Although Congress is set to be in session for another two weeks, it is likely the House will adjourn for the year as soon as this Thursday afternoon. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has promised the House will vote on a Continuing Resolution (CR) before the current CR expires on Friday, December 9. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has tentatively concurred with this statement, saying that she believes the text of the CR will be released as soon as Monday. However, the length and specifics of the funding levels contained in the CR are unclear.
Initially, March 31, 2017 was the target end date for the next CR, but an April 28 date or later has become more likely due to a busy Senate calendar; the Senate will take more time to pass expected budgetary matters such as reconciliation and have a slate of Cabinet nominees to confirm. Ongoing negotiations among appropriators indicate the bill will be a “clean” CR with an extension of current funding levels. One item that has been under debate- aid for the Flint, Michigan water crisis- may be addressed in the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), which is also expected to pass the House this week. Of note, defense hawks, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter have expressed concern about a short-term funding mechanism’s impact on military preparedness.
Last week, House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) suggested that the current budget process is broken and made numerous proposals for improvement. For example, he recommended that future Congress’ should write two-year budgets and release their plan before the White House releases theirs. Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) also supports biennial budgeting. Chairman Price advocated for a budget that is easier to read and that the U.S. Comptroller General to address Congress annually on fiscal challenges. Such changes would be the first major overhaul of the budget process since 1974.
Additionally, Chairman Price outlined his strategy for a straightforward Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution which will be used as a vehicle for the budget reconciliation process. Such a proposal would be taken up shortly after the 115th Congress convenes and would clear the way for a separate reconciliation bill to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act. The topline fiscal number is expected to be the same of that passed in the CR.
Traditionally, the House and Senate have each passed their own separate budget bills, but it is possible that the Senate- who will face more difficulty and a longer time frame due to procedural hurdles and parliamentary rules- will pass budget legislation and then send it to the House. Last year, Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) never introduced a budget for that chamber’s consideration.