'All Money, All the Time’ Session Seen as Congress Returns to Work


This year’s work in Congress to repeal federal regulations peaked last winter. The debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act faded and now is on the back burner. The consideration of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan appears stillborn.

But both the White House and lawmakers now are gearing up for what seemed destined to be the main event all along: a year-end food fight over more than $1 trillion in federal dollars and even more in tax breaks the business community wants in lieu of the complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code Trump promised.

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K Street strategists are summing up lawmakers’ fall agenda as “all money, all the time” and said the end product of the well-run sausage factory may be one massive package that combines all of this year’s spending bills, desired tax cuts, and an increase in the federal debt limit. If Trump has his way, the package also could include the money he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is the new order, this is the new normal,” said Tom Spulak, a partner at the firm of King & Spalding who oversees the firm’s government advocacy operation. “It’s less committee involvement, and it gets to be more top down.

“The leaders look at some big numbers and then they negotiate over really big pots of money for Defense and some other issues and this year they’ll throw the debt limit on the table,” Spulak said. “So what’s going to happen is we’ll go down to the wire and probably go to Christmastime and we’ll come out with some big deal that, once again, probably kicks some of it into next year.”

Spulak, a former top House aide, told Bloomberg BNA it’s not clear whether lawmakers will also be able to finalize a package of tax cuts this fall. But if they do, he said he and other members of the firm expect they could take a ride on the spending package.

“If it’s done this year, it’s going to be added to spending and debt limit,” Spulak said.