As the week came to a close, Budget Committee leaders in the House of Representatives appear to be getting closer to a final deal. The budget resolution sets the spending levels for fiscal year 2018 and it can also set up another reconciliation instruction/bill that would ultimately have as its goal cuts to mandatory and entitlement programs as well as a tax cut package.
The House is well behind schedule since resolutions are usually completed in April. Because of the new Administration and the debates over health care they are far behind. There are two internal debates going on within the House Republican caucus. One is what level of spending that would be allowed for FY 2018 that starts on October 1, and whether there will be further cuts in domestic spending and further increases in defense spending. The second part of the intense debate is whether the resolution will set up a reconciliation bill that would cut entitlement programs as well as a filibuster-proof path for a new tax cut.
Some House conservatives have been insistent that they want to see cuts across the board including the defense budget while other conservatives want to see significantly higher spending for the defense spending.
What has been leaking out by rumor or in publications provides a broad outline of where they may end up by mid-week. There appears to be agreement that with discretionary (annually appropriated) spending for nondefense discretionary spending would be cut further to $511 billion. Under the existing Budget Control Act (BCA) the spending level would already be cut to approximately $516 billion. This is a cut from what was passed a few months ago for FY 2017.
At the same time, this deal would blow apart what the BCA established as “parity” between nondefense and defense spending. Parity was that there would be roughly equal spending between defense spending and non-defense spending. There have been suggestions that the defense spending could shoot up to $621 billion compared to the $511 billion in non-defense. That figure would allow for Defense Department spending even higher than what the Trump Administration is asking for at $603 billion. Neither figure includes funding for the various wars which totals about $60 billion.
As part of this deal, to pacify conservatives not supporting defense increases, the budget resolution would include $150 billion in additional cuts to mandatory and entitlement spending. Conservatives are seeking closer to $200 billion and there are reports of the Budget Committee working with other Committees having already identified at least $160 billion. This is in addition to whatever they may cut in the Medicaid budget through the healthcare law revisions.
If this were to hold up, key targets would certainly include programs like the Social Services Block Grant, additional cuts to TANF, Supplement Security Insurance (SSI) and as always, a remaining possibility of a block grant in child welfare. In addition, programs in the nutrition and SNAP would be prime targets although taking on nutrition also takes on the agriculture and grocery industries and farm state members of Congress.
Any cuts to mandatory spending adopted in both the House and Senate resolutions would be binding (unless a reconciliation bill gets defeated) but the cuts to discretionary spending and increases in defense spending cannot be included in a reconciliation and that means they will need to get to 60 votes in the Senate and at least 8 Democrats.
If House leaders can strike a deal the plan is to vote the Budget Resolution out of the House Committee on Wednesday of this week. Once it passes out of the House Committee it will likely sit on the House floor until September and the fall session. At the same time, the Senate is likely to also hold their budget resolution through September. Contingent on all of this is what they do on health care. If they pass a health care bill they can move forward on a second reconciliation and a 2018 resolution. If not, they must hold final passage of the 2018 resolution until they settle the health care issue.
The main purpose of the budget resolution is to set the spending caps and allocations in spending between the 12 appropriations subcommittees including the important Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee. The House is likely to act under $511 billion figure and that would likely mean the Senate would be operating under a separate ceiling that is likely higher.
For a further examination of the budget in some of the key child welfare and children’s issues, you can read a budget chart of key child welfare services and a more detailed description on this budget summary.