Week of December 10-14, 2018

Government Shutdown Still Possible as New Deadline Nears

  • President Trump Threatens Shutdown
  • Congress Approves Bipartisan Farm Bill, Safeguards SNAP and Merit Staffing
  • Dark Money in Campaigns and Elections

President Trump Threatens Shutdown

Despite efforts to reach agreement on the seven remaining funding bills for FY 2019, President Trump remains doggedly focused on securing $5 billion for a border wall at any cost, including a government shutdown that would impact over 600,000 federal employees just before the holidays. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), following a televised meeting with the president and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), offered to support a six-bill package with a stop gap measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), for Homeland Security that would include level funding for border security. The president has not responded to the offer, and the current CR expires Friday, December 21. Congress is also considering CRs that could last a few days, a few weeks, or a few months in efforts to avert a shutdown.

What You Need to Know: The president stated that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” AFSCME strongly opposes playing politics with important public services and the jobs of more than 600,000 federal employees.

Congress Approves Bipartisan Farm Bill, Safeguards SNAP and Merit Staffing

Congress approved a farm bill package, extending for five years federal policy for farming, land and water conservation, and nutrition assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The $867 billion package is a testament to bipartisan compromise, reaching a middle-ground that protects access to food assistance for families in need by avoiding harmful benefit cuts and eligibility changes that could have taken food away and created obstacles for working families. It also increases job training opportunities for SNAP participants, reduces burdensome paperwork for seniors to help them access food assistance, and preserves the merit staffing requirement for SNAP eligibility determination.

What You Need to Know: The new farm bill rejects the House bill’s punishing work requirements and specifically states that “certification and eligibility functions must be performed by public, merit system employees,” rejecting the House’s amendment offered by Rep. John Faso (R-NY) which AFSCME strongly opposed.

Dark Money in Campaigns and Elections

This week many members of the Senate took a stand for transparency by overturning Trump’s administrative rule that exempts nonprofits from disclosing large donors to the Internal Revenue Service. The so-called “dark money” rule allows corporate special interest groups to continue to contribute large donations to political organizations that influence campaigns and elections without revealing who they are. All the Democrats along with one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), voted to overturn the Trump rule in a 50 to 49 vote.

What You Need to Know: Dark money was a prominent part of the discussion about the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case. As previously pointed out, the Janus case was bankrolled by the same dark money interest groups and corporate entities pressing for the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

This legislation moves on to the U. S. House of Representatives where senators are pressing them to act swiftly on the issue of bringing transparency back to our elections.

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