Morning Action: Lawmakers Continue Appropriations Work

IRS. This year, the Financial Services spending bill is among the most contentious because of provisions on the IRS, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank (sub. req’d):

This week’s markup by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services of the $21.3 billion fiscal 2015 spending plan for financial agencies will revive two of the most divisive issues on Capitol Hill: the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of groups applying for tax-exempt status and backing for the health care overhaul.

The text of the bill is expected to be released Tuesday, with a markup following Wednesday morning. The financial services bill typically has not been among the most contentious of the annual spending bills, but the implementation of tax elements of the 2010 health care law and continued debate over potential political targeting at the IRS will likely bring partisan conflicts to the surface.

The IRS’ fiscal 2014 $11.3 billion budget saw a 4.4 percent reduction from its fiscal 2012 and 2013 funding levels amid anger on Capitol Hill over the controversy over the targeting of political organizations. The White House sought $12 billion in base funding for the IRS in its fiscal 2015 budget, with an additional $480 million for enforcement.

IMMIGRATION.  There is new evidence to suggest that the Obama administration’s policies have contributed to the spike in illegal child immigrants:

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, drew a connection between the dramatic spike in unaccompanied minors crossing illegally and the administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

A recent internal memo written by Border Patrol agents has been said to re-affirm this claim. After interviewing 230 illegal immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, “the most heavily-trafficked area of the surge,” Border Patrol agents found that “the main reason the subjects chose this particular time to migrate to the United States was to take advantage of the ‘new’ U.S. ‘law’ that grants a ‘free pass’ or permit (referred to as ‘permisos’) being issued by the U.S. government to female adult OTMs (‘Other Than Mexicans’) traveling with minors and to UACs (‘Unaccompanied Children’).”

THUD.  The Senate is expected to begin floor debate on a package of 2015 spending measures, including one that includes Transportation Department programs (sub. req’d):

Its tab for DOT and Housing would top $54 billion in discretionary funding, along with about that much again in protected DOT spending authority in highway, transit and aviation accounts.

For Transportation, the plan would keep most spending at or near current levels. For instance the popular TIGER infrastructure grants would be maintained at prior-year coverage of grant categories and reduced only to $550 million in 2015 from $600 million this year. But TIGER is a lightning rod for many House conservatives, and the rival House-passed measure  (HR 4745) would cut that grant pool to just $100 million.

LNG.  The LNG export debate may resume as lawmakers mark up their spending bills (sub. req’d):

The majority Russian government-owned energy company Gazprom ceased natural gas sales to Ukraine on Monday, according to the New York Times, bringing a global energy security situation back to the forefront of lawmakers’ minds with energy spending bills on the docket this week.

Congressional calls to expedite liquefied natural gas exports to Ukraine in the face of tensions with Russia after the annexation of Crimea have quieted down since the situation reached a fever point this spring. But with this latest action from Russia, appropriators in the House and Senate could become inspired to relaunch the debate in the context of crafting spending bills for Obama administration agencies that could impact the situation.

The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee will mark up its bill this evening, and the full panel will consider the Energy-Water spending measure on Wednesday. The relevant subcommittees on the Senate side will mark up both bills today, with full committee consideration slated for Thursday. We’ll keep you posted throughout the week on whether members opt to reopen the LNG debate through the appropriations process.

UKRAINE AID.  House appropriators may cut funding to the United Nations and other international organizations to boos foreign assistance to Ukraine and other former Soviet republics that have been targets of Russian aggression (sub. req’d):

Some of the toughest language in the bill focuses the United Nations, a perennial target of the GOP-led committee.

The measure provides no funding for the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, a body that is seen to promote an anti-Israel agenda. The bill also would prohibit funding for U.N. organizations headed by countries that support terrorism and withhold a portion of funds for the United Nations and other international organizations until they make financial audits available to U.S. officials and the public.

The boost in funding for Ukraine and other former Soviet republics came in language that would provide $215 million in assistance to counter Russian actions in these countries.

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