House to Vote on Bundle of Eight FY2018 Appropriations Bills This Week

House to Vote on Bundle of Eight FY2018 Appropriations Bills This Week

The House will vote on a bill, H.R. 3354, that combines eight of the 12 regular FY2018 appropriations bills this week. The legislation includes the measures that fund NASA and NOAA (Commerce-Justice-Science), and the FAA’s space office (Transportation-HUD).   The House passed the other four FY2018 appropriations bills, including defense, as a separate bundle in July.   Final congressional action on the bills is not expected before FY2018 begins on October 1, however, and a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating for several months appears likely.

H.R. 3354 has been transformed from the Interior and Environment appropriations bill into the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018.”   The House Rules Committee will meet to consider it on September 5.   Floor action could come any time thereafter.   House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has it on the House schedule as one of the bills to be considered Wednesday and the balance of the week subject to a rule being granted.  Congressional schedules are always subject to change, of course.

The bill combines the following FY2018 appropriations measures, which have been separately reported from the House Appropriations Committee:

  • H.R. 3354, Interior and Environment
  • H.R. 3268, Agriculture and Rural Development
  • H.R. 3267, Commerce-Justice-Science (includes NASA, NOAA)
  • H.R. 3280, Financial Services and General Government
  • H.R. 3355, Homeland Security
  • H.R. 3358, Labor-Health and Human Services-Education
  • H.S. 3362, State and Foreign Operations
  • H.R. 3353, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (includes FAA’s space office)

The House passed H.R. 3219, the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act, 2018,” on July 27.  It combines the other four regular appropriations bills:

  • H.R. 3219, Defense
  • H.R. 3266, Energy and Water
  • H.R. 3162, Legislative Branch
  • H.R. 2998, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs

The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported six of the 12 bills and additional markups are scheduled for the coming week.  With only four weeks left before FY2018 begins, there is virtually no chance the Senate will be able to pass its bills and negotiate a final agreement with the House before October 1.   Plans are in the works to pass a CR to fund agencies at their FY2017 levels through November or December.

President Trump threatened to allow the government to shut down if Congress did not provide money to build his border wall with Mexico, but that was before Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey wreaked devastation in Texas and Louisiana.  More recently, the White House backed off for the time being, apparently recognizing that this is not the time to stage a showdown over funding when disaster relief is urgently needed.

Congress must pass and the President must sign legislation to raise the debt limit by the end of the month as well.  All options are in play as to whether to deal with that debate separately or combine it with funding for disaster relief and/or the CR.

The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) remains in force, setting caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending.  If Congress breaches the caps, automatic across-the-board cuts called a sequester go into effect. That happened in FY2013.  The effects were so dire that Congress and the Obama White House relaxed the spending caps for FY2014-2015 and FY2016-2017, but only after intense debate.  No agreement has been reached regarding FY2018.

During the Obama years, it was a battle between Republicans who wanted to reduce the deficit through spending cuts alone, and Democrats who wanted a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.  Because the White House was in Democratic hands, congressional Republicans had to negotiate spending levels that President Obama would sign into law.  How this will play out now that Republicans control the House, Senate, and White House remains to be seen.  Many Republicans want higher defense spending, but not all are willing to make commensurate cuts to non-defense spending (like NASA and NOAA) to meet the caps.

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