House Budget Committee Chair Congresswoman Dianne Black (R-TN) continued to struggle with the most conservative members of her House Caucus over the level of mandatory and entitlement cuts.
There seems to be agreement over discretionary (annually appropriated) spending. 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) while defense spending would receive a very large increase to $621 billion. That total would exceed even the increase asked for by the Trump Administration ($603 billion) and it would shatter the “parity” in spending between non-defense and defense spending as established by the BCA.
The holdup is on the level of cuts to entitlement and mandatory spending. That cut total seems to be gradually increasing now from the neighborhood of $150 billion closer to $200 billion. But that total seems to not be enough for some conservatives. Congresswoman Black has negotiated with some of the committee chairs that would be directed to make the cuts happen including the House Ways and Means Committee that has jurisdiction over SSBG, child welfare, TANF, SSI and some child care funding.
The budget resolution is needed by Republican leaders because they want to establish a 2018 budget reconciliation instruction that would allow for fast track (non-filibuster) legislation to adopt tax cuts. This reconciliation could or would also allow for the cuts to entitlements. The Agriculture Committee leadership, which has jurisdiction over farm programs including the SNAP and child nutrition programs, has been pushing back against their level of cuts. If the Ways and Means Committee is directed to make cuts it would more certainly include SSBG, TANF, SSI and possibly have child welfare in its sights.
The other piece of the budget resolution are the defense and non-defense spending levels. Unlike the mandatory spending cuts which can be set by a simple majority vote for the resolution, the spending levels are embedded in the BCA law which would require a bipartisan vote in the Senate and a signature by the President.
While the House is working on what their budget looks like the Senate has not yet engaged. Its clear Senators want a reconciliation on tax cuts but it is not as clear where they will go on mandatory and entitlement spending cuts. Senator McConnell has indicated that annual spending will be closer to the 2017 levels which would be a rejection of what the House is doing now. All this likely means a negotiation on spending caps sometime in September or later.