budget & appropriations

The latest news and legislative activity affecting budget and appropriations

July 25, 2019
legislative updates

Deal is Done:

Before the six-week August recess, the House will vote today on a budget deal that would raise the cap on non-defense spending by 4% to $622 billion and the cap on defense spending by 3% to $677 billion for FY2020 and raise it for each category just 1% in FY2021. The Senate is expected to pass it next week so President Trump can sign it in August. The broad agreement, finalized Monday after weeks of negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, would suspend the debt ceiling until July 31, 2021, eliminating the risk that the government could miss payments as early as September. It would also cancel automatic cuts that would have reduced domestic spending by $55 billion and military spending by $71 billion compared with 2019 levels. The offsets in the deal reduce spending authority by $77 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Appropriations:

These increases are not as large as those provided through the last budget agreement, reached in 2017, which raised the cap on non-defense spending by 12% for FY2018 and 3% the following year. These increases are also not as large as the funding levels the House approved for various appropriations bills that assumed 6% increase so significant work will need to get done in conference committee negotiations that will soon follow the Senate’s introduction and passage of their 12 appropriations bills. Chairman Shelby (R-AL) was clear during the entire negotiations that he would not release any appropriations measures until this budget deal was complete so now he said he will introduce bills in September and move quickly to pass them through subcommittees, full committee and the full Senate. Of note, this was a bipartisan deal with both sides relatively happy as well as outside organizations – this bodes well for finalizing appropriations bills this fall.

July 11, 2019
legislative updates

Appropriations Update
The House has passed 10 of its 12 spending measures for FY2020, while the Senate is waiting for a budget caps deal before introducing its bills. On June 25 the House passed its second minibus package (H.R. 3055), which includes Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD. It passed the Financial Service-General Government bill (H.R. 3351) separately on June 26. The two outstanding bills in the House are Homeland Security and Legislative Branch, which was dropped from the first minibus package amid criticism over member pay increases.

Appropriations, Budget Caps and Debt Ceiling Extension
Negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders to raise the budget caps and lift the federal debt limit continue to inch along. However, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, reporting it was positive. Senate Finance Chairman Shelby (R-AL) has previously said that if a budget caps deal isn’t reached by July 1, he wants the Senate to deem its own set of stand-in numbers so appropriators can mark up their bills, but McConnell wants a deal first. Government funding runs out on September 30 and without new spending bills or a stopgap measure, the government would shut down October 1.

Earmarks
The Senate GOP recently behind closed doors added a permanent ban on earmarked spending to their conference rules even though House Democrats and Republicans had begun discussions on how to return to earmarking bills. A moratorium on earmarks from 2011 expired in January. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in March that earmarks wouldn't return this year, but left the door open for the future, saying when applicable, they can change rules to permit members to request earmarks.

May 31, 2019
legislative updates

House Democrats scrapped plans to vote on a spending cap bill (H.R. 2021) last month because of disputes over balancing military and domestic discretionary spending. The House instead adopted a resolution (H. Res. 293) that permits House Appropriations Committee to write measures reflecting the bill’s proposed caps of $664 billion for defense (plus oversees funding not restricted by budgetary caps) and $631 billion for nondefense and started passing bills out of committee in April and May. President Trump and congressional Republicans want at least $750 billion for defense, including funds that are outside the spending cap. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has chosen not to schedule markups while waiting for a budget deal to be struck and aims to bundle bills. Meanwhile, the debt ceiling limit will be reached this summer so the White House indicated it prefers a debt limit deal done quickly to avoid instability in the economy.

As for the FY2020 appropriations process, several bills have already been marked up in the House and passed by full committee including Labor-HHS, MilCon-VA, State-Foreign Operations, Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Energy-Water, and Interior-Environment. Two other bills have passed subcommittees and will be voted on in the full committee next week and then bills will start to be considered on the House floor throughout June and leading up to the August recess. See details below.

Status of current U.S. House & Senate FY20 Appropriations Bills:

Earmarks

The Senate GOP recently behind closed doors added a permanent ban on earmarked spending to their conference rules even though House Democrats and Republicans had begun discussions on how to return to earmarking bills. A moratorium on earmarks from 2011 expired in January. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in March that earmarks wouldn't return this year, but left the door open for the future, saying when applicable, they can change rules to permit members to request earmarks.