May 19, 2019

Democrats' next oversight move: The power of the purse

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Democrats are considering a new idea to pressure the Trump administration to comply with their subpoenas. The idea is to use the appropriations process as leverage and threaten to withhold funding until they get the documents and testimony they've requested.

Why it matters: It's a move that has a high risk of failure, since appropriations bills have to be approved by a Republican-held Senate and signed by the president. But given the Trump administration's determination to resist all of the Democrats' oversight efforts, and the prospect that court fights could take years, they're being forced to consider every tool they might have.

How it works: Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee are writing the bills that will fund the federal government for the next fiscal year — including the ones that will fund the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, two of the departments that have been resisting subpoenas.

  • A separate House committee could ask the appropriators to add a provision that would limit funds to a department that isn't complying with the subpoenas.
  • A member of Congress could also try to attach an amendment to one of the appropriations bills when they reach the floor in June.

So far, there's no detailed plan. Axios spoke with several members of Congress and staffers involved in the talks, and as of now they say discussions have been preliminary.

  • "We look at it as, 'Okay what's our recourse?' This is one of them. We also have contempt orders and fines," a senior Democratic leadership aide told Axios.
  • A House appropriations committee aide said the tactic would probably be useful mostly as a threat, adding that "if Dems are trying to target swift compliance, this may not be the most effective option" given how long it takes to pass appropriations bills.

The bottom line: There's probably no oversight tool that won't lead to months of delays if the Trump administration is determined to resist House Democrats.

Go deeper: How Trump is stalling Democrats

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Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 hours ago - Health