Last week the House Appropriations Committee delayed action on the Labor-HHS-Education bill reported out by the Subcommittee. Their bill for FY 2019 was scheduled for a vote but leadership pushed out the hearing due to the confrontation over immigration and border issues that could add costs to the HHS part of the bill. HHS includes funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement which represents at least part of the HHS piece of the border interdiction puzzle along with Homeland Security and Department of Justice programs. The delay means both houses should be acting on two different Labor-HHS-Education bills this week.
Other actions on spending include a Senate rejection of Administrations’ proposed $15 billion rescission bill. The Senate voted against the effort by a vote of 48 to 50 with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) joining all Democrats and Independents in rejecting the rescission. That kills that effort.
While the Senate was rejecting the House rescission bill, the House Budget Committee released a budget resolution for FY 2019. The resolution is both late (due in April) and unneeded since budget caps have already been settled through the budget deal earlier this spring. What the House resolution does is make a political statement with its proposed conversion of Medicare into a voucher system and converting Medicaid into a form of a block grant. The resolution is not needed, and it is not certain if it can make it out of the Budget Committee and onto the floor for a vote. It is seen as an attempt by conservative Republicans to make a statement on entitlement cuts.
The Senate did approve an authorization for the defense budget. The Defense Department, unlike all other spending programs, has an annual reauthorization along with the companion appropriations bill. The new authorization and eventual appropriations will set defense spending at an all-time high of $716 billion. That total does not include veterans spending programs and military construction costs.