Congress avoided a partial government shutdown last week when it approved funding legislation to keep the government open through Dec. 21.
Legislative activity in the Capitol slowed considerably this week as Congress bid farewell to President George H.W. Bush, who passed away last weekend. Bush, 94, laid in state in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol from Monday until Wednesday when a funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral.
The House and Senate both passed the two-week spending extension Thursday—the House by unanimous consent and the Senate by voice vote. Agreement on a short-term spending measure was expected after President Donald Trump signaled he would sign such a bill rather than have a shutdown fight while Congress sought to pay tribute to Bush.
Republicans and Democrats are in talks to fund the remaining portion of the government through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2019. To date, five of the 12 annual appropriations bills have been signed into law, but seven remain unfinished.
The sticking point in the talks remains how much to provide for building a wall on the southern border with Mexico. Trump this year wants $5 billion for the wall, his signature campaign promise. But Democrats have agreed to only $1.6 billion. A partial shutdown is still possible after Dec. 21 if Congress and the White House cannot come to agreement. At her weekly press conference Thursday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi reiterated her opposition to the wall as she reminded reporters that Trump has repeatedly said that Mexico would pay for it.
“We, most of us, speaking for myself, consider the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive, and the President said – he promised – he also promised Mexico would pay for it,” she said.
Among the federal agencies that remain to be funded is the Department of Interior, which oversees public lands, an issue of importance to Nevada.
The House canceled all its scheduled roll call votes due to the proceedings and ceremonies for Bush, but the Senate took up the nominations of Kathy Kathy Kraninger to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Bernard McNamee to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Both were confirmed on 50-49 party line votes. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has been a vocal critic of Kraninger and has lamented her nomination going back to Kraninger’s confirmation hearing in July before the Senate Banking Committee, of which Cortez Masto is a member.
Cortez Masto’s criticism of Kraninger stems from the fact that Kraninger is a protege of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and therefore, she says, would continue to lead the agency as he has, which she contends entails a reduction in efforts to help consumers and veterans in favor of the banking industry.
“Kathy Kraninger has repeatedly demonstrated that she fails to understand the CPFB’s core functions, and that she is eager to continue Mick Mulvaney’s inside mission to cripple the Bureau’s power in favor of Big Banks and predatory lenders,” Cortez Masto said in a release after the Senate approved Karninger’s nomination. “American consumers deserve better. The CFPB needs a director who will support the agency’s essential work and will fight for fairness for all American consumers, not just the Big Banks.”
Meanwhile, Nevada’s congressional delegation paid their respects to Bush with some attending the capitol ceremony and the funeral.
Cortez Masto attended both. “President Bush was a proud statesman, honored veteran, and man of principle who dedicated his life to serving the American people,” she said in a statement after his death was announced. “He will be remembered not only as a pragmatic and committed leader, but as a dedicated father, husband, brother, and friend. Paul and I extend our deepest condolences to the Bush family during this time.”
Sen. Dean Heller’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether he attended either service. But Heller, a Republican, did tweet out his admiration for the 41st president.
“George H.W. Bush was an outstanding leader, devoted father & husband, veteran, and American patriot,” Heller said. “Lynne and I are praying for the entire Bush family and send our condolences to them as Nevadans and Americans across the country mourn this heavy loss.”
Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat, could not attend the funeral because she was in Nevada working on the transition advisory Committee for incoming Gov. Steve Sisolak. Upon learning of Bush’s passing, Titus tweeted a note praising the president’s service.
“President George H. W. Bush devoted his life to country and family. His is a legacy of what it means to be a statesman. My thoughts are with the Bush family,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who will serve as senator next year after defeating Heller in the midterm elections, also attended Bush’s funeral. She too lauded Bush, citing his honor and dignity in a release.
“President George H.W. Bush was a true statesman who served our country with honor, dignity, & decency. I’m forever grateful for his leadership & example of putting country first. I offer my sincerest condolences to the Bush family,” Rosen tweeted.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who is departing Congress at the end of the year, also attended the funeral at the National Cathedral. “President George Herbert Walker Bush’s public service to his country is unparalleled in our history,” Kihuen said. “We cannot mourn his passing without celebrating his life. My condolences to his family and loved ones. Rest In Peace, Mr. President.”
Rep.-elect Susie Lee, the Democrat who won election to replace Rosen, and Rep.-elect Steven Horsford, who won the race to replace Kihuen, could not attend the ceremonies because they were with other Congressional freshman at the Harvard Institute of Politics, which hosted the lawmakers for three days.
However, Lee in a statement provided by her office, expressed her admiration for Bush, including his ability to make fun of himself with Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey.
“Pres. George H.W. Bush led this country in the spirit of service, humility and bipartisanship,” Lee said. “We can all learn from his example. I just loved it when he invited Dana Carvey to the White House, as he was leaving it. He was a leader who could laugh at himself. I like that. He sacrificed a great deal for the country he loved, and did it with humility and grace. He will be missed.”
Horsford visited the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, which made arrangements to celebrate Bush, according to a release provided by his office.
“George H.W. Bush understood the heart of public service, was a man of character and integrity, and showed strong leadership on issues like the Americans with Disabilities Act to move our nation forward,” Horsford said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Lee and Horsford were among 46 freshmen Democrats who signed onto a letter Monday addressed to the House Democratic Leadership calling for the new House Democratic majority in the 116th Congress, which begins in January, to “prioritize action on topics such as the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, our crumbling infrastructure, immigration, gun safety, the environment, and criminal justice reform” over go after the Trump administration.
The new lawmakers also requested “monthly meetings with the Speaker, Majority Leader, and Whip, on the legislative priorities of this incoming class.”
They further asked that freshman members serve on exclusive committees including Appropriations, Rules, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and the Steering and Policy Committee, which helps determine committee assignments. Membership on those committees typically depends on, among other things, seniority.
Lee has expressed a desire to join the Energy and Commerce Committee. Horsford has been quiet on his choice of committees.
For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.
SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO
S. 3720 – A bill to authorize the Secretary of Transportation to provide loans for the acquisition of electric buses and related infrastructure.
S. 3716 – A bill to amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 to repeal the forfeiture rule for peanuts under the nonrecourse marketing assistance loan program, prohibit the use of Federal funds for certain activities, and for other purposes.
S. 3702 – A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to prevent the misclassification of drugs for purposes of the Medicaid drug rebate program.