Legislative Activity

Appropriations Outlook

It increasingly appears that the House will approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) in lieu of an Omnibus or a series of Minibuses before the current CR expires on December 9.  This approach is easier for Republican leadership because it will placate members of the Freedom Caucus who do not want to cut a deal on an Omnibus with President Obama. Additionally, President-elect Trump’s transition team has requested that Congress extend the CR until March 31, 2017, so that his Administration has influence in the process.  The CR may not be completely “clean” by containing “anomalies” such as supplemental war funding, aid for flood and other damage from recent storms, and money to address the lead-contamination water problems in Flint, Michigan.

Republican Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee have agreed to move forward with the CR approach, and Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) stated that he was “extremely hopeful that the new Congress and the new Administration will finish these bills.” Most Democrats would prefer an Omnibus bill and some have expressed disappointment in Republican leadership for punting major spending decisions.  President Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the White House would “review the new stopgap legislation before they made a judgment.”

Congress must also address a November 10 supplemental funding request from President Obama for $5.8 billion in money for troops in Afghanistan and in the fight against the Islamic State, along with $5.8 billion in additional funding to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development for other activities related to those efforts. Before the Thanksgiving recess, Chairman Rogers said that it was unclear whether this money would be attached to a CR or passed as a stand-alone bill, and that this matter was “under discussion.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the supplemental package would be voted on as a stand-alone when asked during her weekly press conference. Additionally, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has said he will offer a $26 billion supplemental appropriations package for the U.S. military.

Budget Reform

After working for over a year on his plan to overhaul the federal budget process, House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) will release details this Wednesday, November 30, during a forum at the Brookings Institution. Unable to pass regular spending bills on time in the last 20 years, Members of Congress from both parties agree the budget process is broken and desperately needs changes. Chairman Price’s plan is expected to be a very ambitious attempt to rewrite the process and will include controls on automatic spending, increased transparency, increased congressional authority over the budget, and increased enforcement of budget rules. While no action is expected in the lame duck, the proposal will lay the foundation for legislation next year.

In the Senate, Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) also promised to make changes to the budget process, including a switch to biennial budgeting. He is expected to more fully outline his plans during the lame duck session. According to Budget Committee staff, Chairman Enzi’s changes would not be a complete overhaul of the process, but will complement Chairman Price’s and could be expected to move in the short term.