Political Report: 6/5/2018

 In Weekly Wire

Main Story – Appropriations Process Gets Underway in the House while the Senate begins debate on the NDAA

After several busy weeks of defense activity, this week the Congressional appropriations process should get underway, as the House of Representatives is scheduled to take up and pass a package of appropriations bills with bipartisan support. In the Senate, the Senate Armed Services Committee has passed its version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and it will be debated by the full Senate on Wednesday.

The appropriations package the House is set to vote on contains three of the twelve appropriations bills required to fully fund the government. This bill contains the subcommittee markups for Energy & Water Development (E&W), Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA), and Legislative appropriations. The first two bills are typically the least controversial appropriations legislation. The E&W bill largely deals with funding of local projects and the nation’s nuclear research facilities, while the MilCon-VA bill is typically non-partisan due to its subject matter. The Legislative appropriations can be oddly controversial, but largely because members of Congress show an impressive degree of restraint in keeping their operating funding relatively low. Staff salaries have been stagnant for years and anyone who has spent any time around the Hill complex knows that there are plenty of buildings in need of maintenance. However, it’s worth noting that the construction of the initial capital building took far longer than expected due to Congress’ inability to provide adequate funding. Despite this, legislation is expected to make it through the House easily and Senate leadership has indicated that they will move forward with it as well. This would be a promising turn compared to previous years’ appropriations quagmires.

However, it is too early to say that the appropriations process will go forward without problems. For one, previous sessions have seen these bills pass the House before devolving into a morass of CRs and an eventual omnibus. Second, these aren’t the difficult bills to pass.

Appropriations bills funding contentious programs like health care remain unlikely to make it through a floor debate. Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security would almost certainly run aground on immigration arguments. When you combine this with the fact that Democrats will be reluctant to see funding for the Department of Defense signed into law until non-defense appropriations are agreed to , it remains likely that DoD will have to wait for a post-election omnibus to get its funding.

House Activity

The House will act on its version of WRDA and the appropriations package mentioned above.

Senate Activity

The Senate will spend part of the week debating the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

Congressional Defense Activity

  • SASC
    • No hearings this week
  • HASC
    • No hearings this week
  • HAC-D
    • 6/7 “Subcommittee Markup – FY 2019 Defense Appropriations Bill”, H-140 The Capitol, 12pm
  • SAC-D
    • 6/6 “Closed hearing to review defense innovation and research funding”, SVC-217 Capitol Visitor Center, 10am

Government Activity Round-up

The CBO released a report on May 24th looking at the President’s FY 2019 budget request. CBO’s findings put a much more pessimistic gloss on the budget’s projections, as it does every year. CBO found that the budget would only reduce the deficit by $2.9 trillion rather than the $5.2 trillion the administration projected. Similarly, CBO expects net spending on interest to be significantly higher than under the administration’s plan. Overall though, both the CBO and the White House foresee high deficits throughout the period of 2019 to 2028 as spending will remain above 21% of GDP while revenue will fail to exceed 18%. Full report at the link.

The GAO has out a new report on the B61 nuclear bomb and cost estimates for the planned life extension programs. This report was done to see how well the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) did in projecting the cost of the program. In 2016, the NNSA stated that the cost of the program would be $7.6 billion. However, another office in the NNSA operating separately from the program estimated that the cost would be $10 billion. The GAO then assessed the process through which the NNSA derived its official figure. Overall, GAO found that the official NNSA report met most of the best practices for estimating program costs and only had minor suggestions to improve the process. Full report here.

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