CHN: Year-end Spending Deal Still in Limbo

With the government set to run out of money on Dec. 8, members of Congress have yet to reach a deal to keep the lights on. The Senate still hasn’t voted on its versions of any of the 12 required spending bills, and Congress has yet to come to an agreement on topline spending levels for FY18, which began October 1. One option is to try to pass a year-long, catchall omnibus spending package that would combine all 12 required spending bills. Democrats are pushing for a deal that would also lift the tight spending caps and automatic cuts (also known as sequestration) that are scheduled to go back into effect for FY18 and that would require a $5 billion cut below FY17 appropriations totals ($2 billion from defense and $3 billion from nondefense annually-appropriated programs). In the House spending bills, Pentagon spending is increased by more than $50 billion beyond its cap. A bipartisan budget deal is needed to lift the caps, and unless one is reached, Democrats could filibuster a spending package in the Senate. Democrats have been firm in their position that the principle of parity must be maintained; that is, any additional money given to defense programs should be matched by money for nondefense programs. Advocates will also be ready to oppose cuts to mandatory programs such as Medicaid or SNAP as a way to pay for increases beyond the caps, as well as possible poison pill riders, or controversial policy changes, that members of Congress may try to add to any spending package.

If a bipartisan deal isn’t reached by Dec. 8, a stopgap spending measure known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) will be needed to keep the government operating at current funding levels. Some predict a CR could go through January or early February. The threat of a shutdown still looms, however. Democrats have repeatedly said they will not vote for a spending bill that includes money for President Trump’s border wall, while President Trump has said he will veto any spending bill that doesn’t include this money. In addition, some Democrats are insisting that reinstating legal status for the “Dreamers” who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) be included in a year-end spending bill. For more on immigration, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.

Budget and Appropriations
Dream Act