Legislative Activity

Budget Reconciliation and FY 17 Appropriations

The House FY 17 budget reconciliation measure- the American Health Care Act, aimed at “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act- did not receive a floor vote last week, and its future is now uncertain. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the House Republican party “will need time to reflect” on the failed attempt to pass the health reconciliation measure before moving forward with other priorities.

There are a few potential scenarios. House Republicans could move ahead without voting on the FY 17 budget. Alternatively, they could remove the health reform aspects and take a vote on a pared down measure. The Senate could formulate and take up their own version of a FY 17 budget reconciliation bill. In any scenario, the failure for enough House Republicans to coalesce around health reform legislation may impact the future budget and appropriations processes, particularly the possibility of “regular order” with the FY 18 spending bills.

The House and Senate Budget Committees held hearings on the FY 2018 budget resolution measure but have not yet released the language. If the resolutions are ultimately passed in each chamber and then reconciled, this would provide another legislative forum in which only 51 votes are required in the Senate. Republican leadership has said the intent is to use a FY 2018 budget reconciliation as a mechanism for tax reform.

Appropriators continue to work on reconciling differences between the House and Senate FY 2017 bills. The current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on April 28. It is still uncertain whether there will be a catch-all Omnibus, “Cromnibus,” or full-year CR before that deadline. Democrats continue to be concerned with the defunding of Planned Parenthood and policy riders that were contained in the appropriations bills passed out of committee last Congress.

President Trump’s FY 18 Budget

Democrats continue to react to President Trump’s FY 2018 budget outline, which proposed $54 billion in additional defense spending offset by an equal amount of discretionary domestic funding cuts. Many would like to see parity between defense and non-defense priorities, such as the National Institutes of Health and energy programs.

Each budget cycle, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations bring secretaries and undersecretaries of agencies before their members to answer detailed questions about their proposed spending items and levels. However, in this year’s “skinny budget,” many agency budgets were small, some with as few as one to two pages. Those serving in the administration received a memo from the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney instructing them not to answer specific questions in front of Congress beyond what is contained in the budget blueprint, including comments about specific programs and account-level amounts. The development and release of the full document is not yet completed, so it could be considered speculation for any witness to discuss details without OMB approval.

Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) issued a statement that such a memo indicates a “run and hide” approach. Administration officials responded that similar memos were issued in the first years of the Obama and Bush Administrations.

Last week, six NIH directors and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos were scheduled to testify before the House LHHS Subcommittee, but both hearings were postponed without explanation. This week will serve as the second test, as budget hearings are scheduled in numerous subcommittees, including one with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price as a witness.

This Week’s Hearings:

House Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, March 28, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Budget Hearing – Corporation for Public Broadcasting.” The witnesses will be:
    • Patricia de Stacy Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer, Corporation for Public Broadcasting; and
    • Anne Brachman, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Public Witnesses Hearing.” The witnesses will be:
    • Carl Blake, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations, Paralyzed Veterans of America;
    • Carlos Fuentes, Director National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars;
    • Dr. Heather O’Beirne Kelly, Director Veterans & Military Health Policy, American Psychological Association;
    • Fred Sganga, Legislative Officer, National Association of State Veterans Homes; and
    • Paul Varela, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans.
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Budget Hearing – Department of Health and Human Services.” The witness will be:
    • The Honorable Tom Price, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Senate Appropriations Committee:

  • On Wednesday, March 29, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs has scheduled a hearing titled “Civil Society Perspectives on Russia.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Vladimir Kara-Murza, Vice Chairman, Open Russia;
    • Dr. Laura Jewett, National Democratic Institute; and
    • Mr. Jan Erik Surotchak, Regional Director, Europe International Republican Institute.
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Arlington National Cemetery: Current Operations & Future Plans to Honor the Fallen.” The witnesses will be:
    • Ms. Karen Durham-Aguilera, SES, Executive Director, Army National Military Cemeteries, Department of the Army; and
    • Ms. Katharine Kelley, SES, Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Department of the Army.
  • On Wednesday, March 29, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled “A hearing to review the Defense Health Program and Military Medicine funding.” The witnesses will be:
    • Lieutenant General Nadja West, Surgeon General, U.S. Army; and
    • Vice Admiral C. Forrest Faison III, U.S. Navy.