The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.

H-1Bs are in the news right now. So, what are they?


By: Carlos Iturregui

H-1B work visas may see a major overhaul in the near future. At last week’s news briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that possible executive action on work visas “is part of a larger immigration effort” under consideration by the new Administration.

Proponents see H-1B holders as beneficial to American industry, especially companies in the technology and science sectors. Opponents see the program as a way to displace American workers with lower-paid H-1B visa holders.

H-1Bs are championed by not only by tech/engineering industry but also academic and medical communities, all of which are vital to the Massachusetts economy. This category of visas applies only to highly skilled workers with degrees. Another category of visas – the H-2B – applies to seasonal non-agriculture workers (such as hospitality).

Industry should keep a watchful eye for changes to either visa type.

Historically, increasing H-1B visas has been a bipartisan issue. H-1Bs are subject to a Congressionally-mandated annual quota cap. Raising the annual cap and increasing resources for approving H-1B visas are regularly included in both Republican and Democrat bills.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received over 236,000 petitions for the 65,000 H-1B FY 2017 quota during the standard five day filing period between April 1st and April 7th, 2016. That was the highest number of petitions that USICS has ever received for H-1B quota cap since its inception. 2016 was the fourth consecutive year that the visa cap was reached in five days

Some general facts about H-1Bs:

  • H-1Bs are capped annually at 65,000 visas (of which 1,400 are reserved for Chile and 5,400 for Singapore – pursuant to Trade Agreements)
  • An additional 20,000 are exempt from the cap providing that the visa applicant has completed master degree in an approved institution or higher grade
  • H-1Bs are valid for three years and renewable/extended for an additional three
  • H-1Bs are the only visa with expedited processing
  • Visa holders are employer sponsored
  • Families of visa holders can come to the US, but they cannot work. Accordingly, most of these visa holders enter the country alone and remain separated from their friends and families
  • In FY 2015 70 percent of H-1Bs went to Indian immigrants with an average age of 25-34 years old and a median salary $70,000s/annual

OA Hosts Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus’ “Post-Election Apocalypse” Media Panel



                       From left to right: Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive

On Wednesday evening, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC) hosted a “Post-Election Apocalypse” panel at O’Neill and Associates, which offered an insider’s view on the recent election results and a discussion on what happens next. Featured panelists included Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive. This diverse group of panelists offered unique perspectives on the influential role that media played in this year’s presidential election.


The MWPC is a non-partisan organization that celebrates over 40 years of supporting women in politics and public policy. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Director Jennifer Krowchun started off the night by highlighting major gains for female politicians in this election and specifically for women of color. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Vice President Ann Murphy led the lively panel discussion.

While many things remain unclear, the need for unity and introspection was a theme throughout the evening. Collectively, both the panelists and the audience agreed that Wednesday morning’s results were shocking, especially given weeks of conflicting media messages and pollsters’ numbers. For the media, some panelists suggested that this election should serve as a call to action for Americans to take a step back and audit their sources from which they receive news, while also being mindful of the temptation to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and media outlets.

For those not able to attend in person, O’Neill and Associates streamed the event on Facebook Live. If you’d like to hear more about what the panelists had to say, you can watch the videos on O’Neill and Associates’ Facebook page here.

To learn more about MWPC, visit its website.

Three Keys to Hillary Clinton’s Big Debate Win

By Suzanne Morse


By all objective measures, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory last night in the first presidential debate, the biggest moment yet of the 2016 presidential campaign.  Both an instant poll by CNN and a Public Policy Polling survey rated her the overwhelming winner (62 percent vs. 27 percent and 51 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively); a focus group by pollster Frank Luntz gave the win to Hillary Clinton; and even the investor markets indicated a clear victory for the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.

So, what were three keys to her winning strategy?

  • Managing Sky High Expectations – Last night, Hillary Clinton pulled off something that is nearly impossible: she not only met high expectations, she exceeded them. Most observers believed that the debate was Clinton’s to lose, which is a risky position to be in.  But in the days before the debate, the Clinton campaign directly took on those expectations, convincingly making the case that Trump should not be graded on a curve.  The campaign was helped in this effort by Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who said the day before the debate that Trump is the “Babe Ruth of debating.”

    Once she took the debate stage, Clinton performed well – she seemed presidential, and in command of both facts and temperament. She answered difficult questions swiftly and decisively, and took the countless opportunities that Trump gave her to put him on the defensive.  All in all, it was an excellent performance from Hillary Clinton across the board.

  • Winning the Social Media Game – Debates are no longer just won or lost by how reporters discuss them. Social media has taken on an increasing importance in shaping the debate narrative.  According to Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies’ Illuminating 2016 project, Hillary Clinton won the “share of voice” contest on social media last night.  This influenced the narrative of the evening, and will likely continue to impact the fallout from the debate.
  • Walking the Gender Tightrope – Somewhat lost in all of the hoopla last evening was the fact that Hillary Clinton is the first woman to ever be in a general presidential debate. Fairly or not, Clinton had to manage the many stereotypes that are applied to women in public positions, from her onstage demeanor and her clothing choices to the tone of her voice.  From the moment she walked on stage, Clinton looked and sounded presidential and assertive while avoiding most gender traps.

Make sure to tune in to the next debate, which will feature Vice Presidential candidates, Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence and moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBSN.  It will be held on Tuesday, October 4th at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.

Suzanne Morse is a vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ communications division, specializing in media relations, messaging and branding, and strategic advocacy campaigns. Connect with Suzanne Morse on Twitter @sznnmorse or by email at

Inbox Journalism

Director Alex Bloom

Director Alex Bloom

Everyday, I receive 15 different email newsletters.

My inbox populates with newsletters from well-regarded reporters and thought leaders who have spent the early morning reading and curating the news before sending out the best of the day’s clips to their subscribers.

A few examples (disclaimer, I’m an avowed political junkie):

It’s an interesting concept – journalists are being recruited to lend a critical eye to already-reported news stories and send an email assessing the day’s coverage. And the formula goes far beyond politics:

  • TheSkimm, a general interest newsletter geared toward Millennial women, now boasts nearly two million subscribers.
  • The New York Times christened POLITICO’s Mike Allen as “The Man the White House Wakes Up To” for his Playbook, with over 100,000 subscribers.
  • Dan Primack’s Term Sheet, at Fortune Magazine, is one of the best places to get up to date on the latest financial news and has over 50,000 subscribers.

Here in the Boston media market, newsletters are picking up steam. POLITICO arrived last summer, making a newsletter writer their first Massachusetts hire. As the Boston Globe launched STAT last fall, one of their first moves was to seek “a stylish and engaging writer,” according to a job posting, for a morning newsletter. Megan Thielking now anchors the Morning Rounds. The Boston Business Journal has 18 newsletters, Boston Magazine has 15 and the Boston Herald offers nine.

The best and most successful newsletters, according to WGBH’s Mike Deehan, are the ones that find and cultivate a niche.

Deehan spent six years as the author of MASSterList, growing the State House News Service product to 10,000 subscribers as he injected more and more of his humor and sarcasm into the each email. His goal was to take a morning news roundup that he inherited and make it “one that’s a little more enjoyable to read.”

There’s also a difference between authored newsletters – like MASSterList – and a collection of aggregated links without explanation, such as the offering from the newly-minted Crain’s Boston.

But overall, newsletters are growing in popularity, likely because newsletters are mobile-friendly. According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and more than half (55%) got news on their smartphone at least once over the course of a one-week survey period.

Deehan said that the user experience of reading an emailed breakdown of the news, rather than having to open your web browser to multiple different news sites, is a key aspect of the success.

“When it is mobile-first like that and phone-centric, you’re probably going to increase your readership because it is easier to read,” Deehan said.

The trend does present a dilemma for reporters, however. Appearing in a popular newsletter – like Allen’s Playbook – will give great exposure to a game-changing story. But it could also mean that readers don’t ever make it to the full story. For Deehan, who now finds his WGBH radio reports in other newsletters, it isn’t a problem.

