Senate Adjourns for 5 Weeks After Clearing Budget Deal, Nominees
A week after the House of Representatives left town for the remainder of the summer, the U.S. Senate followed suit today, after clearing the bipartisan two-year budget deal and over 60 nominees (including two National Transportation Safety Board nominees). The chamber will be in recess until Monday, September 9.
Budget deal. The last pre-recess votes related to the two-year budget and debt limit bill (H.R. 3877) passed by the House last week. First, the Senate voted to reject an amendment by Rand Paul (R-KY) (SA 932) that would have made a debt limit increase contingent on Congress passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and sending it to the states, and would also have set new spending caps on mandatory and discretionary spending. That amendment was rejected by a roll call vote of 23 yeas, 70 nays.
Then there was an opportunity for any Senator to raise a point of order under the Budget Act against the (budget-busting) legislation, but it was clear that there well more than the necessary 60 votes to waive budget discipline for this particular bill, and having a lopsided vote in favor of ignoring the Budget Act is considered worse than just ignoring the budget violation. The Senate then voted to invoke cloture and shut off debate on H.R. 3877 by a vote of 67 to 27 (60 being necessary), and then passed the bill by an almost-identical vote of 67 to 28.
On final passage, the “no” votes were almost all Republicans – amongst Democrats, Senators Bennet (CO), Carper (DE), Klobuchar (MN), Manchin (WV), and Tester (MT) voted “no.”
The bill now heads to the President’s desk for signature, and the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee will now start to draft fiscal 2020 appropriations bills that the committee can consider in September. Appropriations chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) told a reporter this week that a three-bill “minibus” consisting of the Defense, Labor-HHS-Education, and Energy and Water Development bills may be the first to go to the Senate floor.
Nominees confirmed. As is customary before the Senate takes a long recess, just before adjournment, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stood at his desk for about a half-hour and read through a long stack of unanimous consent agreements for the Senate to confirm packages of nominees – over 60 in all. Most were to various federal boards and non-regulatory commissions, ambassadors to foreign countries, and non-Article III judges. But the Senate also confirmed two National Transportation Safety Board nominations during today’s session. Robert Sumwalt, the current chairman, was confirmed for another three-year term as chairman (he was going to have to step down on August 3 had the Senate not confirmed him for another term – he was confirmed two years ago to a two-year term, but sec. 1112 of last year’s FAA reauthorization law extended terms as chair to 3 years moving forward). And current board member Jennifer Homendy was confirmed for a new five-year term on the Board that will begin after her current term expires on December 31, 2019.
September schedule. The House and Senate will return to Washington the week of September 9. The House’s agenda is not yet clear, but before leaving town today, Majority Leader McConnell locked in a series of nominations for consideration on the Senate floor the week they return. Cloture votes will be held in the following order:
- Kelly Craft, U.N. Ambassador
- Elizabeth Darling, HHS Commissioner for Children, Youth and Families
- Stephen Darling, Director of the State Department Office of Foreign Missions
- Dale Cabaniss, Director of the Office of Personnel Management
- James Byrne, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Michelle Bowman, Federal Reserve Governor
- Thomas Feddo, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security
- Jennifer Nordquist, U.S. Executive Director of the World Bank
Once again, none of the long-delayed transportation nominees on the Senate Executive Calendar (Thelma Drake for Federal Transit Administrator, pending since March 12; Diana Furchtgott-Roth for Assistant Secretary of Transportation, pending since April 3; Heidi King for NHTSA Administrator, also pending since April 3) made the Majority Leader’s cut to go through the cloture process and be confirmed by a simple majoritarian exercise.