With the August recess fast approaching, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee continues its work on the twelve annual appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2018. To date, the committee has passed seven bills and anticipates approving the final five bills in the next two weeks. Combined, these twelve bills will direct government funding for the next fiscal year.
However, the appropriations committee has moved ahead of the normal budget process. Traditionally, appropriators base spending bills on a budget resolution passed by both chambers, which sets funding amounts for all federal agencies and programs. To date, neither the House or Senate have passed a FY 2018 budget resolution.
House budget negotiations ongoing
In the House, budget committee leadership continues working on their FY 2018 resolution with negotiations ongoing between moderate and conservative members. House Republicans hope to use the FY 2018 budget to lay the groundwork for tax reform and some cuts to mandatory spending levels. However, prior to signing off on the budget resolution, the House Freedom Caucus – a group of 30 to 40 most conservative members of the House – hopes to ensure the tax reform outline will not include the border adjustability tax (BAT) and does require steep cuts to entitlement programs. House Budget Chair Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and majority leadership remain in discussions with Freedom Caucus members over these issues, as they will be unable to pass a budget without their block of votes.
Reports indicate the House budget resolution, which has yet to be released, will also include reduced levels of non-defense discretionary spending while increasing the amount of defense discretionary spending. Notably, this increase in defense spending would be above the funding caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), requiring a new bipartisan budget agreement to fund these programs at this level. Such an agreement could be difficult to reach, as Democrats would be unlikely to accept significant reductions in nondefense spending in exchange for higher defense caps.
Still, House appropriators are pushing forward with their bills, even though if a new spending agreement is reached, it could require them to rewrite certain bills to meet the new spending levels.
Across the Capitol, the Senate Appropriations Committee is moving at a slower pace, and will likely mark up many of their spending bills after the August recess. Earlier this week, the committee approved the Military Construction-VA bill, and they may address additional bills in the next couple of weeks. Similar to the House, any bills passed by the Senate committee may need to be rewritten if a new budget agreement is reached.
Federal appropriations govern a number of programs that are key county priorities. The Housing and Urban Development bill maintains level funding or the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the HOME Investment Partnership grants, while the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill continues support for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Other county priorities could be effected in future bills the committees will mark up.