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National Govt & Politics
LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings
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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

After hearing Tuesday from three people who listened in on President Trump's July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, lawmakers will take testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who helped to coordinate efforts in Ukraine with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland will certainly have to address a phone call he supposedly made from a restaurant in Ukraine - on an unsecured cell phone - where he spoke to President Trump, who made clear he wanted to know if Ukraine was going to announce it had started investigations into the Bidens, and a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the elections.

“Ambassador Sondland is a big personality,” said former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who testified a day earlier.

Follow along with developments here:

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8:00 pm.  While the hearing is over, there is now an extra session in which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are voting down a variety of requests from Republicans for subpoenas of Hunter Biden, the whistleblower, and others.

7:25 pm. Here's the headlines from tonight's hearing so far:

+ New emails show Ukraine embassy asked on July 25 what was going on with military aid

+ State Dept official says at a July 26 meeting OMB said the President had directed a delay on that aid.

Trump-Zelensky call was July 25.

7:00 pm.  Here is the video of Hale's testimony with respect to the July 26 meeting where an OMB official said the President had authorized a hold on the military aid for Ukraine.

6:55 pm.  One of the GOP arguments is that Ukraine did not know the military aid was on hold. But it's clear that the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call had the Kyiv government concerned.

6:45 pm.  While this is a fairly dry hearing which reminds me of covering a regular Congressional oversight hearing, there have been some kernels of news.  Along with Cooper's statement, Hale says at an interagency meeting on July 26, officials were told that military aid was on hold “because the President had so directed through the Acting Chief of Staff."

6:10 pm. Cooper says her Pentagon staff found a series of emails in which there were concerns relayed by Ukraine officials about why military aid was on hold. Two of the emails were sent to State Dept on July 25. That was the same day President Trump spoke with the Ukraine leader.

5:40 pm.  After almost a two hour break, the second hearing is underway.  Pentagon official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale are testifying.

3:45 pm.  The hearing has ended.  There was prolonged applause for Sondland as he left the room.

3:15 pm.  Sondland says it would have been better for a Trump-Zelensky meeting to take place without conditions, saying he thought their chemistry would have been very good, describing the Ukraine leader as smart, funny, and charming.

3:10 pm.  The GOP frustration grows with Sondland at this hearing.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH to Sondland: "You said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't."

2:20 pm.  It's now open season on Sondland from the Republican side.  Rep. Mike Turner R-OH blasted Sondland, calling his testimony 'confusing' and 'somewhat circular.' 

Turner was followed by Rep. Brad Wenstrup R-OH, who rebuked Sondland as well.  House Republicans moved quickly to get the Turner Q&A out on social media.

2:00 pm.  Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH echoes earlier GOP complaints to Sondland about why he didn't use a quote from the President in today's opening statement where Mr. Trump denied any quid pro quo.

1:50 pm.  Giuliani tweeted something about Sondland at 12:29 pm, and then deleted it.  Now, about an hour later, he has re-posted the same tweet.  Not clear what changed, or what was wrong with the original missive.

1:40 pm.  Sondland is back.  The White House has just issued a statement on his testimony, pushing back on his 'quid pro quo' assertions.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

1:09 pm.  The committee is taking a break for lunch.  Republicans had so little to offer between Nunes and Castor that they did not use their full 30 minutes.

1:05 pm.   Giuliani has already deleted his 12:29 pm tweet about Sondland's testimony.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

12:50 pm.  Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA has again been making the GOP point today that President Trump clearly had a reason to be mad at Ukraine over what happened in 2016. One of the things which happened was the downfall of his campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

12:35 pm.   Democrats clearly feel today's testimony has played in their favor. 

12:30 pm.  Giuliani joins the President in downplaying the role of Sondland.

12:15 pm.  The GOP effort to counter Sondland is to say that he has no evidence to back up his assertions.

12:00 pm.  Here are the comments by President Trump about Sondland as he left the White House today.

11:45 am. The GOP response in the hearing (and outside) is that President Trump never directly told Sondland to do anything.

