Last week ended with Senate Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) saying, “We need a new budget deal to finish our work. Congress and the administration must reach agreement on acceptable top-line funding levels. I urge all parties to those negotiations to redouble their efforts to reach agreement.”
That statement was issued because there is still no breakthrough as far as completing the rest of FY 2018 appropriations. The 12 appropriations subcommittees need spending allocations before they make some of the hard spending choices. If Congress does not raise the caps in a deal that must be signed by the President, and Congress attempts to increase spending (especially for defense), the automatic across the board budget cuts will take place in January.
The “big four” (McConnell, Ryan, Schumer and Pelosi) have started some discussion but the Republicans offered a two-year deal of $180 billion more in spending but it was heavily tilted to defense spending in such a way that the current “parity” between defense spending and non-defense spending would be violated.
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. 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 and it looks like they will need to get some sort of extension or face a shutdown.
At the same time the Administration released a new request for disaster relief with this proposal requesting an additional $44 billion. Many members (particularly Texas) feel the funds are well short of what is needed. The Administration also sent up proposals to cut mandatory funding as a way to pay for the latest package. That would have the impact of cutting SSBG—a usual funding source during disasters—while also adding disaster funds.