Congressional Members didn’t just snub Trump on his Border Wall, they also used the $1 trillion Spending Deal hatched over the weekend to rein in the President’s Powers.
Lawmakers want the Trump Administration to lay out a Detailed Plan to Deal with the Islamic State and Syria’s Bashar Assad. So they tucked in a Provision in the 1,665-page Spending Plan to withhold $2.5 billion in Defense Funds until the Proposal to Battle ISIS is produced.
Because Republicans and Democrats don’t want Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department to muck around with States that allow Medical Marijuana, they included language in the Bill Barring the Anti-Pot Attorney General from interfering with those Laws.
The measure also contains three separate reminders for Trump, who did not seek Congressional Approval before launching Missile Strikes against the Syrian Government last month, that he must obey the War Powers Act. That Law limits his ability to send U.S. Troops into Combat without a Congressional vote.
“It’s an assertion, I think, of Congress’ power to appropriate and to set the tone,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), a Member of the Appropriations Committee. “I don’t see it as a finger in the eye so much as just a reassertion of our ability to put our own imprint on what’s going on.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are always eager to show the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue that they hold significant Leverage, regardless of which Party controls the White House. Many of the Provisions at issue have been included in past measures to constrain the Powers of previous Administrations, including that of President Obama. But they’re taking on new significance in the Trump era and the Conservative stances of its top officials.
The Marijuana language, for instance, has been part of Spending Bills since 2014. But Sessions, a former Senator, has a long record of opposition to Marijuana Legalization. His history on the issue triggered concern from a Bipartisan group of Senators that the Trump Justice Department could launch a Marijuana crackdown, until the attorney General made reassurances earlier this year. Twenty-nine States and the District of Columbia have Laws green-lighting Medical Marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Advocates of the language, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), applauded its inclusion Monday, which was done over objections of some powerful GOP Lawmakers. “Yeah, I don’t like that,” said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican Overseeing Funding for DEpartment of Justice (DOJ). “The attorney general ultimately is sworn to uphold the law. I don’t see any good coming from that.”
Trump officials asked Congress last fall to punt a full-year Spending Measure to 2017 so the new President could leave his own imprint on Spending priorities, but he notched few wins in the so-called Omnibus Funding bill that’s set to glide through both Chambers of Congress this week. After trumpeting the need for his border Wall and threatening to withhold Funding for Payments to Insurers that stabilize the Affordable Care Act, Trump relented on both, though he did win a Healthy Funding boost for the Military.
Despite his losses, Trump still threw his Support behind the Funding Measure: “We’re very happy with it,” Trump told Bloomberg News in an interview Monday.
But with the other, less-noticed Provisions, Congress is also asserting itself as a Counterweight to the Authority of the Commander-in-Chief. The Omnibus Funding Bill strikes at Trump the most when it comes to Foreign Policy and National Defense, an arena where he’s espoused unorthodox views outside the Mainstream of both Parties.
The spending Bill reminds Trump that he must follow the War Powers Act if he wants to send U.S. Troops further into harm’s way in Iraq and Syria. The Iraq Provision says the President must follow the War Powers measure before introducing U.S. Armed Forces “into hostilities in Iraq, into situations in Iraq where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, or into Iraqi territory, airspace, or waters while equipped for combat.”
The Trump Administration also must Submit a Report within 90 days outlining its Strategy for dealing with the Assad Regime. That requirement is especially relevant in the aftermath of Trump’s Airstrikes in Syria last month. Trump won Bipartisan praise from Congress, even as Lawmakers demanded that Congress be engaged prior to any future Military Action against Assad.
“I’m happy with the national security team, and I’m happy with what they’ve done,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona said on Monday. “But I’ve said repeatedly that they need a strategy and we need to know that strategy — the Congress does.” The Funding measure also tries to force the Trump Administration to take a harder line toward Russia. That’s a sensitive subject for Trump, whose Presidential Campaign is being Investigated by the FBI over allegations it colluded with Moscow to Damage Democratic nominee Clinton.
The Measure allocates Money to a new Fund totaling at least $100 million to Counter Russian influence. It will Finance measures to promote good Governance in areas that are coming under pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a summary of the Measure from Senate Democrats.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate Democrats’ point person on Funding matters, said the new Russian-focused Fund was not directly aimed at Trump. It was included in the Spending Bill “because we needed it,” Leahy said.
The Bill also continues Funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, which is designed to bolster the U.S. Military presence in Eastern Europe to deter further Russian Aggression toward its neighbors.
And the spending measure seeks to strengthen the Pentagon’s Internal Watchdog, saying Federal Agencies shall not prevent or impede the Inspector General from accessing “records, documents, or other materials.”
“Overwhelmingly, we were very pleased with the outcome on issue after issue, both on the spending side and the legislative side, the poison-pill side,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “I would not say there’s a major loss in here.”
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker