CHN: House Poised to Pass First FY20 Spending Package

The House of Representatives is poised to pass a package of four of the 12 required spending bills to keep the federal government operating after the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The “minibus” package (H.R. 2740) consists of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill; the Defense bill; the Energy and Water bill; and the State and Foreign Operations bill. Dozens of amendments were voted on during floor proceedings last week, with hundreds of additional amendments on tap before a final vote on the package, which is expected this week. The Trump Administration has issued a Statement of Administration Policy saying it would recommend a veto if the minibus reaches his desk.

Following completion of the first spending package, the House is expected to take up a second minibus package (H.R. 3055) consisting of the Agriculture spending bill; the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill; the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill; the Interior-Environment bill; and the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill. The package also includes back pay for an estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or had to work without pay during the partial government shutdown that ended in January. The three remaining spending bills – the Financial Services bill, the Homeland Security bill, and the Legislative Branch bill – are also expected to pass the House floor before Congress leaves for its July 4 recess.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the top-line spending limits for these 12 FY20 spending bills in May ($631 billion for domestic/international programs, also known as non-defense discretionary; $733 billion for defense), but these levels are not binding in the Senate. A new bipartisan deal to raise tight spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act still needs to be reached with the Senate and signed by the President, if Congress is to avoid the deep cuts required by the 2011 law. Without legislation to lift the caps, non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $54 billion and defense by $71 billion in FY20, compared to FY19 levels. While a deal to lift the austere spending caps for the next two fiscal years is preferred, there is talk on Capitol Hill that a one-year deal may be more achievable: both Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) mentioned the possibility of a one-year agreement over the weekend

Senate Appropriations Chair Shelby previously said he would not agree to the House spending limits and suggested that in the absence of an agreement to lift the caps, his Committee would write spending bills to the lower numbers required by existing law, with the expectation that they could add funds if there was an agreement to lift the statutory caps. The latest report is that the Senate Appropriations Committee could begin taking up its own versions of FY20 spending bills after Congress returns from its July 4 recess, even if an agreement between the House, the Senate, and the White House on spending limits hasn’t been reached by then.

President Trump’s FY20 budget retained the spending caps, but in order to increase military spending proposed a huge increase in the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, from $69 billion to $165 billion. Now reports are that the Administration would prefer a year-long stop-gap spending measure (known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR) for FY20, which would provide level funding from FY19 ($597 billion for domestic/international programs). However, advocates contend that, because of a need for increased funding for the 2020 Census, veterans’ health care, and other programs, flat funding would actually result in a roughly $20 billion loss for other human needs programs.

For more information on what’s in some of the bills the House is voting on, see the May 20 Human Needs Report.

Budget and Appropriations