By Matt Vallone, Director of Research & Analysis
Main Story: Budget Progress Doesn’t Translate to Appropriations Progress
After a couple of weeks with only one chamber in session, both the House and Senate are back in town this week. They will kick off what promises to be a busy fall spent working on a major package of tax cuts (and possibly some tax reform to pay for some of it) and finding a way to fund the government after December 8th. The action will mostly be in the House this week, where House conservatives will try to reconcile themselves to passing a Senate budget that does not balance and does not contain the cuts to entitlements found in the House budget. However, by accepting the Senate budget, both chambers can avoid conference negotiations and more quickly move to consideration of tax bills. The White House and Republican Congressional leadership are pushing for quick passage and it seems likely that even most members of the House Freedom Caucus will be hesitant to get in the way of tax cuts. However, don’t let the passage of a budget make you believe that we’re close to some sort of funding deal for FY 2018.
While the Senate budget contains some additional funding for defense, it’s not as much as many defense hawks would like ($557 billion in the base 050 account in FY 2018 with $77 billion in OCO). However, there’s a general recognition that the toplines contained in the budget resolution won’t define the December 8th funding agreement. Speaking about the budget agreement to the Hill, Senator John McCain said, “At the end of the day, we all know that the Senate budget resolution will not impact final appropriations.” Like the FY 2017 budget resolution adopted at the start of the year, the FY 2018 resolution is best viewed as a vehicle for the majority’s priorities, in this case taxes, rather than the fiscal blueprint it is designed to be.
The reason for this is that the budget resolution can pass both chambers with a simple majority vote, whereas the actual appropriations that fund government are subject to a Senate filibuster. So while the Senate can adopt a Republican budget with just Republican votes, any appropriations bill will require the support of at least eight Democrats. This means that a deal will need to be made. Given the growing list of priorities Congress has to deal with, it is entirely possible that we could see a shutdown in December as Democrats and Republicans will be unable to come to agreement on so many issues. A more likely scenario is yet another continuing resolution kicking the can on funding into 2018, after tax cuts have been resolved and brought in line with when Congress will likely need to raise the debt ceiling again.
House Activity – The House has a variety of suspension bills it will work with this week, but the biggest focus will be on Thursday, when the House will attempt to pass the Senate budget. While there will likely be conservative defectors and Democratic opposition, it is still likely that the budget gets the necessary majority.
Senate Activity – The Senate will vote on another disaster relief bill this week to provide funding to hurricane victims, as well as to the victims of wildfires in California. After passage, the Senate will likely spend the rest of the week working through nominations.
- SASC – No public hearings this week
- HASC – No hearings this week
- HAC-D – No hearings this week
- SAC-D – No hearings this week
Government Activity Round-Up
Nothing new at CBO, and GAO really only has one aerospace-relevant report, which looks at NASA’s attempts to integrate its “three programs to put astronauts into space – the Orion Crew Vehicle, Space Launch System, and Exploration Ground Systems.” GAO made a variety of recommendations to strengthen oversight and review of these integration efforts. Full recommendations are here.
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