The House Budget Committee (and the Senate) is well behind schedule since resolutions are usually completed in April but the battle lines seem to have become bigger and harder over the past week.
A little more than a week to ten days ago the outlines of a House Budget Committee deal seemed clear. What had been leaked appeared to set the outlines of a plan.
Discretionary (annually appropriated) spending for nondefense programs would be cut to $511 billion. (Under the existing Budget Control Act (BCA) the spending level would already be cut to approximately $516 billion). This deal would blow apart what the BCA established as parity between nondefense and defense spending. Parity was that there would be roughly equal spending between defense spending and non-defense spending. A second part of the deal, defense spending would rise to $621 billion compared to the significant increase the Trump Administration is asking for at $603 billion. As part of this deal to gain favor with more conservative members, mandatory spending would be cut by at least $150 billion with a later figure set at $200 billion.
The mandatory cuts would be accomplished through a budget reconciliation that would also direct Congress to cut taxes. The mandatory cuts and tax cuts would be protected from a Senate filibuster that would only require 51 votes in the Senate.
As the week wore on conservatives started to balk at the mandatory cuts wanting even more, some seeking $500 billion. Some committee chairs that would have been tasked with cutting mandatory/entitlement spending thought the numbers were too high especially the agriculture and nutrition-SNAP cuts. By week’s end moderate Republicans, the Tuesday Group, were circulating a draft letter rejecting the severe cuts and asking instead for a bipartisan deal that would ultimately raise the BCA caps.
This group may have as many as 20 House Republican names on their letter. The leadership can only lose 23 votes if Democrats hold together. If some conservatives vote no because it doesn’t cut enough, Chairperson Congresswoman Dianne Black (R-TN) has a big problem. She may anyway. The moderate group knows that the appropriations funding can only hold if they get agreement from at least 8 Senate Democrats since the appropriations cannot be folded into a filibuster-proof reconciliation.
If House leaders can strike a deal the plan is to vote the Budget Resolution out of the House Committee when they come back. Once it passes out of the House Committee it will likely sit on the House floor until September and the fall session. At the same time, the Senate is likely to also hold their budget resolution through September or whenever they are ready to move on a tax cut. Contingent on all of this is what they do on health care. If they pass a health care bill they can move forward on a second reconciliation and a 2018 resolution. If not, they must hold final passage of the 2018 resolution until they settle the health care issue. Or they could set health care aside.
The main purpose of the budget resolution is to set the spending caps and allocations in spending between the 12 appropriations subcommittees including the important Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee. The House is likely to act under $511 billion figure and that would likely mean the Senate would be operating under a separate ceiling that is likely higher. There have been suggestions the House will act on their Labor-HHS-Education appropriations in mid-July.
For a further examination of the budget in some of the key child welfare and children’s issues, you can read a budget chart of key child welfare services and a more detailed description on this budget summary.