DC Digest – April 14, 2017

Duke University


In Today’s Issue:

  • Tax Reform or Healthcare
  • Hiring Freeze
  • Dear Colleague Letters
  • Slimming the Government


President Trump gave an interview to Fox Business Thursday April 13 that seems to confirm Republicans haven’t decided if health care or tax reform will to come first. Just weeks after Trump said he would keep Obamacare and move on to tax reform, he is now firmly saying health care needs to happen first.

“We’re going to have phenomenal tax reform. But I have to do health care first. I want to do it first,” he told Fox Business.

Chicken or the Egg?

Healthcare Redemption?

House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows said today that lawmakers may cut their two-week spring recess short to take an Obamacare repeal vote.

“It’s our encouragement to have a vote as soon as we possibly can, even perhaps before we return back to Washington D.C. in another 13 days,” Meadows said. His comments were caught on Periscope by USA Today reporter Eliza Collins, during an interview with WHKP radio station in North Carolina.

With Your Own Ears


As of April 12, domestic agencies can start hiring again after the 79-day hiatus.


Members of the House and Senate have submitted the following FY18 funding letters to their Congressional appropriators. Commonly known as “Dear Colleague” letters, the following texts are meant to publicly display concern or support to colleagues in Congress who are in command of the appropriations process.

  • National Endowment for the Humanities. A total of 144 House Members signed on to the letter circulated by Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) requesting $155 million for NEH in FY18. Thirty-nine Senators joined Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in submitting an NEA/NEH letter requesting FY18 funding of no less than $149.8 million for each endowment.
  • Energy Research Programs, Including ARPA-E. Rep. Don Byer (D-VA) and 68 other Members of the House submitted a letter to appropriators requesting specific FY18 funding levels for the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E, Innovation Hubs, Energy Frontier Research Centers, and Clean Energy Partnerships.
  • National Science Foundation.  Representatives G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) led 132 congressional colleagues in sending a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies urging them to provide $7.5 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in its FY2015 appropriations bill.
  • Title VI International Education and Fulbright-Hays Program. Sixty-two House Members joined Reps. David Price (D-NC), Don Young (R-AK), and Joe Crowley (D-NY) in a letter urging appropriators to support at least FY16 funding levels for these programs.
    Twenty-two Senators joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in his letter requesting funding increases for the programs above the FY16 and FY17 levels.


The federal workforce is marginally bigger today than it was 50 years ago. There were 2.7 million federal employees in 2014, the last year for which data are available, compared to 2.5 million in 1962.


Federal spending increased substantially during this period, and the U.S. population served by those two-to-three million federal employees grew 40%.

Who took up the slack? “The private-sector workforce to which the federal government contracted out the work,” Timothy Noah writes in POLITICO.

Today more than half the Pentagon budget goes immediately out the door to federal contractors,” Noah writes. The large federal-employee cuts envisioned by Trump and Mulvaney, if enacted, would likely shift even more work onto the contract workforce, which tends to be more expensive.

Barn Door After the Horse

The executive branch’s largest civilian workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is at the Department of Veterans Affairs—for which the Trump budget proposes a 6 percent increase. The next-largest, in turn, are the Army, the Navy, the Department of Homeland Security and the Air Force. The Trump budget proposes increases for all these, too. Indeed, more than half of the federal bureaucracy is defense-related, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and that’s not counting uniformed military personnel.

“You’re Fired!”