By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: Congress Returns with an Unclear Agenda and Looming Deadlines
Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess with key deadlines in focus, including the end of the fiscal year and the nation’s debt limit. June and July are normally heavy work periods for Congress as they attempt to clear the books before the long August recess. However, this year the way forward for both the House and the Senate is unclear. The budget process, the normal driver of action in the summer months, is completely off-track. Normally a budget resolution is agreed upon by April, followed by the Appropriations committee mark-ups of the twelve individual bills that appropriate funding for the government, and then those bills are voted on by the House and Senate. So far this year, none of that has occurred.
The reason for the hold-up is that the legislative strategy that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to at the start of the year was dependent on passing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) using legislative tools from the FY2017 budget process (which was incomplete at the start of the year), and then using similar procedures to pass tax reform at the lower tax baseline resulting from repeal of the ACA. However, when quick repeal and replacement of the ACA fell apart this winter, there was no Plan B available and now the budget process is hostage to a health care bill whose fate is unclear.
Stories about failed budgets are nothing new and the full process has not been completed on time since 1997, but consideration of Fiscal Year 2018 has been particularly bad.
- No budget resolutions have been debated or voted on in either chamber (Regular deadline is April 15th)
- No appropriations bills have been marked up in committee (Regular order has all bills reported out by June 10th)
- No appropriations bills have been voted on in either chamber (Regular order has the House completing all bills by June 30th)
As a point of comparison, at this point in the calendar in 2015, the House and Senate had passed their own budgets, negotiated between the two chambers, and adopted a budget resolution (S.Con.Res. 11, passed 5/5/2015). In addition, the House had voted on four of the appropriation bills with a fifth pending. The House Appropriations Committee had made even more progress, with six bills already marked up in the Committee. The Senate Committee lagged behind with only two bills passed by early June, but was set up for a productive summer.
Conversely, so far in FY 2018 there hasn’t even been debate on a budget resolution, never mind action on Appropriations bills. Some of the members on HAC have floated pre-emptively passing an omnibus before the August recess, but given that internal divisions have prevented specific Appropriations bills from even going to the House floor in past years, it’s very difficult to see such a tactic succeeding. So, instead both chambers are left in limbo with no budget, no clear toplines, and no clear sense of when they can move forward.
House Activity – The House will vote on a variety of suspension bills in the early part of the week, including legislation condemning recent terror attacks in the United Kingdom. Towards the end of the week, the House will vote on two rule bills, one of which will be less controversial (the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act). The other is the Financial CHOICE Act, which is a major reform of financial regulations. This will likely be a highly partisan bill, but should still pass the House. It’s fate in the Senate is unclear, as it would likely face a Democratic filibuster.
Senate Activity – The Senate will vote on a variety of nominations and noncontroversial legislation while, behind the scenes, Republicans continue to negotiate on a potential replacement for the ACA.
- 6/6 ‘Posture of the Department of the Air Force’, Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 6/6 ‘Marine Corps Ground Modernization’, Subcommittee on Seapower, SR-232 Russell, 230pm
- 6/7 ‘Department of Defense Nuclear Acquisition Programs and the Nuclear Doctrine, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, SR-222 Russell, 230pm
- 6/8 ‘Posture of the Department of the Navy’, Full Committee Hearing, SD-G50 Dirksen, 930am
- 6/7 ‘Fiscal Year 2018 Priorities and Posture of Missile Defeat Programs and Activities’, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, 2212 Rayburn, 2pm
- 6/7 ‘Combat Aviation Modernization Programs and the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request’, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces’, 2118 Rayburn, 330pm
- HAC-D – No hearing scheduled
- SAC-D – 6/7 ‘Hearing to review the FY2018 budget request for the U.S. Army, 192 Dirksen, 1030am
Government Activity Round-Up
Nothing new from CBO that’s defense related, so we’ll relink to the April 24th, shipbuilding report, “Costs of Building a 355-Ship Navy.” This report estimated the costs of achieving the Navy’s objective of increasing the size of the current fleet of 275 ships to 355 ships within 15, 20, 25, or 30 years. CBO estimates that the earliest the Navy could achieve its goal would be in 2035. The cost to build 355-ship fleet would average $102 billion per year through 2047, CBO estimates, or more than one-third greater than the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2016 for today’s 275-ship fleet. CBO estimated that shipbuilding costs would be at their highest point over the next 10 years, while operating costs would be highest between 2037 and 2047, once the fleet numbered 355 ships. CBO concluded that implementing proposed North Korea sanctions legislation would cost $10 million through 2022. H.R. 1644, the “Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act,” would require the President to expand existing sanctions and impose new sanctions against North Korea.
Two interesting GAO reports this week. The first looks at Missile Defense testing transparency and GAO came away with some recommendations for future improvements. The second report digs into how well the Pentagon manages the equipment and support it provides to Iraqi Security Forces.
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