Fifth Time’s The Charm?

2018-02-12T17:34:15+00:00 February 12, 2018|

What It Was

Last week the House and Senate worked on buying more time to address FY 2018 appropriations. After arduous debate back and forth, progress was made by passing another continuing resolution (CR), an increase to the budget caps, and raising the debt ceiling.

Why It Matters

The delays in funding the government due to multiple continuing resolutions and small cuts to federal programs as a result of the Budget Control Act may seem inconsequential, but the cumulative effects are far reaching. A funded government is vital for the U.S. economy and our daily lives. Certainty in funding is critical for federal agencies to plan and budget for their programs and activities, including those that carry out weather forecasting and storm warnings, ensure food safety, monitor drinking water quality, and advance the science needed to treat or cure diseases. Federal discretionary spending is split between military (defense) and everything else (non-defense). Non-defense discretionary (NDD), includes federal spending on myriad issues, including scientific research, education, infrastructure, technology, and environmental issues.

Key Points

Three major hurdles were cleared last week: 1) a CR was passed which will fund the government at just below FY 2017 levels until March 23, 2) federal spending caps from previous congressional budget agreements were raised by $300 billion over two years, and 3) the public debt limit is increased until March 1, 2019. However, to reach these arrangements, the government shutdown for the second time in two weeks in the early hours of Friday morning.

Under the new caps, spending increases by $80 billion (15 percent) and $62 billion (12 percent) in FY 2018, and $85 billion and $68 billion in FY 2019 for defense and non-defense respectively.

The budget agreement also includes $90 billion for disaster relief Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, wildfires in California, and national flood mapping, specific funds for infrastructure, tax provisions for renewable energy credits and mine safety equipment, and a four-year extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The disaster relief component contains funds specifically allocated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to clean up marine debris ($18 million), repair or replace data collecting buoys ($42 million), improve hurricane and flood forecasting ($100 million), and assist fishers impacted by storms ($200 million).

The bill also provides for the House and Senate Budget Committees chairmen to make committee allocations for fiscal year 2019. This will lessen pressure on both to produce a congressional budget resolution conference report and may help the FY 2019 appropriation process to run more smoothly.

Next Steps

Before March 23, Congress must pass appropriations bills or another CR to avoid another government shutdown. Meanwhile Democrats would like to work on solutions to immigration issues as part of the continuing FY 2018 funding discussion.  The FY 2019 process also began this week with the release of the president’s budget request.

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