With members returning last week, there was a lack of congressional interest in pursuing a rescission package of cuts to the just-passed 2018 appropriations but the White House appeared to be feeling just the opposite.
Reports are that Budget Director—Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney is assembling a package of $60 billion in budget cuts. The package would be timed for the start of May which means Congress would have 45 days to act. Before Congress had returned House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had discussions with the Administration on a rescission package of cuts of approximately $30 billion. Some conservatives are clamoring for going back and cutting what was negotiated by the four key leaders (Ryan, McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi) but those leaders have not embraced the idea either due to outright opposition to the cuts or concerns over how such a backtracking on the budget deal would create major problems for future good-faith negotiations.
Complicating the politics is the announcement by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WS) that he will retire at the end of this term and not run for reelection. Congressman McCarthy is a candidate for House Speaker or leader of the Republican caucus and, at this point, the number three leader Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) has said he would not run against McCarthy. Some in the Republican caucus would like the Speaker to retire early to help decide the leadership race before the November election. Whether Speaker Ryan wants to spend his last months pursuing such a return to the FY 2018 budget debate is uncertain.
If the White House sends up a package at the start of May, Congress would have 45 days to act working through the appropriations committees. The process will be influenced by what the Administration proposes and if they follow the pattern of Director Mulvaney’s first two budgets, Congress will likely reject the cuts. Those two sets of budget proposals included cuts that Congress not only rejected but in many instances responded by proving bipartisan appropriations increases.
For a CWLA chart of spending go here.