CHN: FY19 Budget Planning Begins in the House

As part of the regular congressional budget development process, several House committees are making known their spending needs for programs under their jurisdiction for the coming fiscal year. Sent to the House Budget Committee, these “views and estimates” letters outline each committee’s budget and policy priorities for the year ahead and react the president’s request. The House Agriculture Committee’s views and estimates letter for FY19 pointed out that agriculture programs have been sources of $100 billion in savings already, and therefore urged the Budget Committee to protect funding for SNAP and other programs, citing the need to develop and enact a Farm Bill this year.

In its letter to the Budget Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee mentions several changes to programs serving low- and middle-income Americans that advocates see as harmful, such as “options for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act,” “reforming welfare programs,” work requirements, and “pro-growth” tax code changes. In addition, the House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to adopt its views and estimates letter on Tuesday, March 6.

According to CQ, there are 12 budget-related hearings scheduled for this week, nine of them in House committees. During these hearings, committee members will review President Trump’s FY19 budget request and pose questions to relevant Trump administration officials. It is still unclear whether or not the House will produce its own FY19 budget request this year. House Budget Committee Chair Steve Womack (R-AR) has said he may not take up a budget resolution this year, but he later said his committee would release a budget blueprint. The Senate is less likely than the House to produce a budget. As the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, passed in February, provided sequester relief and set spending caps for both FY18 and FY19, there is less incentive for members of Congress to produce a budget for FY19. While Congress is technically required to adopt a budget resolution, it is a non-binding blueprint that is not signed by the president and does not become law, and the two chambers of Congress often fail to agree on a budget resolution. Failure to pass a FY19 budget does not stop Congress from working on and passing FY19 appropriations bills; however, it would mean Republicans could not use a special process known reconciliation, which allows measures with a budgetary impact (like tax cuts, cuts to entitlement programs, or a repeal of much of the Affordable Care Act) to be passed in the Senate with only a simple majority instead of the usual 60-vote threshold required in that chamber.

In addition, House and Senate leadership have appointed members to the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform called for in the Bipartisan Budget Act. The Select Committee is chaired by House Budget Committee chair Steve Womack (R-AR) and co-chaired by the House Appropriations Committee’s top Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY). The law calls for the committee to meet for the first time by March 11, although there is some doubt it will do so. The budget group is supposed to report back recommendations by the end of November, although there are no penalties for missing this deadline. Another Select Committee formed by the Bipartisan Budget Act is with tasked with coming up with solutions to help keep multiemployer pension plans solvent.

For more information on all things related to the FY19 budget, see CHN’s FY19 budget resource page.

Budget and Appropriations