Executive Branch Activity

Trump Releases FY 2018 Budget Blueprint

Last week, President Donald Trump released his FY 2018 “skinny budget,” intended to serve as the blueprint for his full budget request expected in May. As anticipated, the $1.1 trillion budget request adheres to the topline discretionary spending cap of $1.1 trillion mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA/P.L. 112-25), but repeals sequestration for defense programs. The BCA established topline defense spending at $549 billion and nondefense discretionary spending at $516 billion for FY 2018. President Trump’s proposal requests an increase of $54 billion in defense spending, offset by equal reductions in targeted nondefense programs, changing the caps to $603 billion and $462 billion, respectively. It is important to note that the BCA also included a provision that mandated any deviation from these caps would require Congressional approval.

As a result, a number of departments and agencies are facing proposed reductions of over ten percent: the Environmental Protection Agency (31 percent); the State Department (28 percent); the Department of Agriculture (21 percent); the Department of Labor (21 percent); the National Institutes of Health (18 percent); the Army Corps of Engineers (16 percent); the Department of Housing and Urban Development (13 percent); the Department of Education (13 percent); the Department of Transportation (13 percent); and the Department of Interior (12 percent).

Within these reductions, a number of key programs and agencies are also proposed for elimination:

  • Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E)
  • Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program
  • Appalachian Regional Commission
  • Community Development Block Grant
  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • Economic Development Administration
  • Essential Air Service (EAS) Program
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER)
  • United States Interagency Council on Homelessness

The budget proposal was received by Congress with skepticism as members of both parties quickly expressed opposition to the President’s request. Democrats hastily denounced the President’s budget proposal, expressing concern over the large spending cuts for nondefense programs. Republicans also challenged the proposal, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calling the proposed cuts to the State Department “dead on arrival” and Sen.John McCain (R-AZ) labeling the defense spending proposal “a joke.” However, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) offered optimism for the FY 2018 appropriations process and said he believes Congress can “strike a balance” that will allow them to “fund the federal government responsibly and address emergency needs.”

Trump Sends FY 2017 Military and Border Supplemental to Congress

In addition to the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal outline, the White House also released an FY 2017 supplemental appropriations request last week. The request includes: $30 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) to accelerate the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, a majority of which would fund a new wall along the southern border; and $5.1 billion for the DOD Overseas Contingency Operations budget.

The President did not propose offsets for the increased FY 2017 funding; rather, he recommended Congress identify $18 billion in nondefense discretionary spending cuts as they finalize their work on the FY 2017 spending bills. Finding $18 billion in spending cuts will only further complicate Congress’ race to finalize the remaining eleven FY 2017 spending bills before 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).

The request is already receiving opposition from Republican lawmakers, with Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a senior House Appropriations Committee member, saying “it’s a little bit late” to include the supplemental in FY 2017 appropriations legislation. With only four working weeks left until April 28, debate over including the military and border security supplemental may lead to the threat of a government shutdown.

Legislative Activity

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, March 21, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing on the National Institutes of Health. The witnesses will be:
    • Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health;
    • Dr. Anthony S. Fauci , Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases;
    • Dr. Gary Gibbons, Director, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute;
    • Dr. Joshua Gordon, Director, National Institute of Mental Health;
    • Dr. Doug Lowry, Director, National Cancer Institute; and
    • Dr. Nora Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • On Tuesday, March 22, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, will hold a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Inspector General. The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Michael Missal, Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • On Wednesday, March 22, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense, will hold a hearing titled “A Review of the Budget and Readiness of the Department of Defense.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable James Mattis, Secretary, Department of Defense; and
    • General Joseph Dunford, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff