It looks as if the third year of the Trump Presidency will start out for the third time with a delayed budget and appropriations process. The government shutdown means that the budget will not be released in the first week of February as required. When it does come out it will likely include a hodgepodge of departments that will have an accurate 2019 budget baseline (Defense Department and HHS, for example) and another collection of departments with old 2018 numbers (Homeland Security, Justice Department Agriculture, etc.).
To add to that confusion is the fact that the budget caps enacted in 2011 are still in effect. The 2018 and 2019 appropriations were set at higher levels due to a two-year agreement adopted in February of 2018, but it was only for the two fiscal years. If there is not a deal, there would be an automatic cut in non-defense spending of more than $50 billion out of a total of approximately $640 billion. As in the past that agreement has a separate cap on defense spending that, although higher at $675 billion, will still require comparable cuts at the Pentagon.
A new discussion on what the budget caps should be for FY 2020 and possibly 2021 but it is not likely to take place until the government has final funding for this year in place. If there is a budget deal it will most likely be negotiated by the Senate and House parties then the FY 2020 appropriations process can begin.
Again, this year’s budget deadlines will become irrelevant. By law the President is to release his budget the first week of February, budget committees in both houses begin hearings with budget resolution setting overall spending authority and allocating spending between the 12 appropriations bills in the month of March. A final Joint Budget Resolution (which does not require a President’s signature) is to be agreed to and adopted by April 15.
If these deadlines are missed appropriators are likely to start their appropriations process in the spring and House Democrats are likely to address the Labor-HHS-Education bills early and may make it their first bill. That would be significant change from the House under Speakers Boehner and Ryan. In those congresses Labor-HHS-Education bills were last and sometimes not released for publication until the overall appropriations was agreed to and passed. That was because Labor-HHS-Education was a target for many of the freezes or budget cuts House leadership sought to better fund other spending and priorities.
This week may bring some clarity to these deadlines, but an additional shutdown is likely to push everything further out into the legislative year.