Legislative Activity

Appropriations Outlook

It increasingly appears that the House will approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) in lieu of an Omnibus or a series of Minibuses before the current CR expires on December 9. This approach is easier for Republican leadership because it will placate members of the Freedom Caucus who do not want to cut a deal on an Omnibus with President Obama. Additionally, President-elect Trump’s transition team has requested that Congress extend the CR until March 31, 2017, so that his Administration has influence in the process. The CR may not be completely “clean” by containing “anomalies” such as supplemental war funding, aid for flood and other damage from recent storms, and money to address the lead-contamination water problems in Flint, Michigan.

Republican Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have agreed to move forward with the CR approach, and Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) stated that he was “extremely hopeful that the new Congress and the new Administration will finish these bills.” Most Democrats would prefer an Omnibus bill and some have expressed disappointment in Republican leadership for punting major spending decisions. President Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the White House would “review the new stopgap legislation before they made a judgment.”

Congress must also address a November 10 supplemental funding request from President Obama for $5.8 billion in money for troops in Afghanistan and in the fight against the Islamic State, along with $5.8 billion in additional funding to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development for other activities related to those efforts. Before the Thanksgiving recess, Chairman Rogers said that it was unclear whether this money would be attached to a CR or passed as a stand-alone bill, and that this matter was “under discussion.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the supplemental package would be voted on as a stand-alone when asked during her weekly press conference. Additionally, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has said he will offer a $26 billion supplemental appropriations package for the U.S. military.

Budget Plans

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) signaled his intention to move two reconciliation bills in the next Congress. The first would allow the repeal of the Affordable Care Act- a top priority of the Chairman and President-elect Trump- to be tied to a budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which was never passed in 2016. A second reconciliation bill would address tax reform and be connected to a budget plan for Fiscal Year 2018. Reconciliation allows legislation to be passed with a simple majority and eliminates the potential for a Senate filibuster. More details are expected to come from Chairman Price as soon as this Wednesday so that the Committee may receive feedback before the new Congress reconvenes. No action is expected in the lame duck, but such a blueprint would lay the foundation for next year.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) has indicated support for Chairman Price’s budget plan, but has also said that he will outline his own plan that will be narrower and focused on incremental changes.