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Washington Wednesday: Looming deadline may kill appropriations bills

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WORLD Radio - Washington Wednesday: Looming deadline may kill appropriations bills

Plus, voter perceptions following the first Republican primary debate


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy answers reporter questions. Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, File

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 30th of August, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up first: Washington Wednesday.

It’s now been a week since the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 campaign season. Eight candidates on stage, and it led to a number of memorable moments. Former Vice President Pence clashed multiple times with businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.

PENCE: We’re not looking for a new national identity. The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving idealistic, hard-working people the world has ever known. We just need government as good as out people… ”

RAMASWAMY: Well, Mike, I think the difference is you might have some others like you may have on the stage.

It's morning in America speech. It is not morning in America. We live in a dark moment, and we have to confront the fact that we’re in an internal sort of cold cultural civil war…

PENCE: You are equating the American people with the failed government in Washington, D.C. We just need government as good as our people again…

REICHARD: The debate also turned on controversial questions like how to respond to climate change. Former governor Nikki Haley said it’s complicated.

HALEY: First of all, we do care about clean air, clean water. We want to see that taken care of, but there's a right way to do it and the right way to do it is first of all, yes, is climate change real. Yes, it is. But if you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions. That's where our problem is. And these green subsidies that Biden has put in all he's done is help China because half of the batteries for electric vehicles are made in China. And so that's not helping the environment. You're putting money in China's pocket and Biden did that….

EICHER: Each of the candidates has since claimed victory in the debate, but what do the viewers think? Here for more is WORLD Washington Reporter, Leo Briceno.

REICHARD: Leo, good morning.

LEO BRICENO, REPORTER: Hey, Mary.

REICHARD: Well, we've heard a variety of perspectives on who in the debate performed well and who did not. But what did the numbers say?

BRICENO: Sure, yeah, it's been a week since the first Republican presidential debate and polling sites like FiveThirtyEight have gone to town surveying Republicans who watched the event and trying to gauge what impact it had on their perspective. And before we get into those numbers, first, you have to keep in mind that this isn't a randomized national poll, and that the voters who take the time right to watch a two hour debate are kind of a demographic in and of themselves, and this might be representative of a smaller portion within the Republican Party. So just keep that in mind.

REICHARD: Do you have a few takeaways for us from the debate?

BRICENO: Sure, yeah. Multiple polls show that Nikki Haley saw the highest jump in voters who said they’ll consider casting their ballot for her. Two, a majority of watchers said that DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy won the debate, and third, DeSantis remains way behind former President Donald Trump. Analysis by Reuters and Ipsos shows that roughly 13% of watching respondents would make Him their number one choice. That falls well short of Trump who pulled 52% among respondents.

REICHARD: Well, speaking of Trump, the moderators devoted a section of the debate to the elephant that wasn't in the room. They asked about how the candidates viewed Trump's actions on January 6, his claims of a stolen election and his many indictments. Now, many debaters rebuked the former President's actions in one way or the other, but when they were asked if they would support Trump, if he were the eventual Party nominee, even after being convicted, only two candidates didn't raise their hands. And those were former governors Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie. And here's some audio from each of them, respectively.

HUTCHINSON: I did not raise my hand because there’s an important issue we as a party have to face. Over a year ago I said that Donald Trump is morally disqualified from being president again as a result of what happened on Jan 6th

CHRISTIE: Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.

REICHARD: Now, how did the debate affect Trump's poll numbers? You said he's still far ahead of DeSantis. But did his support rise or fall after the debate?

BRICENO: Yeah, it's for now it seems that his numbers have dropped marginally. A national poll conducted by Emerson College found that Trump's support slipped by close to 6% since the debate, but that still leaves them close to 50% support among Republican respondents. So a slight change there, yes.

REICHARD: So what does that mean for challengers looking for that second place spot?

BRICENO: Listen, at this point, it would be historic for Trump to lose his grip on a 20 point 30 point lead right, depending on the candidate you're looking at. But if he did that will go down in history as one of America's greatest political upsets. So but if you're if you're in that second place, spot, right, if you're a Governor Ron DeSantis, or maybe you're someone like Ramaswamy, who's who's vying for that second place spot, if Trump slips six points down, that's six points closer to where you want to see him, right? So in their perspective, they'll take any when they can get well, that makes sense.

REICHARD: After all, Trump himself was at just 12% back in July 2015. And he surprised many with an upset of his own.

BRICENO: Certainly, yeah, it's one example of a historic upset there. And lots of these candidates are hoping to make similar jumps in the poll by using not just this debate, but the upcoming one on September 27.

REICHARD: Well, I know that elections aren’t the only thing occupying you on the politics beat. There’s a budget battle coming up in Washington, and you’ve been watching that, as well. What do you see?

BRICENO: Yeah, that’s right. The budget is a large talking point right now on Capitol Hill, and they're struggling to find consensus over it.

REICHARD: Well, as I understand it, we need the government to approve new funding before the end of September or risk, yet another shutdown. Leo, it seems like this issue comes up every single year at about this time. Anything different this time?

BRICENO: Yeah, actually, in years past, appropriations bills have usually been completed through last minute omnibus bills. That's kind of where Congress takes all of its spending needs, puts them in one massive bucket and then passes that bucket. But at the outset of last year, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated that he wants to take us step away from that approach, kind of that all-in-one approach to funding the government.

REICHARD: And how is the situation panning out?

BRICENO: Yeah, not not great at the moment. It's August. So we've got one month till the deadline. And Congress is not where it needs to be when it comes to the negotiations needed to pass the spending packages in kind of a more traditional way. You mentioned the omnibus bill. Well, before Congress started using them on a routine basis, sometime in the mid-1990s, lawmakers used to pass 12 separate bills corresponding to the many areas of government that needed funding. And so that process allowed for greater attention to detail, greater transparency through a step-by-step consideration. So one bill on transportation, one bill on agriculture, one bill on energy and so on. But that kind of a process takes a lot of time.

I recently spoke with Dr. Matthew Green, the chair of the department of politics at the Catholic University of America. He says that one of the reasons that Congress started using the omnibus bill in the first place was to speed things up. And right now, time is of the essence.

GREEN: The fiscal year ends in a month, and we are so far behind. You could call it a miracle, call it what you will. Think of this like an independent study. And you need to write a 50-page paper. If you don’t start until two months before graduation, you’re going to need an extension.

REICHARD: You know, it sounds like Congress has some catching up to do there. Is it impossible to do it in the normal way at this point?

BRICENO: The problem is, this isn't like a term paper you can just push out with a couple of all nighters and energy drinks. I mean, even if parts of the budget look very similar year over year, the parts that do end up changing require so much attention, if you're going to pass it that traditional 12 bill route. And here's Green again, with a little bit on what that looks like.

GREEN: A lot of appropriation bills can get very specific about how money is spent. Then there are all the members of congress with some influence at this stage, like members of the appropriations committee. Well, they have their own interests and requests. We haven’t even talked about earmarks. It’s just way too many moving parts to rush something and push it through.

REICHARD: That's interesting. It's sometimes hard to negotiate even within parties. I'm thinking back to 2018 when the government shutdown over disagreement about funding for Trump's border wall, despite a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. So what does that mean for the government's funding in 2024? Without going the normal route, that would force Kevin McCarthy to backtrack on his plans, wouldn't it?

BRICENO: It would be amazing at this point if he found a way to make it happen, quite frankly. For now, McCarthy has floated the idea of a temporary funding bill to stall any chance of a government shutdown, to punt the ball as it were for a little bit. But the Freedom Caucus, some of the most conservative members in the House of Representatives, say that they will only cooperate with that kind of a plan if they can get some of their policy priorities included in the appropriations bills. Some of those things include additional funding for the southern border security, for instance. And if that logjam continues, we're probably looking at another omnibus bill, something that the leadership can use to push past Congress in a timely fashion.

REICHARD: I know you'll be keeping your eye on it. Thanks for the updates, Leo, appreciate it.

BRICENO: Thanks for having me.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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