CHN: House Budget Committee Passes FY18 Budget

The House Budget Committee passed the FY18 budget proposal put forth by the GOP (22-14, along party lines) on July 19. The blueprint sets limits on discretionary (annually appropriated) spending at $621.5 billion for Department of Defense programs, which is $72 billion more than current law allows for FY18 and more than $19 billion more than President Trump requested. On the other hand, it sets spending limits for nondefense discretionary programs at $511 billion for FY18, $5 billion lower than the already-austere sequester funding level allowed by current law.

According to in-depth analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House budget plan would cut $4.4 trillion over 10 years from entitlement programs, including cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, income assistance for working poor families, basic food assistance, and college tuition assistance. In addition to these harsh cuts, the framework also calls for $1.3 trillion in cuts over 10 years from nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. NDD includes many important human needs programs like job training and education, environmental protection, housing and public services. As CHN has previously shown, human needs programs have faced shrinking funding since 2010. Under the House plan, NDD funding would fall further — to 17 percent below the inflation-adjusted 2010 level next year and, by 2027, to 44 percent below 2010, equating to a historic low. In contrast, the budget blueprint would increase Pentagon funding by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.

The House GOP budget also includes special rules known as reconciliation instructions that would direct 11 committees to cut at least $203 billion from programs including Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Reconciliation instructions are also included to pave the way for huge tax cuts that are “deficit neutral” (rather than “revenue neutral”), meaning that tax cuts can be offset, or paid for, with cuts to entitlement programs that help low- and moderate-income people. Using the reconciliation process allows Republicans to pass both tax cuts and cuts to entitlement programs with only a simple majority in the Senate. For more information on what’s in the House GOP budget, see this blog from the National Women’s Law Center.

CQ reported that when the House Budget Committee took up the proposal, 28 amendments were offered by Democrats; all of them were rejected. The budget is not expected to be taken up by the full House before Congress leaves for its August recess. While in the past budget resolutions have been approved on the floor with votes exclusively from the majority party, this year divisions among the Republicans make adoption uncertain. Some members of the ultra-right-wing House Freedom Caucus have pushed for even deeper reconciliation cuts to entitlement programs, while moderate Republicans object to the $203 billion in reconciliation cuts in the Budget Committee’s resolution, and are urging a bipartisan deal to exceed the sequester caps for discretionary spending. No Democrats are expected to support the measure.

Senate GOP leaders are not expected to act on their budget proposal until September. While advocates predict the Senate proposal may contain slightly smaller cuts than the House version, they still anticipate deep cuts and reconciliation instructions to allow tax cuts to pass with only a simple majority. A budget resolution does not go to the President for his signature and does not become law. Failure to pass a FY18 budget does not stop Congress from working on and passing FY18 appropriations bills. But it is necessary for the House and Senate to agree on a budget resolution in order to proceed with the fast-tracked reconciliation bills. With the trouble the Republican-controlled Congress has had passing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, many Republicans see the passage of tax cuts as necessary to moving forward with their agenda; that will require House and Senate Republicans to come to agreement on the budget resolution.

On July 11, more than 1,500 groups, led by CHN, sent a letter to representatives and senators calling on Congress to reject cuts to human needs programs and instead pass a budget that promotes opportunity for all, protects basic living standards, and protects our environment. For more information on budget priorities from a human needs perspective, see this op-ed from CHN’s Debbie Weinstein and these resources from CHN members.

Budget and Appropriations