Last week, the Republican Conference held its annual retreat in Philadelphia. Although members left the meeting without a clear path forward on numerous items, it was clear that they intend to have a busy legislative schedule over the next year. With regard to fiscal issues, Republicans remain committed to passing two budget reconciliation bills over the next few months; one will address the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while the other will address tax reform. As previously reported, the FY 2017 budget resolution, which will lead to the repeal of the ACA, was approved and committees of jurisdiction are working on reconciliation instructions. Congress must also deal with the expiration of the nation’s borrowing authority in March and the reinstatement of sequestration in the FY 2018 budget. Recognizing the short time frame to deal with these complicated and controversial issues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) affirmed the difficulties of maintaining “regular order” in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process, and indicated that was unlikely to occur.
Supplemental Funding for Border Wall
President Trump is keeping his campaign promise to build a wall along the border of Mexico. Republican congressional leadership emerged from the GOP retreat indicating a supplemental appropriations bill to fund the wall in the estimated amount of $12 – $15 billion would be forthcoming, but did not commit to any fiscal offsets. Democrats were immediately critical of Republicans, who have historically focused on fiscal discipline, and noted that supplemental funding bills are typically submitted to Congress only in the event of an emergency. Most recently, in February 2016, former President Obama submitted an emergency supplemental appropriations bill requesting $1.9 billion in funding to address the Zika virus. It took Congress nearly eight months to pass legislation that included less than the initial request of $1.1 billion to address the issue.
Nomination of Congressman Mick Mulvaney for Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Last week, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) came before the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss his nomination for Director of OMB. During the Senate Budget Committee hearing, he indicated that cuts to entitlements may be necessary in order to address the rising budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report last week that concluded that the current deficit is $559 billion and is expected to grow to $1 trillion in the year 2023. Such a position is in contrast with President Donald Trump, who affirmed on numerous occasions throughout his campaign that he would not cut Social Security or Medicare. Additionally, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was highly critical of Rep. Mulvaney’s views on cutting defense spending.
No confirmation vote has been set for Rep. Mulvaney.
This Week’s Hearings:
- On Wednesday, February 1, at 10:30 AM, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook. The witness will be:
- Keith Hall, Ph.D. Director Congressional Budget Office
- On Thursday, February 2, at 10:00 AM the House Budget Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook. The witness will be:
- Keith Hall, Ph.D., Director, Congressional Budget Office