“It’s gravy anyway,” said Deehan, who likes to amplify a story’s reach through his own social media. “It’s added to whatever the outreach of that story is going to be.”

For brands, these newsletters represent a great opportunity to get a press release or an announcement in front of key influencers and audiences.

Deehan believes the best newsletters have highly-specific audiences, creating communities around a “high interest” topic. And industry leaders seem to be recognizing that trend, as the New York Times announced this week that it will be creating a newsletter focused solely toward college students.

“The more successful emails are the ones that get ‘nichier’ and ‘nichier,’” Deehan said.

Senior Vice President Cosmo Macero Jr. also offers a glimpse into his inbox with a few of his favorite reads:

  • Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a collection of quirky stories from across the spectrum, making it one of the few successful newsletters that offers general interest news.
  • DealBook, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, comes out twice a day as the New York Times’ mergers and acquisitions reporter/Wall Street expert shapes world financial news.
  • For media insiders, the Morning Media Newsfeed newsletter from Mediabistro plugs readers in to the latest on media news.
  • 5-Bullet Friday captures the thoughts and ideas of Tim Ferriss, an author, investor, and expert on management and leadership.
  • Muck Rack Daily keeps you updated on the latest moves and changes in the world of journalism.

Alex Bloom is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. Connect with him by email at and on Twitter at @AlexBloom_05

Five Things I Learned in Iowa

By Nicole Giambusso

Nicole Giambusso, O'Neill and AssociatesIowa Caucus season always brings me back to my days as a field organizer there during the 2008 presidential campaign (full disclosure, I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter). Recently, I’ve realized that the caucuses are an enigma for many people who haven’t experienced them. Here are some takeaways from my time in Iowa for those seeking a little clarity on this iconic political milestone:

The Democratic Caucuses require candidates to be “viable.”

In Iowa, the Democratic and Republican caucus rules differ. During a caucus, Democratic presidential candidates must be deemed “viable” – that is, 15 percent of total voters in the room have to be supporting them in order for those votes to count at all.  When a candidate is deemed non-viable, their supporters are then asked to support alternate candidates. As one could imagine, supporters of low-polling candidates are highly sought after by campaigns vying to be their second choice. The Republicans don’t have this viability requirement. (If they did, I’m sure this year’s crowded field would make for a long and interesting reshuffling process).

There are no secret ballots in Democratic caucuses.

While Republican caucuses use secret ballots, the Democratic caucuses ask voters to stand in a given section of the room to vote publicly for their candidate of choice.

There are no absentee ballots.

Caucusing has to take place in person. I spoke with several potential voters unable to caucus due to factors such as work, lack of child care, or health issues. Barriers remain today, although both parties are making it possible this year for members of the military serving abroad to take part, and the Democrats are taking additional steps toward greater accessibility.

Many Iowans love the process.

A number of Iowans love engaging with campaign staffers who flock to their communities each election cycle. Kind locals – some of whom were not even declared Hillary supporters – fed me zucchini bread and acorn squash, left their doors unlocked in case I needed a snack, restroom or computer, and even gave me a ride in a corn combine. Many Iowans seemed to love the process not only for the chance to see candidates up close, but for the energy and enthusiasm it brought.

Iowa is just as ideologically complex as anywhere else.

The precincts I covered ranged from small towns to expansive farmlands, and like voters across the U.S., they ran the gamut ideologically, from conservative democrats to progressives and everything in between. I even recall a handful of voters telling me they were torn between Obama and Huckabee: two candidates with little in common but their charisma (and of course, winning their respective caucuses that year). These memories flooded back when I read the recent Boston Globe story highlighting New Hampshire voters torn between candidates like Governor John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Among other things I learned in Iowa are the real meaning of winter, that there’s such a thing as fried ice cream, and that working with passionate people can make the coldest weather and longest hours enjoyable. As I watch the February 1 caucuses from a distance, I’ll be hoping for a glimpse of the excitement – and of course, for my chosen candidate to pull ahead this time around.

Nicole Giambusso is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications division.

GOP Debate: Policy Over Personality and the Digital Conversation

By Cosmo Macero Jr.

