CHN: House Could Vote on Spending Cuts Package this Week
The House could take up a package of domestic spending cuts, also known as rescissions, as early as this week. Proposed by the Trump Administration and supported by some in Congress, the cuts total more than $15 billion, including roughly $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The package would cut nearly $1.9 billion from a CHIP reserve fund that could make it harder for states to respond to rising enrollments in the aftermath of disasters or rising unemployment. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the package includes $230 million in rescinded funds from housing, rental assistance, and community revitalization efforts that, if passed, would exacerbate the affordable housing crisis in this country. The rescission specifically targets funds for a program that helps improve the outcomes of public housing residents and helps them to gain self-sufficiency. One program that funds Medicare and Medicaid innovations is estimated to save $3 for every $1 spent; another would end research on Ebola, even though a new outbreak is reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other unspent funds to be cut or “rescinded” have previously been approved by Congress as part of bipartisan agreements that allow needed increases in health, education, and other important programs. The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, has said the rescissions plan would reduce the deficit by $1.3 billion over the next 11 years (the estimate of deficit reduction is so low because CBO estimates that under current law, much of the money would not be spent). Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has said additional rescissions packages may follow in the coming months.
Once OMB sends a rescissions request to Congress, Congress has 45 days to vote on all of it, part of it, or none of it, and rescissions can be passed with a simple majority in both chambers. According to CQ, even without congressional action, the funding proposed in the request is frozen for 45 days. And because the days are counted when Congress is in session, funds proposed for cancellation could be blocked for months, especially considering the congressional calendar in an election year. However, Congress can reject the rescissions sooner, and, if Congress takes no action to approve the rescissions, funding is reinstated at the end of the 45 legislative day period.
Advocates oppose the rescissions not only because of the bad cuts to housing, health, and other programs, but because they believe the loss of these dollars will make it harder to provide adequate funding levels for human needs priorities in FY19 and beyond. Funds that are genuinely not needed have been the source for increases in other domestic programs; if these funds become unavailable, such increases cannot occur. More than 150 national organizations joined CHN in sending a letter to Congress opposing the cuts. While many human needs programs received funding increases in FY18 over FY17 levels, new research by CHN found that nearly 70 percent of more than 181 important human needs programs tracked have lost ground since FY 2010 after adjusting for inflation. This and future rescissions packages, if approved, would prevent continuing the progress made this year in restoring adequate funding levels for these programs. The rescissions package would also set a dangerous precedent for undoing bipartisan spending decisions. For more information, see CHN’s statement on the rescissions package.