Congress Gives Itself Another Week To Finish A Budget
WASHINGTON — With the threat of a government shutdown looming, Congress on Friday gave itself a one-week extension on completing a budget for the fiscal year that began last October.
Federal agencies will get the cash they need to keep running for another week while Republican leaders continue their efforts to hammer out long-term appropriations.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, told Politico on Thursday she expected most Democrats will vote for the temporary measure since it keeps the status quo.
“I’m assuming we’ve got a clean CR that’s just to get us to finish up,” she said.
The House voted 382-30 in favor of the extension, with opposition coming from the two polar ends of the political spectrum. Connecticut’s Jim Himes, Joe Courtney, Elizabeth Esty and DeLauro voted in favor. John Larson was one of 18 members who did not cast a vote. The Senate then approved it by voice without objection.
Democrats had earlier raised the prospect of opposing the bill to protest Republican efforts this week to revive their fizzled attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
A new version of the Republican alternative was unveiled this week, drawing additional support from conservatives but not so much from moderate Republicans worried that their constituents could end up paying more for reduced coverage.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says progress is being made but set no firm deadline for a vote.
“We are going to go when we have the votes,” he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced late Thursday that there would be no vote on healthcare Friday or Saturday. Roll Call provides more details.
Trump’s first 100 days
Much of the week’s politics revolved around the marking of Trump’s first 100 days in office. While the White House touted its successes, Connecticut Democrats offered — unsurprisingly — a different view.
Sen. Chris Murphy participated in a Wednesday press conference blasting Trump over the latest health care proposal, describing it as a “dumpster fire of a bill” that Trump gladly offered to champion after outsourcing the authorship to a “cabal of House Republicans who wrote it in private.”
“All of our focus is on stopping this horrible proposal from becoming law,” he said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Thursday reiterated his calls for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate possible conflicts of interest tied to Trump’s business dealings with foreign nations including China and Russia. “Whose interest is Donald Trump putting first?” he questioned.
Blumenthal also wants a special prosecutor to investigate former national security adviser Michael Flynn based on evidence provided to the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee that he received payments from the Russian government without pre-approving or disclosing the compensation. (VIDEO)
Trump’s tax reform
Trump this week unveiled a one-page plan to simplify the federal tax code as well as lower tax rates for corporations and individuals.
For individual income tax filers the plan would reduce the federal tax brackets from five to three, increase the standard deduction, and eliminate most deductions other than mortgage interest and charitable donations.
In high-tax states like Connecticut, the loss of a deduction for state and local taxes could add thousands of dollars to the federal taxes owed by those who itemize deductions, as noted by Axios.
Just over $2 million was contributed from 16 Connecticut donors to help pay for the Trump inauguration, according to a financial statement filed this month with the Federal Election Commission and published by the Connecticut Post.
Steven A. Cohen, of Greenwich, accounted for $1 million of Connecticut’s total. He’s the founder of a $14 billion hedge fund called S.A.C. Capital Advisors and had at one time been under investigation for alleged insider trading by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to a lengthy article by New Yorker magazine.
Bharara was dismissed from his job in March to provide Trump a clean slate of federal prosecutors, as the Washington Post reported.
How they voted
The Senate this week confirmed Trump nominees to head the Departments of Agriculture and Labor — leaving Robert Lighthizer, who is up for U.S. Trade Representative, as the only Cabinet-level nominee remaining to confirm.
The Senate voted 60-38 in favor of confirming R. Alexander Acosta of Florida as Secretary of Labor. Murphy and Blumenthal voted against Acosta’s confirmation.
The Senate voted 87-11 to confirm Sonny Perdue of Georgia as Secretary of Agriculture. Murphy voted in favor. Blumenthal opposed him.
The Senate also voted 92-6 to confirm Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland as Deputy Attorney General. Murphy voted in favor. Blumenthal voted against confirmation.
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