Last week congressional leaders were sounding off about the need to finish the FY 2017 budget at the end of this month without a government shut-down. With Democrats signaling that they would oppose any FY 17 appropriation bill that included the President’s $2 to $3 billion down payment to start a wall, Republican leaders were signaling it may not be in this funding bill.
Last fall bipartisan leaders and staff of the Appropriations Committees had been attempting to quietly draw up a final FY 2017 appropriations that would have been approved shortly after the election. It may have passed as an omnibus but would have had each department’s funding negotiated and adjusted according to a previous budget deal. After the election with Mr. Trump’s elevation to the presidency, those plans were rejected and replaced with this current CR that runs out on April 28. Now there seems to be an effort to pick up those pieces on a bill like last year’s deal with perhaps some added funds for defense and the wars. Now it looks as if much of the military spending funding may come in a supplemental that will be dealt with later and separately.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-HHS-Education, said last week that members plan to pursue an agreement based on last years agreed to levels. He also rejected the Administration proposed cuts to the Education Department and the $18 billion in cuts that have been proposed by the Administration as a way to help pay for the supplemental.
The process may involve taking the House Defense authorization and attaching the rest of appropriations. They would hope to have it ready for action the first week they come back, the week of April 24. The wild card could be the President. If the Administration issues a strong objection it’s not clear how that would sway the leadership or members. Regardless in the Senate they will need an agreement from Democrats since they could filibuster any appropriations. As part of this the Democrats have made clear they would object to any funding for the wall between Mexico and the U.S. There are also some reservations on the part of border state Republicans who may have reservations regarding a wall that could take over private property rights. In the House, such an appropriations strategy will also require Democratic support because some of the conservative members that brought down the Republican health care repeal would likely demand both funding for the wall and cuts.
If Congress can’t get the current year funding out of the way quickly it will slow down all the other priorities including a tax package and future spending cuts.