with the caveat of the bank also needing some "reforms."

In the Senate, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill to reauthorize the bank and the legislation is expected to be taken up and passed when they return in September.

Republican supporters of the Export-Import Bank have suggested minor to moderate changes, possibly altering the length or scope of financial backing it can extend in exchange for a temporary reauthorization of its charter.

 

Political bits

House

Kansas 1st Congressional District: Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) defeated former School Superintendent Alan LaPolice (R-KS) by a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

Kansas 4th Congressional District: Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) failed in his comeback bid, losing to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) 63 to 37 percent.

Michigan 3rd Congressional District: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) fended off a challenge from attorney Brian Ellis (R-MI) 57 to 43 percent. Amash was backed by the Club for Growth, while Ellis was backed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Michigan 11th Congressional District: Attorney Dave Trott (R-MI), supported by more establishment GOPers, defeated Rep. Kerry Bentivolio by a wide margin - 66 to 34 percent.

Michigan 12th Congressional District: DNC Committeewoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) won the nomination to replace her husband John Dingell (D-MI).

Tennessee 4th Congressional District: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) leads challenger State Senator Jim Tracy (R-TN) by just 33 votes in a race that is still too close to call. DesJarlais has been mired in personal scandals and was vastly outspent by Tracy.

Senate

Kansas: Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) defeated Tea Party-supported physician Milton Wolf (R-KS) 48 to 41 percent.

Montana: Senator John Walsh (D-MT) announced he was ending his campaign for Senate amid a plagiarism scandal.

North Carolina: A new poll shows Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) leading State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC) 41 to 39 percent.

Tennessee: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) defeated Tea Party-supported State Rep. Joe Carr (R-TN) by nine points - 50 to 41 percent.

A look ahead

The House and Senate are not in session next week.

Washington by the numbers

64 – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s net approval rating in the U.S., one point higher than Congress’s 65.

6 – Consecutive months of at least 200,000 jobs added.

They said what?

“You had the audacity to try to call me today after running a campaign that was called 'the nastiest in the country.’ I ran for office to stop people like you.” – Rep. Justin Amash, to his primary challenger, Brian Ellis, in his victory speech (MLive.com)

Washington humor

While speaking at an African leadership summit yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden accidentally referred to Africa as a country instead of a continent. To be fair, most of what he knows about Africa is based on “The Lion King.” - Jimmy Fallon 
      

  

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
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www.mcdonaldhopkinsgs.com

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