Legislative Activity

President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget Proposal

The Trump Administration intends to release a FY 2018 budget proposal within the “next several weeks” according to President Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. It is likely that this submission will be an outline (“skinny budget”) which will lay the groundwork for a more complete budget plan expected as early as May. As previously reported, it is not unusual for incoming presidents to miss the statutory deadline of February 6 and subsequently release a more narrow budget proposal during their first year in office.

However, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget typically plays a significant role in the development of an administration’s annual budget proposal. President Trump’s nominee, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), was reported out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security on February 2, but his Senate confirmation vote is not yet scheduled. The Senate is anticipated to debate two confirmations this week- David Shulkin as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Linda McMahon as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration- but Republicans are hopeful Rep. Mulvaney will be in place before Congress’ President’s Day recess, which begins February 18. We expect the Senate will utilize the full 30 hours of debate allowed, as Rep. Mulvaney has been highly criticized on both sides of the aisle for his stances on cuts to entitlement and defense spending.

FY 2017 Budget Reconciliation

The FY 2017 budget resolution established January 27 as the date for the four House and Senate committees of jurisdiction to draft their portions of reconciliation language to start the repeal process for the Affordable Care Act. Despite passage of this deadline, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told his conference last week that the reconciliation process is “on time” and legislation to repeal the law would be complete this year. House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-TN) noted her committee will hold hearings on the matter later this month.

FY 2018 Budget Resolution and Appropriations

The appropriations season typically starts with the submission of the President’s Budget Proposal to Congress in February; however, given the delay in President Trump’s submission, it is likely Congress will begin to consider the FY 2018 budget before receiving his comprehensive request (and likely before completing the FY 2017 budget). Passage of a budget resolution by the April 15 statutory deadline is not necessary to start the appropriations process, as evidenced by the January 2017 passage of the FY 2017 Budget Resolution. Members are currently accepting programmatic funding and language requests from constituents in preparation for FY 2018 spending bills.

Border Wall

Last week, a leaked report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the cost of a 2,000 mile wall along the border of Mexico to be approximately $21.6 billion. This number is higher than previous estimates of $12-$15 billion provided by President Trump and some Republican members of Congress. In response, President Trump tweeted that he would be able to bring the cost “way down” when he becomes involved with the design and negotiation process.

This news immediately sparked rebuke from House and Senate Democrats. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) classified it as a “tragic misallocation of resources” and Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) noted that “how we use our taxpayer dollars is a reflection of our values, and wasting billions on a poorly conceived border wall does not meet that test.” The President is expected to submit a supplemental funding proposal for the wall to Congress, which would be classified as emergency spending and thus not be subject to discretionary budget caps. The timing of the request is critical, as such legislation could serve as a vehicle for a potential omnibus or minibus package before the current continuing resolution expires on April 28, 2017.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, February 15, the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Agriculture will hold a “USDA Office of Inspector General Oversight Hearing.” The witnesses will be:
    • Phyllis K. Fong, Inspector General, USDA Office of Inspector General
    • Gil H. Harden, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, USDA Office of Inspector General
    • Ann Coffey, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, USDA Office of Inspector General
  • On Wednesday, February 15, the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing titled “Mental Health Care: Examining Treatments and Services.” The witness will be:
    • Joseph Parks, Ph.D., Medical Director, National Council for Behavioral Health
    • David M. Johnson, Ed.D, LMHC, Chief Executive Officer, Navos Mental Health Solutions
    • Dennis S. Freeman, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, Cherokee Health Systems
    • Chief Donald W. DeLucca, President, International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • On Thursday, February 16, the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs will hold a “Member Hearing Day.”
  • On Thursday, February 16, the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch will hold a “Member Hearing Day.”