By Matt Vallone, Senior Analysis Manager
Main Story: 114th Congress Looks to Wrap up Early & Trump Transition Update
House and Senate leaders are hoping to wrap up the 114th Congress and allow everyone to get home for the holidays early. At the same time, the Trump administration continues to make progress on its transition to the White House, with several key Cabinet positions now filled. Rumors continue to fly about who is in line for other key positions and what the new administration’s priorities will be in 2017. In addition, one recent report indicates that the Trump administration may decline to publish a budget for FY 2018. I find this highly unlikely, but even the possibility is concerning. In light of that, today’s report will try to quickly go through both what to expect from the potentially final week of the Congressional year, as well as a quick discussion on the impacts of the administration declining to release a budget for FY 2018.
Both House and Senate leaders appear anxious to pass a CR funding the government through the spring and then get out of town. It looks like the current CR would run until the middle of April and debate continues over a handful of minor provisions (particularly of interest are a defense supplemental of $11.6 billion and legislative language around allowing the Export-Import Bank to resume functioning). While negotiations continue, work moves forward on other bills. The House passed the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act last week and the Senate is expected to send it to the White House this week. This week may also see progress on two other bills that have bipartisan support: the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that would free up additional money for medical research and reform the FDA approval process, and a reauthorization of water development programs (also known as WRDA). The House has already passed the Cures Act and expects to take WRDA up this week before heading out of town on Thursday. The Senate will start the week on Cures and hopes to wrap up the NDAA, Cures, WRDA and a CR by the end of the week. As always, nothing is finalized until the gavels come down, and that’s a very aggressive schedule for the normally slow-moving Senate, but everyone seems on board with leaving a week early and funding the government via CR without a fight. Holiday jet fumes are particularly strong.
However, while everyone seems on board with the plan for funding another few months of FY 2017, should the Trump administration decline to release a budget, there would undoubtedly be major problems for all sorts of actors. This dramatic decision would be taken to avoid potential blowback from offering an agenda that would result in significant increases in both the deficit and the national debt. There are several significant downsides such a decision would pose, both to the government and to those organizations that rely on the budget for planning and strategy.
- President Elect Trump Transition Seal: Courtesy of Donald Trump Transition Team – https://www.greatagain.gov/
- 12/6 ‘Emerging U.S. Defense Challenges and Worldwide Threats’, Full Committee, SH-216 Hart, 930am
- 12/7 ‘California National Guard Bonus Repayment Issue’, Military Personnel Subcommittee, 2118 Rayburn, 2pm
- 12/8 ‘Oversight Review of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program’, Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, 2118 Rayburn, 9am
- HAC-D – No hearing scheduled
- SAC-D – No hearing scheduled
Government Activity Round-Up
Several interesting reports out so far this month from CBO & GAO. The CBO has their new monthly budget summary, looking at the fiscal state of the government heading into the end of the year. The annual deficit grew from $439 billion to $587 billion from FY 2015 to FY 2016. Interestingly, about a third of that ($41 billion) had to do with the fiscal year ending on a weekend rather than a weekday. Other than that, the deficit grew because outlays increased to 20.9% of GDP while revenues shrank from 18.1% to 17.8% of GDP. More at the link.
The GAO also has several interesting reports. Of particular interest to our readers will likely be a piece looking at the frigate variant of the Littoral Combat Ship. This looks at some of the implications should Congress decide to award a block buy for 12 ships in FY 2018. The GAO also takes a look at the effectiveness of the VA’s care for women veterans and finds more oversight needs to be done. Lastly, GAO looked into the cost estimate for moving the Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex (JIAC) to RAF base Croughton. The DoD did not perform well and GAO recommends several improvements.
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