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Mike Johnson

Spending fights reach House floor as Biden-Trump debate looms

The House returns on Tuesday, the Senate is out until July 8.

Thursday’s CNN-hosted debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will dominate the headlines this week. It’s the first of two head-to-head meetings between the candidates.

We’re going to focus on two issues this morning — FY2025 spending bills and data privacy.

House GOP leaders have set an ambitious timetable for passing their version of the FY2025 spending bills. They want all 12 annual bills out of the Appropriations Committee by mid-July, and through the House by the start of the August recess. Three bills are scheduled to be marked up Tuesday in the Rules Committee — Defense, Homeland Security and State-Foreign Operations — with floor votes later this week. GOP leaders predict all three will pass.

The Defense bill includes a $9 billion boost from last year, while the Homeland Security package is almost $3 billion higher.

But State-Foreign Operations — SFOPS — gets a huge cut, down 11% from FY2024. This is because Speaker Mike Johnson and House Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) won’t honor the “side deals” hashed out between Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year in conjunction with the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Those side deals included billions of dollars to smooth the annual appropriations process.

Instead, House Republicans have chosen to slash money from non-defense domestic spending while bumping up the Pentagon, Homeland Security and veterans’ programs, a move that Democrats and the White House strongly oppose.

We’ll see this dynamic also play out this week during subcommittee markups inside the Appropriations panel for the Labor-HHS, Transportation-HUD, Interior, Energy and Water and Commerce-Justice-Science bills. More on the CJS bill and Trump below.

Cole and House GOP leaders also allowed Republican members to include “culture war” provisions on immigration, climate change, DEI, abortion and LGBTQ-related riders in the spending bills.

For instance, the Homeland Security bill includes $600 million for the construction of Trump’s border wall while cutting funding for nonprofits that aid undocumented migrants. The Republican-drafted Defense bill includes riders on everything from climate change to critical race theory to drag queens.

Again, none of these House GOP bills will pass muster with the Democratically-controlled Senate or White House.

But Johnson, Cole and Republican leaders know this debate will sputter into the lame-duck session post-Election Day, so they’re looking to score some political points now and worry about funding the government later.

There are also more than 800 amendments filed so far with the Rules Committee for the Defense, Homeland Security and SFOPS bills. Along with the expected “culture war” and Ukraine provisions, there are three separate amendments to cut the salaries of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to $1. This, of course, will never happen.

Now let’s go back to the Commerce-Justice-Science bill. Johnson has promised that he’ll “rein in the abuses of Special Counsel Jack Smith” using the annual Justice Department funding bill, something that House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and other Trump allies have called for repeatedly. Smith is leading the federal criminal cases against Trump in Washington and Florida.

Coincidentally, Trump’s lawyers will argue today before District Court Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida that “the funding of Smith’s position is unconstitutional and his case against Trump should therefore be dismissed,” the Washington Post reported.

Other likely targets for House Republicans include Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Fulton County, Ga., DA Fani Willis. House Republicans may seek to cut off grants used by those offices or use some other retaliatory mechanism.

Data privacy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up a major bipartisan data privacy bill on Thursday. Whether the bill ever gets to the House floor remains to be seen.

The American Privacy Rights Act — hammered out in negotiations between Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) — would create new federal privacy standards. It includes an updated version of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. And there’s a “private right of action” that allows individual Americans to sue “covered entities” that use their personal data without consent.

The Heritage Foundation came out in support of the legislation, which helps with conservatives.

However, there’s very strong opposition to this measure inside the House GOP leadership. GOP leaders have concerns about the proposal’s impact on small businesses, as well as the private right of action. We’ll have more on this as the week unfolds.

One more thing: U.S. swimming legends Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt will testify Tuesday night before the Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian athlete ever, while Schmitt won 10 Olympic medals. There will be a heavy focus on the Chinese swimming team and doping allegations. Schmitt’s opening statement is worth reading.

— John Bresnahan

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