Week of September 10-14, 2018

  • Kavanaugh Committee Vote Delayed
  • Congress Begins Approving Funding Bills
  • House Tax Committee Approves Tax Scam 2.0 Package that Mostly Benefits Wealthiest 1 Percent
  • House Passes Broad, Bipartisan Water Resources Renewal Legislation, Awaits Senate Action

Kavanaugh Committee Vote Delayed Until September 20

This week, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee blocked the vote on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for one week. The committee is now scheduled to vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination next Thursday, September 20. The full Senate is expected to vote the week of September 24.

What You Need to Know: After four days of confirmation hearings last week, many questions remain about Kavanaugh’s record.  Committee Democrats offered a motion to subpoena Kavanaugh’s records as they continue to press for transparency Republicans defeated the motion.

Kavanaugh’s rulings and his testimony reflect that he would favor the interests of corporations and the wealthy over the rights of hard-working Americans. AFSCME strongly opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination.

You still have time to call your senators and urge them to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination.
Call 1-888-981-9704 to tell your senators to vote “NO” on Kavanaugh!
By making your voice heard, you’re helping to protect the rights of working people. 

Congress Begins to Wrap Up FY 2019 

The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, and Congress is quickly working across party lines to pass as many funding bills as possible before the deadline.

The House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the conference reports for three spending bills joined together in a “minibus” package that only requires the president’s signature to become law. The bills fund Energy and Water Development, the Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. In addition, the conference committee report for the two largest bills, Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS), was released. Notably, the Labor- HHS bill contains no poison pill riders to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or worker protections. Most programs are level funded or received small increases, which is far more preferable than the deep cuts proposed by President Trump and the cuts included in the House bill. The bill also provides approximately $1 billion in opioid treatment funding through grants to states. Susan Harwood training grants are flat-funded at $10.5 million. For education, Title I funds for disadvantaged students increases $100 million; Title II funding for education professionals is level funded; Title IV funds for Student Support and Academic Enrichment increases $70 million; Head Start increases $200 million; the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) increases $50 million; and the Pell grant maximum award increases by $100 to $6,195. The Social Security Administration (SSA) received relatively level funding for its administrative budget.

Congress plans to add a stop-gap measure known as a continuing resolution (CR) to the Labor-HHS-Defense package to keep the government running through December 7. Negotiations on the seven remaining spending bills continue, but face difficulties due to controversial policy riders and border wall funding. AFSCME has been urging members of Congress to pass bills that provide the highest possible funding levels in order to restore public services that have been harmed by spending cuts in recent years.

What You Need to Know: Congress is expected to pass the combined Labor-HHS-Defense-CR package before September 30. This will allow the majority of federal programs to continue uninterrupted and prevent a government shutdown. It is likely that the bills funded through the CR will be flat-funded for the remainder of FY 2019 through an extended CR in December.

House Tax Committee Approves Tax Scam 2.0 Package That Mostly Benefits Wealthiest 1 Percent

The House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines to approve H.R. 6760, their second installment of tax giveaways, providing $3 trillion in tax breaks that mostly benefit the very wealthy.  Republicans defeated an amendment offered by Democrats to preserve individuals’ full federal itemized tax deductions for State and Local Tax (SALT) expenses, which would also strengthen the finances of states and localities.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME strongly opposed H.R. 6760 and is concerned that Republicans will try to pay for these cuts by slashing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other vital public services.  Instead, Congress should invest in needed public services by raising federal revenues generated by closing troubling tax loopholes, ending unfair tax incentives that send jobs and profits overseas, and require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

The House of Representatives may vote on H.R. 6760 before it leaves for the elections, but it seems unlikely that Senate action will occur this year.

House Passes Broad, Bipartisan Water Resources Renewal Legislation, Awaits Senate Action

As one of the final actions before leaving town ahead of Hurricane Florence, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 408 to 2, a broad, bipartisan renewal of water infrastructure legislation, America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021). S. 3021 includes provisions from H.R. 8, The Water Resources Development Act of 2018. H.R. 8 which renewed Army Corps of Engineers projects and passed the House this summer. S. 3021 also includes water infrastructure provisions from the Senate. 

What You Need to KnowS. 3021 renews the Clean Water Act for the first time in more than 20 years, authorizes over $4.4 billion in three years for state drinking water revolving loan funds, and provides grants and guidance for schools to test, upgrade and replace drinking water systems that may be contaminated by lead. Most importantly, the bill does not include proposals from the Trump administration and corporate interests to allow privatization of community water systems with increased federal incentives and preferential financing.

Hurricane Florence cut short the congressional calendar, delaying Senate action until at least next week.

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