Cosmo Macero Jr.With the stakes extremely high for Florida’s two entries in the Republican presidential primary race, an analysis of social media conversations around last night’s GOP debate suggests Marco Rubio stood out measurably on key economic issues, while Jeb Bush mostly fell flat.

Meanwhile front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson – based on data from social media monitoring tools, providing real-time feedback – both left the debate stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin still riding overwhelmingly positive sentiment from the social media universe.

While the main debate last night and an earlier undercard debate of lower-polling candidates featured a total of twelve individuals – the O’Neill and Associates analysis sought to measure, through social media conversations, the performance and impact of four candidates widely believed to have had the most to gain or lose in Milwaukee.

O’Neill and Associates used digital monitoring tools to examine more than 20,000 social media conversations nationwide across a dozen platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and other blogs and news sources – and to zero in on four key candidates in last night’s Fox Business Channel debate: Trump, Carson, Rubio and Bush.

For Rubio, the Florida senator, the debate was considered an opportunity to seize the spotlight on economic issues and stand out from the crowd of a dozen candidates fighting for a fraction of visibility and electorate mindshare behind Trump and Carson.

For Bush, the former Florida governor, it may have been the last opportunity to show that “Jeb Can Fix It,” as he tried to jumpstart a campaign that has failed to excite GOP voters.  And with the economy the topic on the table, it seemed that Bush may have finally been presented his opportunity to flourish: talk about policy and the issues.

The social media analysis supports the initial conversations of news outlets: Rubio appeared to meet the challenge, while Bush may have come up short.

In fact, Rubio dominated the conversation regarding jobs, taxes and the economy – leading all four candidates in social media mentions on those topics, which were billed as the key issues of last night’s debate. Among the four candidates measured – Rubio mentions represented 30 percent of the conversation on jobs, taxes and the economy, while Trump grabbed 25 percent, Bush 23 percent and Carson 22 percent.

Additionally, Rubio’s presence and performance were substantial enough to dominate the overall social media conversation. By 10 p.m. last night – Rubio’s share of all debate-related social media conversation among the four candidates measured was outnumbering the next closest candidate, Carson, by a ratio of almost 3 to 1.

Bottom line: people are talking more and more about Marco Rubio.

On the other hand, Bush, despite winning a few soundbite moments, was unable to rise above the others on key economic issues or move the needle on overall impressions of his candidacy.

Indeed, the measure of overall sentiment about Bush as a candidate continues to be overwhelmingly negative, according to an analysis of the social media landscape during the debate. Sentiment toward Bush – expressed through positive and negative keywords and hashtags – was 45 percent negative throughout the duration of the debate. By comparison, Carson’s negative sentiment is only 25 percent, Trump’s is 28 percent and Rubio’s is 35 percent.

Many candidates have come under attack by the media and the public for their truthfulness – or lack thereof – both on and off of the debate stage. Carson, in particular, has faced extensive questioning in recent weeks about statements he made about his past and in his biography.

While Carson used the structure of the debate to his favor – one that focused on policy over personality – lingering questions about his overall honesty and accuracy surfaced. The highest trending URL shared with his name across social media during the debate was a New York Times interactive Fact Check of the Debate. However, he skillfully deflected accusations of his dishonesty by directing the conversation to Hillary Clinton and her truthfulness, which resonated across social media and kept his negative sentiment in check. In fact, when measuring the conversation around the issue of honesty and truthfulness, analysis found that Carson succeeded in turning the conversation to the issue of Hillary Clinton with the top trending keywords within the conversation, including, “Hillary is a liar.”

Carson and Trump both continue to register a net positive sentiment based on social media conversations, with overall sentiment toward Carson now 38 percent positive and Trump at 32 percent positive.

Bush and Rubio have similar levels of positive sentiment (27 and 29 percent, respectively), but the gap widens further in Rubio’s favor, by a full 10 points on the negative side, as well as with the sheer volume of conversation shared.

Cosmo Macero Jr. is a Senior Vice President with O’Neill and Associates. Reach him by email:; on Twitter @CosmoMacero; or by phone – (617) 646-1017