CHN: FY19 Spending Season is Underway

Even though Congress wrapped up FY18 spending less than a month ago, FY19 planning is underway. While there appears to be more interest in producing a FY19 budget in the House, reports are that the Senate is less likely to do so. 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 by April 15 each year, there’s no penalty for not meeting the deadline or not producing a budget at all; in fact, according to CQ, Congress has only met this deadline four times since it became law in 1985. 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 as 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.

Appropriations subcommittees in both the House and Senate have begun holding hearings on spending priorities. With a goal of avoiding another omnibus catch-all spending package for FY19, Senate GOP leaders said they would like to have the first of the 12 required spending bills passed by the chamber in early June. House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said his committee will mark up that chamber’s first spending bill on May 8. One possibility is that spending bills will be grouped in bundles, called “minibuses,” to expedite passage, and that these could come to the House floor in June or July. It’s possible that these timelines will slip, however, and many are already expecting that a stopgap spending bill will be needed to keep the government open from the time the new fiscal year begins on October 1 through sometime after the November elections.

Budget and Appropriations