4. No House deal yet on a budget resolution. GOP leaders in the House had planned to get a 2018 budget blueprint through the House Budget Committee this week, but differences among Republicans over how to structure that, what level of spending cuts to approve, and what spending reforms should be embraced, led to a delay in the vote. The 'budget resolution' is supposed to be approved in Congress by April 15 of each year - we are now about to turn the calendar to July. If Republicans really want to use the 2018 budget reconciliation process for tax reform, they will have to reach a deal on the budget resolution in July - or it will further delay big issues like tax reform and infrastructure. Failure to pass a budget resolution so far is a big deal for Republicans, who remain at odds over the details, a very similar story to health care.
5. Without a budget resolution, no action on 2018 spending bills. Not only is the budget resolution several months behind schedule, but the individual bills that fund the federal government are slow out of the gate as well, as it's almost assured that the Congress will not get its budget work done on time by the end of September, (the end of the fiscal year). Some GOP lawmakers have even floated the idea of jamming everything together into one big bill in July - rather than waiting until the fall, or even right before Christmas. The biggest problem right now is that no one is quite sure how much money will be spent on the Pentagon and non-defense spending, making it difficult to put together a dozen appropriations bills. This was not what Republican leaders had drawn up on the white board after winning the White House last November. They were going to get their work done, and done on time.
6. The lack of action comes amid rising deficit estimates. President Trump and Republicans in Congress have talked a lot about cutting the budget and reining in the deficit, but as mentioned above, nothing has really been done on that front. In the meantime, a still unexplained drop in tax revenues coming in to Uncle Sam has helped push estimates for this year's deficit much higher. The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday said the 2017 deficit would be 24 percent higher than their estimate from back in January, going up $134 billion to an estimated $693 billion deficit. Why? The CBO mainly blames, "surprisingly weak tax collections." "One reason for the sharp rise in the deficit in 2017 is the slow growth in revenue collections through May and the slow growth expected for the rest of the year," the CBO wrote in a new report. That is not good news for the Trump Administration.
7. One prime example of how bipartisanship can still work. Something that did get done in the month of June was a bill that was sent to the President's desk on reform at the Veterans Affairs Department, as it had very strong support in both parties. The plan gives the VA more legal leeway to fire underperforming employees, all in an effort to improve health care services for veterans. It's a reminder that while Republicans are stuck on health care, taxes, infrastructure and more right now, there are ways to get things done with a buy-in from both political parties. The White House though complained that it didn't get enough attention. "Things like the success at the VA barely get covered," said spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
8. GOP, White House pleased with moves on immigration. From a pair of bills passed on Thursday in the House that crack down on illegal immigrants, to the legal green light for the Trump travel order and tougher measures overall at the southern border with Mexico, Republicans are very pleased with the direction of the Trump Administration on immigration. The House approved one plan to toughen penalties against illegal immigrants who are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. Another bill would withhold federal law enforcement grant money from local governments that refuse to cooperate with the feds on detaining illegal immigrants. While those bills face an uphill fight in the Senate, the GOP clearly feels like this is an issue that plays well with Trump voters all across the country.
9. Congress will spend most of the next two months away from D.C. Labor Day is just over nine weeks away. The legislative work schedule for the House has members in session for 13 days - three weeks in July, and then the Congress is off for a five week break into September. That means GOP leaders will have to choose wisely on what to get done in July. Some Republicans are urging the leadership to cancel the August Recess, but that seems like a long shot right now - unless a certain occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue started weighing in on the need for Congress to stay at work during their scheduled vacation time away from the humidity of the D.C. swamp. I know lots of people say they like it when Congress is out of session - but as I always counter, you can't pass bills to reform things if you're not at work on Capitol Hill.