Congressional Leaders Looking for December 22 CR

Congressional Republicans are hoping to adopt a two-week CR that would extend funding for two weeks to December 22, 2017 so they could then extend funding for two to four more weeks to January 2018.

Last week ended without a meeting between the Congressional Leaders and the President after Mr. Trump tweeted at the Congressional Democrats denouncing them. They responded by not attending the Tuesday meeting. Behind the scenes there is a lack of clarity on what will be next. The two Congressional sides have been having behind the scenes discussions, but it has also been widely reported that the President may like a government shutdown.

Democrats have some leverage on spending because Congressional Republicans want significant increases for the Defense Department. If they don’t change the law (and get 60 votes in the Senate to do it) not only will they not be able to increase defense spending by the $50 to $75 billion being sought, across the board cuts will hit the Defense Department on January 15, 2018. Under the current Budget Control Act (BCA) there is parity between the two categories of $551 billion for defense and $519 billion for non-defense spending. That not-quite parity between the two would decrease to $549 billion for defense and $516 billion for non-defense.

Last week there were reports that Republican had offered an increase in non-defense spending of approximately $37 billion to $54 billion for defense but Democrats rejected that as not quite parity between the two spending categories.

In the meantime, because there is not a deal the appropriations staff and members have not been able to negotiate the 12 separate bills not knowing exactly what they must spend. Thus, the December 22, CR would allow them to negotiate further on a spending cap deal. If a deal is reached on December 22, they would then need 3 or 4 weeks to nail down the 12 appropriations for a fiscal year that began last October.

Also complicating all is the fact that there is a growing list of well-past-must-pass legislation. Many states are getting edgy and sending notices to the families of nine million children getting health care through CHIP. There is also the need to extend the home visiting, community health centers and various other programs. They also are working on another disaster relief down payment and whether they will be as supportive of Puerto Rico as the demands are for Florida and Texas.

Then there is DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which the President seems to be saying he won’t do now. If a December 22, CR is approved it would be “clean” meaning it includes nothing else except perhaps the ability for HHS to shift dollars around to keep CHIP on a lifeline.

Congressional Republicans want increases in defense well over $600 billion and in fact when “off-budget” spending for the wars is included, spending for the Pentagon could reach $700 billion. Under current law, if Congress violates current caps written into the law (the $549 billion/$516 billion totals) there will be across-the-board cuts in mid-January with defense getting the big hit. The CR expires on December 8.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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