The House and Senate cleared for President Trump’s signature the FY19 Defense Authorization Act, and approved their respective versions of the FY19 Interior-EPA-Financial Services Appropriations Act. The House also approved the Intelligence Reauthorization Act, a resolution disapproving of a carbon tax, and several health care measures. The Senate also approved a resolution that disapproves making U.S. diplomatic officials available for interviews by the Russian government, and confirmed Robert Wilkie as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The House adjourned on July 26 for its summer recess.
House Adjourns For Summer, But Senate Stays In!
After a busy month of legislative activity, the House on July 26 adjourned for its summer recess. The Senate, however, is staying in session for a few weeks in August, in order to vote on executive and judicial branch nominations, and to continue work on the 12 annual appropriations bills.
While approval of all 12 appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year (September 30) remains a daunting task, both the House and Senate have made considerable progress. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved all 12 bills at full committee level (something the Senate has not achieved in over a decade). The House and Senate are also combining bills into “minibus” packages to mitigate time constraints. Both the House and Senate have approved two minibuses, and the House has approved the Defense Appropriations Act. The Senate hopes to vote during the week of August 13 on a massive spending bill that includes both the Defense and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill.
Unfortunately, since the June 14 approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Act, there has been no movement on this spending bill. The CJS bill includes the fiscal year 2019 funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Despite this progress, President Trump has once again threatened to shut the federal government down if he doesn’t secure his request for appropriations for a border wall.
Census Citizenship Question: Policy or Politics?
When the Trump Administration announced several months ago that a citizenship question should be added to the decennial census, it claimed that the inclusion of the question was necessary for policy reasons, namely the Justice Department needed the data to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.However, recently disclosed government emails from a federal lawsuit against the administration’s action reveal that politics may have played a stronger role. These emails reveal that Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist at the time, requested that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “talk to someone about the census.”
A month later, Secretary Ross requested that the question be added, and the emails reveal communication from the Commerce Department to the Justice Department, requesting that Justice justify the need for the question for law enforcement purposes.
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, who is hearing the lawsuit stated in June that there was strong evidence that the Commerce Department had acted in “bad faith” when it added the question to the census.
A recent Washington Post editorial summed up the importance of these new disclosures:
“From the beginning, adding the question looked like a ruse to punish blue states. The constitutionally mandated census is supposed to count everyone in the country, citizen and noncitizen…. Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric was already bound to reduce response rates among immigrants. It is easy to imagine many tossing their census forms immediately after reading the citizenship question, for fear the federal government would be able to locate them. Large cities with high immigrant populations — which tend to be in blue states — would lose out…. There is now more evidence suggesting that this was the point and that Mr. Ross used his official powers over what should be a nonpartisan count to game the system for Republicans. The newly released emails also bolster the case that Mr. Ross was not truthful about how he made the decision.”
In the News…
“U.S. psychology group set to modify rules on interactions with military detainees” | Science (Jeff Mervis), July 25
“How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives” | New York Magazine, July 15
“If Trump’s so worried about rigged elections, no one show him his census” | Washington Post Editorial, July 29
“NSF wants to know what you think it should fund” | Science, July 13
“Want A Creative Spark? Get To Know Someone From Another Culture” | NPR Hidden Brain, July 10
“Want a less partisan senator? Elect a former governor” | Washington Post (Monkey Cage), July 31
Upcoming Hearings and Briefings
The House is in recess throughout August, and the Senate is working on a limited schedule.
Late Night Quotable
“Scientists in Canada are working to create the world’s first beer brewed entirely from cannabis. Scientists say they’ve been working tirelessly from morning to mid-morning.”
Seth Meyers, July 24
“Alex Trebek is hinting that he might retire from Jeopardy! in 2020. When asked what he’ll do in retirement, Trebek said, ‘What is start drinking at noon?’”
Jimmy Fallon, July 30
“IKEA has announced plans to test out small-scale stores that could fit more easily into city environments. Just as soon as builders can figure out the instructions.”
Seth Meyers, July 25
“Meanwhile, do you know how many people are killed by sharks every year? I looked this up today. Five. There are five shark fatalities per year in the world. We are deathly afraid of an animal that kills fewer people than Tide pods.”
Jimmy Kimmel, July 23