Legislative Activity

FY 2017: House Passes Defense Appropriations Bill, What About the Rest?

The House passed its $577.9 billion FY 2017 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 1301) last week by a vote of 371-48 which included a $6.8 billion increase in procurement funding above the Obama Administration’s budget request for the fiscal year. The chamber still faces a short timeline to pass the remaining ten FY 2017 spending bills as the current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR/P.L. 114-254) expires on April 28 (a full-year budget for the FY 2017 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill was included in the CR).

Congress will be in recess for two weeks in April, giving them only five working weeks for consideration and passage of the bills. The Senate will particularly face challenges with passing legislation on time due to its lengthy procedural process and schedule already being occupied with Cabinet confirmations. Thus, it currently appears that an omnibus will be the most likely scenario, with the Defense bill possibility serving as the vehicle to move the package.

A FY 2017 supplemental to address increases in military and border security funding is still anticipated from the Administration; however, President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted on Friday that the Administration will not address its FY 2017 priorities until the President submits his FY 2018 budget blueprint to Congress this week. The supplemental is expected to request at least $30 billion.

President Trump to Deliver FY 2018 Budget Outline This Week

President Trump is expected to deliver his FY 2018 budget blueprint to Congress on March 16, but some details are being reported that hint at major cuts to discretionary funding for domestic programs. Several weeks ago, the Administration announced the budget proposal will include an increase in defense spending by $54 billion offset by non-defense discretionary spending. As previously reported, the Department of State and USAID are rumored to see a 37 percent reduction; whereas the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reportedly face cuts of at least 25 percent. Last week, reports were circulating that claim the Trump Administration intends to request a reduction in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by 16 percent ($6 billion); the Coast Guard by 14 percent; the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by 11 percent; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by 11 percent. Alternatively, the President will reportedly propose an increase of $3 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and $2.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in part to fund the increase in personnel called for in his recent executive orders.

These reports were met with significant pushback from Congressional Democrats, and even some Republicans. Additionally, members of President Trump’s Cabinet, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, indicated they will push back on certain proposed reductions. In particular, EPA Administrator Pruitt recently highlighted water infrastructure, Superfund, and Brownfields programs as initiatives he believes should be protected.

Debt Ceiling Suspension Expires This Week

The current debt ceiling suspension enacted by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) is set to expire this week on March 15. Congress must increase the nation’s debt limit periodically and failure to increase the debt limit would cause the government to default on its obligations, something the United States has never done. These deadlines are somewhat subjective as the Treasury Department can employ “extraordinary measures” to extend the nation’s borrowing authority for a period of time. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the current debt limit could be extended to the fall. Despite this estimation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to Congress requesting lawmakers raise the debt ceiling “at the first opportunity.”

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, March 15, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, will hold a budget hearing titled “Corporation for Public Broadcast.”
  • On Thursday, March 16, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing titled “Investing in the Future: Early Childhood Education Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services.”
  • On Thursday, March 16, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, will hold a Members’ Day hearing.
  • On Thursday, March 16, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, will hold an oversight hearing for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • On Tuesday, March 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, will hold a field hearing titled “Arlington National Cemetery: Current Operations and Future Plans to Honor the Fallen.”
  • On Wednesday, March 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing titled “STEM Education: Preparing Students for the Careers of Today and the Future.”