Q: The President never told you about pre-conditions for a White House meeting.

Sondland: "Personally, no."

11:30 am.  President Trump is now 45 minutes behind schedule for his departure from the White House.  He is headed today to Texas.

11:25 am.  Nunes starts the GOP time by focusing not on anything Sondland said in his testimony so far today, focusing on Republican allegations that Ukraine was 'out to get him' during the 2016 elections.

First question from Nunes on this line.

Sondland: "I am not aware of it."

Nunes keeps going with more.

Sondland: "I am not aware of it."

11:20 am.  During the break, Democrats went to the TV cameras stationed outside.  

11:15 am.  Again in this impeachment hearing process, viewers on Fox News are getting some different messages.

11:00 am.  A light moment in the hearing, as Sondland says he and President Trump tend to communicate with words that probably aren't for kids.

10:47 am.  On the Drudge Report.  It's not the greatest of headlines for the President on what's usually a favorable website.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

10:45 am. Sondland said the President and Giuliani wanted Ukraine to publicly announce the Burisma / Bidens / Crowdstrike-2016 investigations.

But Sondland says that doesn't mean Ukraine actually had to undertake the investigations.

10:35 am.  Critics of the President in Congress say the testimony today from Sondland is a big, big deal.

10:20 am. Sondland says Secretary of State Pompeo was up to date with the Giuliani/Trump efforts all along.

Sondland says he raised the delay in aid with Vice President Pence on September 1. 

10:15 am.  Sondland has finished with his opening statement.  There is a lot of explosive testimony there, especially Sondland saying that 'everyone was in the loop' about the President seeking investigations from Ukraine.

10:05 am.  Was there a quid pro quo involving Ukraine?  Sondland says, in one sense, the answer is yes.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

10:00 am.  Sondland says he was surprised to see the rough transcript of the July 25 call the President had with the leader of Ukraine, because he had not been told about the fact that President Trump mentioned investigations related to Biden/Burisma/Crowdstrike in the call.

9:50 am.  Sondland repeatedly says that State Department officials wanted no part of Giuliani being involved in diplomatic work.  But the President did.  So, they had to play the hand they were dealt (Sondland's description).

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:40 am.  Democrats immediately seize on the 'quid pro quo' description by Sondland.  

9:27 am.  Sondland uses the term “quid pro quo” to describe what was going on at three different points in his prepared testimony.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:25 am.  Sondland will also show that Vice President Pence was in that loop as well.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:20 am.  Sondland says multiple times - “Everyone was in the loop.”

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:15 am.  Sondland says it has been difficult to come up with answers because the White House and State Department have not helped him get documents and phone records.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:10 am.  The hearing is underway.  Sondland's statement is going to provide some interesting moments in questioning from both parties.  Here is the Ambassador's recount of the July 26 unsecured cell call to President Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

9:00 am - The opening statement of Sondland is now available at the following link.

8:40 am.  Someone asked me on Facebook what the advantage is of actually being in the hearing room.  In one way, it is being a witness to history.  But not seeing the TV feed could put you at a disadvantage, as many others watch every facial twitch, frown, and smile on the faces of the witnesses and lawmakers.  

When I got here into the room this morning, I found the still photographers had taken my power plug spot, and a TV crew has taken my audio feed. So, I had to deal with that, and switch things around. If I were back in my booth in either the House or Senate side of the Capitol, everything would be just fine. I could stand, go to the bathroom, have lunch,  etc.  Here is my “view” of the dais.

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LIVE UPDATES - Day 4 of the Trump Impeachment Hearings

8:10 am.  The folks at Fox and Friends do not buy the testimony that President Trump talks loud and could be overheard on his cell phone.

8:00 am.  A reminder of the testimony so far, is that Sondland called up President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine, and spoke to him on an unsecured cell phone.  In that call, US embassy staffer David Holmes testified that he could easily hear the President's voice, and hear what was being discussed with Sondland - investigations - which Mr. Trump wanted from the Ukraine government.

The Holmes testimony can be found at this link.

