Congress Passes Deal on Budget, Families First Passes

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On Friday, February 9, the House gave final approval to a two-year budget deal that includes significant increases to defense spending, some increased funding in key priorities such as child care and opioids, extends the home visiting program and adopts the Families First Act from 2016. The latter had some modifications (see below).

The deal was enacted with some drama when the Senate voted by a margin of 71 to 28 (Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was absent) at 2:00 AM Friday morning causing a government shutdown of a few hours. By 5:30 AM the House approved the measure by a vote of 240 to 186. It is technically another CR and in theory at least there could be another shutdown after this March 23 expiration but that is not expected. That time period is left to enact actual appropriations and spending increases for the rest of this FY 2018 through September 30, 2018. The CR, regardless of the March 23 expiration date, enacts new spending caps and reauthorizes several programs in addition to the Families First Act.

The sometimes deficit-conscious Congress will add significant spending increases of $300 billion over two years in addition to last year’s tax cut package that will increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion. That caused some conservatives to vote against it and for Senator Ron Paul (R-KY) to delay a final vote. Most of the deficit hawks, however, did vote in support of the December tax bill despite its high price tag. Despite large increases in spending, with most not offset, the Families First Act paid for itself by cutting child welfare spending through the new definitions and restrictions on institutional care and by re-linking Adoption Assistance to the 1996 AFDC program for special needs infants under age two until 2025.

The budget deal likely makes much of the Administration’s Monday release of a proposed 2019 budget irrelevant in some areas since the Trump budget will probably include some cuts to programs that will be getting increases over the next several weeks.

What happens next is that the various appropriations subcommittees will be determining how to allocate the increased funding along with some specific promises (child care, opioids).

The cap increases break out as follows:

Defense ’17       ’18        ’19                                         Non-Defense ’17       ’18        ‘19
$551 b   $629 b $647 b                                                         $519 b  $579 b   $597 b
OCO*   $83 b    $71 b     $69 b                                                           $21 b    $12 b       $8b**
Total $634 b     $700 b  $716 b                                                        $539 b  $591 b   $605 b

*(OCO–overseas contingency fund-wars—not considered “on-budget”)
** (OCO non-defense includes military construction, State Department and veterans funding)

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