Compiled by Tom Branen, Chief Policy Officer, America’s Service Commissions (Sources: CQ, Politico)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to advance FY 2018 spending bills using preliminary spending allocations, confirming that both chambers intend to move forward on the spending process without a budget resolution adopted.
McConnell has made the point that sooner rather than later the Senate will have to come to a bipartisan agreement on what the topline spending figures are on the discretionary accounts this year.
Congress will need to come to an agreement on lifting discretionary spending levels outlined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which set spending levels considered untenable by Democrats and defense hawks alike.
In the meantime, McConnell hopes to move forward with some of the appropriation bills at last year’s levels, and then adjust them once a bipartisan agreement is brokered.
It appears that Senate appropriators will use fiscal 2017 as their guide as kind of a bookmark for markups recognizing that it will be adjusted by whatever topline agreement is set. This would be a positive development for FY 2018 funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), as key Congressional staff have indicated that increased spending caps would lessen the threat to any cuts to CNCS.
McConnell’s reference to the need for budget negotiations comes as a top House appropriator had little to report.
House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested that House lawmakers may revert to spending levels in the BCA. He said he hadn’t heard of any budget talks and at the end of the day it will wither be a year-long CR or a bipartisan negotiated omnibus, probably toward the end of the calendar year.
In the meantime, Cole said, as the committee writes bills, we can look at the BCA number, that is the law of the land. That discretionary level would be $3 billion less for nondefense discretionary than fiscal 2017 levels.
Debt Ceiling and Budget Deal
Senate Republicans are reportedly planning for a July vote to raise the debt ceiling.
Though the Treasury Department has said Congress can likely wait until September to avoid default, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to clear the Senate’s agenda as much as possible before the August recess. Members of both parties are interested in a broad spending deal that would avoid the budget cuts of sequestration.
There is also an emerging consensus among Hill leaders that the debt ceiling — currently $20 trillion — should be raised by an amount large enough to preclude another vote for several years making it easier for most rank-and-file lawmakers to just have one vote this Congress.
There may be some rank-and-file support among House Republicans to piece together a bipartisan budget deal to raise spending caps, as is being discussed in the Senate. More than 141 defense-minded House Republicans signed a letter in early May asking GOP leaders to raise the cap on the Pentagon budget.
Senate Democrats would not support a military boost without increases for domestic programs as well. Some GOP defense hawks may be willing to negotiate to do both. It’s unclear, however, whether they would want to link that to a debt ceiling vote.
If a budget deal is completed before the August recess that lifted the spending caps, appropriators would be able to move forward with markups at the actual allotments for the various subcommittees. Therefore, the House and Senate Labor HHS subcommittees that determine the funding levels for CNCS would be able to move forward at hopefully a higher spending cap and have the ability to fully fund CNCS and all its programs in FY 2018.
In the meantime, we need to continue outreach to members of Congress and educate them on the critical role and impact CNCS is having in our communities.