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August actually is a pretty good time to be in Washington.
Yes, the weather usually is awful. But with Congress gone, getting to work isn't as stressful because there's less demand on roads and public transit. You can get up later and still get to work on time.
And...of course...there's daily upbeat news from the Redskins' training camp.
I saw and felt all of this almost immediately on Friday when the House followed the Senate out of town for a five-week recess. Traffic was indeed lighter than usual, getting a table at my family's favorite local Italian bistro wasn't a problem and RGIII was interviewed on all of the local channels. Good times for sure.
But the usual sense of dramatically less stress that typically takes place at the same time didn't happen. Instead of talking about vacation plans, the standard topic of conversation all weekend was about what's going to happen when Congress comes back.
As a federal budget wonk, I was especially and repeatedly put on the spot by friends, reporters and clients about what's going to happen after Labor Day.
Norm Ornstein is a long-time (as in decades) friend.
He's also one of the foremost congressional experts/scholars/pundits in U.S. history. So when he writes to say that this CG&G post from last week about Republicans in Congress is "excellent," I want to tell the world about it.
More important is that Norm's note reminded me to link to his recent article in The Atlantic about how the only way to understand what's happening in the GOP these days in to realize that there are actually five Republican parties rather than one and the five don't get along.
Let me return the favor: Norm's piece is excellent and worth a few minutes of your time.
Make no mistake about it; House Republicans definitely prefer that a Republican be elected president.
But what's been clear for years on things related to the budget has become even more obvious in recent weeks with the take-no-prisoner decisions House Republicans made on immigration and agriculture: The House GOP is increasingly unwilling to make its own political lives even slightly more difficult by making accommodations (that is, compromises) that make the election of a Republican candidate in 2016 more likely.
And I don't just mean compromises with Democrats. These days House Republicans are as unwilling to make deals that make life easier for their R Senate colleagues as they are with the Ds in either house.
In this era when almost all federal budget process deadlines are routinely missed or completely ignored, it's hard to believe that the fiscal 2014 mid-session review of the budget was released yesterday, a full week ahead of the July 15 statutory deadline.
The mid-session review was released with virtually no fanfare. In fact, many of my budget geek friends who, trust me on this, live for the release of federal budget documents, didn't know it had been released until this morning.
In one sense this is simple: The U.S. spends about $1.5 billion a year on all aid to Egypt and, based on the fiscal 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74), foreign aid is prohibited to any country where there has been a military coup of a democratically elected government. If aid is suspended, that could mean that federal spending and, therefore, the deficit, will be lower than had been projected.
So much for the easy part.
1. The first question is whether the aid will actually be suspended. The Obama administration so far has refused to use the word "coup." This presumably is at least partly to preserve its ability to continue to provide aid if it sees a need to do that.
2. If the aid is suspended, the impact on the current fiscal year deficit will depend on how much has already been spent. In theory, one-quarter of a total appropriation is supposed to be spent each quarter of the fiscal year, but the actual spend out rate can vary substantially by program. I'm still checking, but it's definitely possible that the full $1.5 billion has already been spent this year and that suspending the aid will have no immediate budget impact.
Since it passed the Senate last week, there's been a great deal of discussion in the blogosphere and inside the beltway about whether the House can be forced to consider the Senate-passed bill.
Most of that discussion has been about using a discharge petition, a procedure that enables a majority of House members to force a bill out of committee to the floor for a vote. As quickly as that started to be mentioned, that process was dismissed. It's possible but extremely unlikely.
A supposed second option that started to get some attention at the end of last week -- using the reconciliation procedures of the Congressional Budget Act -- also needs to be quickly dismissed. In fact, reconciliation is even a less likely route for immigration reform in the House than a discharge petition.
You would think that this poll showing "Americans' confidence in Congress is not only at its lowest point on record, but also is the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973" would be so embarrassing to those on Capital Hill that they would take immediate steps to change the situation.