Washington Snapshot: Talks About Raising the Debt Ceiling Resume; Judge Denies DOJ Bid to Swap Lawyers for Census Citizenship Question Case

In This Week's Snapshot...


Congress IconNews from the Hill

Talks About Raising the Debt Ceiling Resume

Yesterday evening top Republicans in Congress and members of the Trump administration exited a closed-door meeting with plans to take their discussion back to the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on how to avert sequestration and debt default this fall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that the meeting was fruitful with Administration officials, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Mnuchin said negotiators are considering the idea of raising the debt ceiling before the House adjourns for August recess in two-and-a-half weeks.

Democrats would be ceding leverage in negotiations on budget caps, however, if they agree to lift the debt limit before enacting a measure to stave off sequestration cuts in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

If a deal is not reached this year to prevent those reductions, federal defense spending would drop from $647 billion to $576 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, a $71 billion or 11 percent reduction. Another $69 billion in defense funding would also fade away if the special Overseas Contingency Operations fund is not replenished to current levels. Without a compromise, non-defense spending would fall from $597 billion to $542 billion, a $55 billion or 9 percent cut.

Also, the Bipartisan Policy Center has projected that the Treasury Department could breach its borrowing limit in the first half of September, much earlier than previous estimates of October or early November. The Senate is in session for 17 more days before August recess — a legislative break that could be cut short if lawmakers are facing the threat of an imminent default, according Appropriations Committee Chair, Sen. Richard Shelby (R- AL.) Shelby also said that Senate appropriators will not start marking up fiscal 2020 bills before such a budget deal is struck.


Executive & Regulatory News IconExecutive & Regulatory News

Breaking News

As of this writing, news outlets are reporting that President Trump is expected to announce that he is backing down from a court battle to include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Indications are that he will pursue the data by other means.

Department of Education Invites Applications

The Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year (FY) 2019 for Model Demonstration Projects for Early Identification of Students with Dyslexia in Elementary School. These projects will provide support to professionals to collaborate with parents in establishing and meeting high expectations for each student with, or at risk for, dyslexia.

Application Information >>

Also announced for fiscal year (FY) 2019 are four separate competitions under the Rehabilitation Long-Term Training Program:

  • Long-Term Training Program will provide training in Rehabilitation Counseling (84.129B),
  • Rehabilitation of Individuals Who Are Mentally Ill (84.129H),
  • Rehabilitation of Individuals Who Are Blind or Have Vision Impairments (84.129P), and
  • Rehabilitation of Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (84.129Q).

Application Information >>


EDA Prioritizes Applications for Projects Located in Opportunity Zones

Recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John C. Fleming announced that EDA has added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority. This new Investment Priority will significantly increase the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to spur greater public investment in these areas.


IRS’ National Taxpayer Advocate Report: Recommended EITC Reforms

This week National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson recommended splitting the Earned Income Tax Credit in two — a refundable worker credit and a refundable child benefit — in her required 2019 report to Congress to Congress meant to improve shortcomings with the EITC.

She suggested basing the worker credit on each individual worker’s earned income, regardless of qualifying children, while the child benefit would reflect the costs of caring for a child. Together, these changes and others would better meet policymakers’ goals of boosting the workforce, cutting poverty and reducing burdens on taxpayers and the IRS, said the report.

Under current law, EITC eligibility and amounts depend on multiple factors, including the presence and number of qualifying children, a taxpayer’s earned income, adjusted gross income, investment income and marital status. Childless workers only get a nominal credit, restrictions on qualifying children are particularly complex and difficult to enforce and family structures differ greatly from the past, the report said. The report also addressed the difficulties of eligibility criteria by suggesting that Congress empower the IRS to establish standards for tax return preparers and tax return software providers, and the IRS should change its practices and processes to reflect its role as a benefits administrator rather than solely an enforcement agency.


Judge Denies DOJ Bid to Swap Lawyers for Census Citizenship Question Case

On Tuesday federal judge Jesse Furman in New York denied a request from the Justice Department to replace the team of lawyers on the case about the 2020 Census citizenship question expressing that the request was “patently deficient” because the administration didn't provide any reason for the switch­–Politico reported.

In a three-page order, Furman denied the motion for nine of 11 attorneys and said any future withdrawals must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit from each attorney stating the reasons for his or her withdrawal and pledging to honor any future court sanctions or mandated appearances. The judge permitted two lawyers to withdraw from the case, one who had left the department and other who has switched divisions.

The Justice Department announced Sunday night that it would assign a new team of lawyers to tackle the census litigation, but didn't state a reason for the change. The move came after President Donald Trump vowed to press on with efforts to add the question to the upcoming census despite legal setbacks. The Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration in late June, saying the administration's stated rationale to include the question — to better protect minority voting rights — "seems to have been contrived" and was less an "explanation" than a "distraction.”


State Policy IconHappening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

National Council of Nonprofits

Some States Stepping Up with Census Funding; Others Not

The 2020 census begins in nine months and lawmakers in several states are investing dedicated funding for efforts to secure a fair, accurate, and complete count so everyone is counted. Michigan Nonprofit Association will receive $5 million directly from the State for its census complete count campaign under the spending bill signed into law last month. Lawmakers in Delaware recently appropriated $650,000 to support efforts to secure a complete count. Massachusetts legislators are debating two budget bills (H.3801 / S.2235) to determine whether $2 million or $2.5 million should be used for a complete count committee. Additional funds are also appropriated in the bills for other census-related activities. In Illinois, Forefront, the state association of nonprofits, helped lead the charge to secure a new $29 million appropriation for census outreach across the state. Also, the Illinois Governor signed an executive order establishing a Census Office and Census Advisory Panel that will divvy up funds for local groups, particularly in hard-to-count communities. Running counter to this progress is the report from the National Conference of State Legislatures that 18 states still have not even created a Complete Count Commission, putting their states at greater risks for undercounts that could cost their taxpayers, businesses, governments, and nonprofits significant federal funding for the next decade and loss of vital data needed for quality decision-making.


States Enacting Employment Law Changes

News that U.S. House of Representatives will soon take up a federal minimum wage hike puts state actions in the spotlight. States in the Northeast are enacting new laws to increase wages and expand employee protections. Starting this month in New Jersey, employees will see a new minimum wage rate of $10 per hour and expanded family leave for employers with 30 or more employees, while a ban on salary history inquiries for job applicants is awaiting the signature of the Governor. Similarly, the District of Columbia minimum wage rose this month to $14.00 per hour and the District begins collecting taxes from all private sector employers to fund the local paid family leave benefit.

Beginning in 2022, workers in Connecticut will be entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave under a law recently signed by the Governor. Unlike leave programs in other states, some of which are partially funded by a surcharge on employers (such as in DC), Connecticut’s plan is paid for by a 0.5% payroll tax levied on all employees. A bill in New York that has passed both the Senate and Assembly would increase protections for employees who have been sexually harassed. The legislation would lower the legal standard for proving a harassment claim, prohibit nondisclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration related to discrimination, and require employers to provide employees notice of their sexual harassment prevention training in writing in English and employees' primary language. It also would extend the statute of limitations for claims resulting from unlawful or discriminatory practices constituting sexual harassment to three years.