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Digital Subscriptions > The Hedge Fund Journal > Issue 140 – Apr | May 2019 > What’s New in Washington

What’s New in Washington

May 2019

Congress has continued its focus on appropriations, nominations and investigations as the Memorial Day recess approaches. The administration continues to focus on trade as the President’s top policy priority. The main legislative agenda item continues to be the budget and appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. Legislators are grappling with how to handle the discretionary spending caps and prevent the impending $126 billion in automatic, across-theboard spending cuts, known as sequestration, that will be triggered in January 2020, if Congress fails to reach a deal. Budget Committee leaders in both chambers have spent weeks negotiating, but a compromise has yet to materialize. Consequently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have begun discussions over a two-year budget deal at the leadership level. Any deal is likely to come together no earlier than late summer or early fall.

While the constructs of a budget caps deal remain up for debate, lawmakers are beginning to markup the FY 20 appropriations bill in an attempt to keep the process somewhat on track. In the House, several Appropriations Subcommittees have already begun marking up appropriations legislation, including the Labor-HHS-Education and Legislative Branch bills. The Senate is continuing to negotiate on spending levels and has yet to release or markup any spending measures. The Senate is continuing to negotiate on spending levels and has yet to release or markup any spending measures.

Closely connected to the budget caps debate are negotiations surrounding the debt ceiling. The temporary suspension of the debt limit expired in early March. However, the Treasury continues to use “extraordinary measures” to prevent a default on US debt. Those measures are expected to run out as soon as September, putting pressure on Congress to suspend or raise the debt ceiling by the fall. It’s possible that a debt ceiling increase could be attached to another “must pass” item, including any budget deal that may come together.

In the House, the new Democratic majority continues to press forward on a number of bills central to the Democratic agenda during this work period, including bills to reaffirm US commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity, provide disaster relief funding and rollback Administration guidance on the state innovation waiver provision of the Affordable Care Act. In the Senate, Republican leadership is expected to continue to push forward on judicial and executive nominations, and is trying to pass a disaster aid package by Memorial Day.

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