Budget Battles Front and Center In September

Before the House of Representative left for the summer break on Friday, members approved a partial FY 17 appropriations bill, left a budget resolution for an uncertain future and waited on the Senate for signals on both issues.

On Thursday, the House gave final approval to a package of five “security” bills on a partisan vote of 235 to 192.  Five Republicans and five Democrats split with the majority of their party.  The bill totals $827 billion with more than $650 billion going to the Defense Department.  It also includes a controversial $1.6 billion for a boarder wall.  The action by the House still leaves 7 appropriations which have all passed out of the House Appropriations Committee including the funding for Labor-HHS-Education.  For more specifics on Labor-HHS, the CWLA Budget Chart can be viewed on the LEGISLATIVE INDEX

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee is expected to take up a Labor-HHS bill in the first week back in September.  The Senate is operating at different spending ceilings than the House.  The House budget resolution would provide big increases to defense and big cuts to non-defense spending while the Senate is pursuing non-defense spending at 2017 levels.  That is one reason there has been no joint budget resolution.

The House has crafted a budget resolution via Committee but Speaker Paul Ryan has indicated that the House will not take that resolution up the first week back.  That could change by the time they return after Labor Day.

With the failure of the ACA repeal in the Senate, the two bodies may pursue a joint budget resolution that will give them new reconciliation authority that would be used for tax cuts and possibly major cuts to entitlements and mandatory spending. That reconciliation instruction would supersede the current reconciliation that has been used for the ACA repeal.  That is why Congress may be able to move forward on taxes if health care is put aside.

If the budget resolution does not have the support of Democrats, leaders can’t afford to lose significant numbers from both the conservative and less conservative caucus members.  In addition, even if they can agree on the tax rules through reconciliation, to change the spending levels they must amend the BCA law and that means at least 60 votes and a bipartisan deal in the Senate.

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