Can Congress Avoid a Government Shutdown? A Budget Extension, Obamacare and a Tax Package Fight For Attention. Sphere Consulting’s TenCount for April 24, 2017

  • Congress returns and faces a budget deadline and a potential government shutdown, as the Trump Administration, wrapping up its first 100 days in office on Saturday, is desperately seeking a legislative victory to trumpet as evidence of its successful start. The Senate will vote late Monday to confirm Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary. The President of Argentina visits the White House on Thursday. And the Supreme Court wraps up its final three days of oral arguments for the current session Monday through Wednesday; among the six cases it will hear are two death penalty appeals and a fight over generic drug availability.
  • Funding for the federal government ends at midnight Friday, on President Trump’s 99th day in office. Much of Congress’s week, therefore, will be spent trying to avoid a government shutdown by banging out a spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. But Trump Administration officials are pushing for border-wall funding to be included in the spending bill, which Democrats have said is a non-starter. Those negotiations could leave room for little other action on the floor of the House and Senate, including rumored action on Obamacare.
  • A big win for the President, of course, would be a vote to repeal Obamacare. Such an effort failed last month, but text of a new bill was circulated last week and Republicans had a conference call on the bill on Saturday. They are divided, however, on how much of Obamacare to keep in place, particularly a piece known as community rating, which prevents insurers from charging different rates based on a customer’s health conditions. On Friday, Trump said there was “no particular rush” to get a repeal vote.
  • President Trump did say, however, that he would introduce a new tax reform package on Wednesday – a timeline that surprised even some of his financial advisers. The plan calls for a “massive” tax cut, Trump said – “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.” Bloomberg reports that the tax package won’t include a border-adjustment tax, which would impose duties on imports and which House Speaker Paul Ryan has supported.
  • Is there really any relevance to the first 100 days of a presidential administration? Some would say so, others demur, but the benchmarks typically used to measure success – bills signed into law and executive orders – are important only to the extent that the laws or orders address significant issues. This week, there will be no shortage of opportunities to mull the accomplishments, beginning Monday at the Brookings Institution with “Reflecting on Trump’s First 100 Days.”
  • Tuesday brings “The First 100 Days: U.S.-Asia Relations under the Trump Administration,” at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; on Wednesday it’s “100 Down, 265 To Go: First Milestone on President Trump’s First Year,” at the Heritage Foundation and “Trump’s First 100 Days in the Middle East” at the Center for American Progress. And on Thursday the Bipartisan Policy Center asks “Are We On the Road to Making America Great Again? Exploring Trump’s First 100 Days.”
  • What could be better than “A Legislative Proposal to Create Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs”? That is title of a hearing Wednesday by the House Financial Services Committee to discuss the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s attempt to roll back significant portions of the post-financial crisis reforms by repealing more than 40 provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. Expect plenty of agreement from the hearing’s witnesses, who hail from the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center and the American Enterprise Institute.
  • At its annual meeting last week, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that two-thirds of all jobs in developing countries will be wiped out by automation in the coming years, a bleak forecast that Mr. Kim said requires that developed countries keep up their investment in developing countries, the Wall Street Journal reported. Many are pulling back, however; President Trump has proposed cutting $650 million from its budget for the World Bank and other development institutions.
  • Whether or not an armada is steaming toward the waters off Korea, the Peninsula is the subject of continuing scrutiny on Capitol Hill as the Trump Administration pushes China to pressure North Korea to temper its nuclear aims. The issue will get a hearing in both houses of Congress this week, as the House Armed Services Committee conducts a “Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region” on Wednesday, while the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday hears about “Policy and Strategy in the Asia-Pacific” and on Thursday considers the “United States Pacific Command and the United States Forces Korea”.
  • One place China is making considerable inroads is in Africa, where that nation’s investment has spurred a boom in infrastructure building. Two events on Wednesday take a look at China’s stance toward the U.S.: The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies will discuss “Prospects for U.S.-China-Africa Relations in the Trump Era” while the Brookings Institution considers “Rebalance, Reassurance and Resolve in the U.S.-China Strategic Relationship.”