Congress Looks to Omnibus for FY2017 Spending, President's Budget Framework Released

Congress Looks to Omnibus for FY2017 Spending, President's Budget Framework Released

Congress is working through negotiations on FY2017 federal spending bills with the goal of developing an omnibus appropriations bill next month. Government agencies are currently operating under a continuing resolution passed in December that maintains spending levels authorized in the FY2016 budget. The continuing resolution will expire on April 28, and members of Congress are working to develop the short-term omnibus bill to fund the final six months of the fiscal year. On March 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2017 Defense spending bill and many members are anticipating that it will serve as the vehicle for the other appropriations bills. Many members of Congress believe that much of the legwork for FY2017 funding has been done, and negotiations on an omnibus appropriations bill should move forward smoothly. However, omnibus bills can present an opportunity for policy “riders” or major program funding changes to be made since there is limited time for detailed review of the provisions.

Capitol Building

In addition, on March 16 President Trump released his budget framework for 2018 funding as well as recommendations for funding for the remaining months of fiscal year 2017. The 2018 framework proposes dollar-for-dollar cuts in domestic spending to fund a proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending. The framework does not provide detailed agency spending levels, as is common with newly elected presidents’ budgets, because agency leadership are not yet in place. However, the framework proposes an $11.6 billion budget for the Department of the Interior which is a 12 percent cut. The most dramatic cut for environmental spending is seen in the Environmental Protection Agency, that would be funded at $5.7 billion, a 31 percent cut including eliminating funding for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes restoration initiatives. Specific proposed agency spending levels are anticipated in a more detailed budget that will be released in May.

The Trump budget proposal is raising concerns on Capitol Hill and both sides of the aisle are expressing reservations about whether the budget will pass as written. House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen released the following statement: “Our Committee will take a close look at the budget and supplemental requests we received today. As directed under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. While the President may offer proposals, Congress must review both requests to assure the wise investment of taxpayer dollars. Over the next several weeks, our Committee will work quickly to complete the 2017 Appropriations bills, analyze and make decisions on supplemental funding for national and border security, and begin the task of funding the federal government for 2018. I’m optimistic that we can strike a balance that will enable us to fund the federal government responsibly and address emergency needs, while ensuring this legislation will clear the Congress.”

"I’m optimistic that we can strike a balance that will enable us to fund the federal government responsibly and address emergency needs, while ensuring this legislation will clear the Congress.” - House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, wrote a letter to the Senate Budget Committee suggesting the proposed cuts would have a significant impact on domestic programs.

Leahy wrote: “Proposing such draconian cuts constitutes a fundamental lack of understanding of the role such programs play in securing our nation, creating jobs (including in rural America), caring for our veterans, promoting Americans’ health and the environment, and helping our vulnerable citizens. It is clear that a $54 billion cut to non-defense discretionary programs would threaten the growth of our economy, hurt national security, and unfairly impact low-income and middle class families.  It also violates the principal of parity established in the Bipartisan Budget Acts of 2013 and 2015. We cannot sustain such cuts.”

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Photo Credit
Eric B. Walker, Flickr
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March 16, 2017