7:50 am.  The Sondland phone call with President Trump is going to get a lot of attention today - and rightfully so.

7:45 am.  Most readers probably know Sondland's name from the impeachment / Ukraine controversy, but don't really know all of the details.  There's some interesting stuff which has GOP lawmakers a bit uneasy, because the script today may not be that obvious at first.

7:35 am.  It's not just Gordon Sondland testifying today, starting at 9 am.  And there is another hearing on Thursday.  Like Tuesday, it would be no surprise for me if the hearings are still going at 8 pm - which is when the Democratic debate in Atlanta is set to begin.  That would a split screen political Super Bowl.

Read More
  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • A New Jersey town council approved a resolution last week that proclaimed it a “sanctuary township” for law-abiding gun owners. Lawmakers in West Milford passed a non-binding resolution that “opposes further interference with, or abridging of, the rights of lawful gun owners,” NJ.com reported. Pete McGuinness, council president in the rural town of 26,000 people, said the resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote Dec. 4, the website reported. “We’re just letting the community know we are a gun-friendly, Second Amendment-positive township,” McGuinness told NJ.com. The resolution declares West Milford a “Second Amendment/lawful gun owner sanctuary township' and criticizes “red flag laws” that have been adopted by at least 17 states, including New Jersey, rthe website reported. Adoption of the resolution came six days before a shooting in Jersey City that killed four people, including a police officer, NJ.com reported.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • Forecasts are still showing a chance for a wintry mix Sunday night into Monday morning. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say a light wintry mix will be possible along the I-44 corridor later Sunday night. Temperatures may cool enough to support all snow near the Kansas border.  They don’t expect much accumulation, although some issues could develop along elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses.  The FOX23 and KRMG Severe Weather Team will be keeping a close eye on the data.

Washington Insider

  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Friday morning in support of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending the issue to the House floor for a historic vote next week. After Democrats had recessed the hearing late on Thursday night, lawmakers reconvened for two quick votes on impeachment articles dealing with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 noes,” the committee clerk said twice, as Democrats moved in rapid fire fashion to report the impeachment articles to the full House. Republicans denounced the outcome. You don't get to remove a President because you don't like him,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA).    “They did not produce a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of impeachment.” “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who called the effort a 'railroad job.' “It was a witch hunt,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up. Democrats said the case for action was simple. “The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Today is a solemn and said day,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).  “The House will act expeditiously.” The committee vote sends the issue to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate would be required to hold a historic impeachment trial, which is expected to start in January. President Trump would be the third President subjected to such a trial under the Constitution, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As for the President, his Press Secretary joined GOP lawmakers in ridiculing the impeachment effort. “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she added. A Senate impeachment trial is expected to start in January.
  • After over 14 hours of debate, Democrats surprised Republicans by holding off a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee until Friday morning on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as Democrats charged the President was clearly trying to get Ukraine to announce investigations which would benefit Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. 'President Trump used his office to serve himself,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), as Democrats said the evidence was clear that President Trump was trying to get foreign help for 2020. 'The President is an imminent threat,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). 'We have to take action, we must impeach the President.'  'One of my colleagues said that we are lowering the bar on impeachment,' said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). 'I believe we are lowering the bar on the Presidency.' Republicans denounced the impeachment effort as a political vendetta by a party which was still upset about losing the 2016 election. 'This impeachment is going to fail, and the Democrats are justly going to pay a heavy political price for it,' said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). 'This is a day that will live in infamy for the Judiciary Committee,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). 'It's a focus group impeachment,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as Republicans decried the lack of detail in the articles of impeachment. The delay in the committee vote until Friday left Republicans spitting mad, as GOP lawmakers were caught completely off guard. “Stalinesque,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Republicans had prolonged debate until after 11 pm - and the immediate thought on Capitol Hill was that Democrats did not want to be accused of voting on impeachment 'in the middle of the night' - so they delayed action until Friday. The panel will meet at 10 am ET.
  • Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20. 'There's a meeting of the minds,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1. With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress. 'Two minibuses = an omnibus,' tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan. Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1. But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate. Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.