Legislative Activity

FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill

The House is expected to vote on its FY 2017 defense spending bill this week. The legislation, released by appropriators on Thursday, totals $577.9 billion, which is $5.2 billion higher than the FY 2016 level, and in line with the parameters contained in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 114-328). The legislation does not include funds for the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which has been a sticking point for Democrats because the account falls outside of discretionary caps. Key Democrats such as House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey signaled their support because the bill adheres to the FY 2017 spending caps mandated in the 2015 budget agreement (P.L. 114-074). However, finding time for a vote in the Senate will be a challenge as they continue to work through confirmation of cabinet nominees and a number of other matters.

Future Path Forward for Remaining Spending Legislation

The current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR/P.L. 114-254) expires on April 28; however, Congress will be in recess for two weeks in April, significantly reducing time for consideration and passage of the remaining eleven FY 2017 spending bills (the FY 2017 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill was included in the current CR). Hence, it is highly unlikely that they will be passed out individually in “regular order.” There are numerous potential scenarios. The defense bill could serve as the basis for an omnibus; it could also be a vehicle for a “minibus” of several bills, leaving the others to also be packaged into minibuses. There could also be a “cromnibus” wherein some agencies would operate under a continuing resolution while others would be wrapped into an omnibus. Finally, if bipartisan disagreements prevail, there is also the option of a CR through September 30, 2017.

One potential complication for resolution of the FY 2017 budget is the suspension of the nation’s borrowing authority, which in recent years has required discretionary offsets. This is set to expire on March 16 but may be extended through late summer. Such a move would make the FY 2017 appropriations process easier because spending can remain at each top-line level established last year without requiring additional offsets.

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget

President Trump is expected to deliver his FY 2018 budget blueprint to Congress on March 16 but some details have already been released and discussed. The budget proposal is expected to increase defense spending by $54 billion (to $603 billion) which will be offset by cuts in non-defense spending.

Many congressional Democrats, and even some Republicans, are concerned about potential slashes to domestic programs and foreign aid, particularly because it is likely defense, homeland security, and veterans programs will be exempt from reductions. For example, 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. 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 emphasized water infrastructure, Superfund, and Brownfields programs as initiatives he believes should be protected.

Meanwhile, Republican “defense hawks”, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), believe $54 billion is not sufficient to fulfill key defense priorities. Instead, they propose a $640 billion defense budget for FY 2018.

The White House is also expected to submit a supplemental funding request to include an additional $30 billion in defense and $12-15 billion for a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico. The spending will be deemed “emergency” and thus will not require offsets or be subject to budget caps.

House Appropriators Move Forward with FY 2018

Despite the lack of a budget framework, House appropriators have begun their work on spending legislation for fiscal year 2018. The subcommittees have been holding “Member Days” and hearings where public witnesses are able to testify. Listed below are the subcommittee deadlines for member requests for programmatic funding levels and report language.

Subcommittee Deadline
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies April 5, 2017
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies April 4, 2017
Defense
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies April 5, 2017
Financial Services and General Government
Homeland Security April 4, 2017
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies March 30, 2017
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies April 6, 2017
Legislative Branch March 29, 2017
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies March 30, 2017
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs March 30, 2017
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies April 4, 2017

This Week’s Hearings:

House Appropriations Committee

  • On Wednesday, March 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Public Witnesses Day hearing.
  • On Wednesday, March 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Members’ Day hearing.
  • On Wednesday, March 8, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Quality of Life in the Military.” The witnesses will be:
    • Daniel A. Dailey, Sergeant Major, US Army
    • Steven S. Giordano, Master Chief Petty Officer, US Navy
    • Ronald L. Green, Sergeant Major, US Marine Corps
    • Kaleth O. Wright, Chief Master Sergeant, US Air Force
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has scheduled a Members’ Day hearing.
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has scheduled a Members’ Day hearing.
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Members’ Day hearing.
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs has scheduled a hearing titled “Oversight of the Department of State and Foreign Operations Programs.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mrs. Ann Calvaresi Barr, Inspector General, U.S. Agency for International Development
    • Mr. Steve Linick, Inspector General, U.S. Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “Management Challenges and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and the Social Security Administration.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. Scott S. Dahl, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Labor
    • Mr. Daniel R. Levinson, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    • Ms. Gale Stallworth Stone, Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration
    • Ms. Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education
  • On Thursday, March 9, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies has scheduled a Members’ Day hearing.

Senate Appropriations Committee

  • On Tuesday, March 7, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs has scheduled a hearing titled “Hearing on Russian Policies & Intentions Toward Specific European Countries.” The witnesses will be:
    • The Honorable Valeriy Chaly, Ambassador, Embassy of Ukraine
    • The Honorable Piotr Wilczek, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Poland
    • The Honorable David Bakradze, Ambassador, Embassy of Georgia
    • The Honorable Andris Teikmanis, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Latvia
    • The Honorable Rolandas Krisciunas, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania
    • The Honorable Eerik Marmei, Ambassador, Embassy of the Republic of Estonia
  • On Wednesday, March 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Investing in America: Funding our Nation’s Transportation Infrastructure Needs.” The witnesses will be:
    • Mr. David Bernhardt, Commissioner, Maine Department of Transportation, President, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials
    • Mr. Jim Tymon, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Policy Management, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials
    • Mr. Todd Hauptli, President and CEO, American Association of Airport Executives
    • Mr. Edward L. Mortimer, Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    • Ms. Beth Osborne, Senior Policy Advisor, Transportation for America
  • On Wednesday, March 8, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing titled “Hearing on Saving Lives Through Medical Research.” The witnesses will be:
    • Timothy J. Eberlein, M.D., Director, Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Surgeon-in-Chief, Barnes-Jewish Hospital
    • Dr. Thomas J. Grabowski Jr., M.D., Director, Memory and Brain Wellness Center, Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Integrated Brain Imagining Center, University of Washington, Seattle
    • Ms. Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., Member, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
    • Ms. Jennifer M. Sasser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi