FedWeb.com Tip Sheet: Breaking Developments

March 19, 2018 / by Charles S. Konigsberg

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Friday Deadline to Avoid Shutdown and Complete $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill

March 23 Deadline to Avoid Shutdown: 

  • The February 9, 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act continued federal funding through this Friday, March 23rd, and set overall levels for defense and non-defense discretionary spending for Fiscal Years '18 and '19, however, it did not appropriate line-item funds for the current fiscal year.  That remains to be done in an FY 2018 omnibus appropriations act that packages together the 12 regular appropriations bills, adjusted upward for the higher spending limits.
  • Last month's spending caps deal freed up an additional $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for non-defense spending for FY'18.
  • Schedule:  it remains unclear whether negotiations can be concluded and legislative language finalized with sufficient time for the House and Senate to complete action.  If not, a 6th continuing resolution for the current fiscal year will be necessary, or the government will shut down at Friday midnight -- as occurred in January.

Unresolved Spending and Policy Issues: 

  • DACA/Immigration:  House Democrats have called for the "Dream Act" to be added to the omnibus. GOP leaders are not saying whether they are willing to provide short-term protection for the nearly 700,000 DACA recipients.  Background:  The Administration had planned to end DACA March 5th; DACA is the Obama Administration's protection from deportation for people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.  The March 5th DACA expiration was rendered temporarily moot when Federal District Court injunctions (left in place by the Supreme Court) required the Administration to continue processing DACA renewals.   More on DACA and immigration
  • Border Wall:  White House is demanding $25 billion up-front for a border wall; Democrats are opposed to the wall and the up-front funding.
  • Gun Purchases and Background Checks:  Efforts are still being made to include the "FIX NICS" bill that would incentivize states to enter data into the the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
  • Abortion: House wants to include its "conscience clause" provision.  CRS: The History and Effect of Abortion Conscience Clause Laws
  • Family Planning; Planned Parenthood:  Senate includes funds for family planning programs.  Senate languageHouse provides no money for family planning and prohibits funding for Planned Parenthood.  House language
  • Health Insurance Stabilization: Talks are reportedly continuing on funding to stabilize health insurance markets including cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and a reinsurance program promised to Sen. Susan Collins in exchange for her vote on last year's tax bill.  However, the outcome is unclear because abortion opponents want to tie abortion restrictions to the health insurance stabilization provisions.
  • New York - New Jersey Tunnel:  President Trump has threatened to veto the omnibus bill if it includes $900 million to continue funding of the "Gateway project" which is building new rail lines between New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River.  The funding has bipartisan support including House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
  • Spending levels for Opioid abuse prevention and treatment: The February bipartisan budget agreement calls for $6 billion in additional funding over two years to combat the opioid epidemic but some governors are calling this inadequate House Labor-HHS Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) says  negotiators are working through how to allocate the $3 billion for FY'18 among law enforcement, prevention, cure, treatment.
  • Campaign Finance: House Democrats say they oppose GOP riders to eliminate spending limits on coordination between political parties and their candidates, and a rider to repeal the "Johnson Amendment," that prohibits charities from endorsing political candidates. Read the House Democratic Campaign Finance letter
  • Spectrum:  No agreement yet on how much compensation to provide to broadcasters for giving up their portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (frequencies television stations use to air programs). Background
  • No Agreement on Total Funding Level for Labor-HHS-Education:  Disagreements have arisen over the use of CHIMPs to increase Labor-HHS-Education spending.  CHIMPs are Changes in Mandatory Spending Programs, usually entitlements, that score as budget savings, and allow the Appropriations Committee to commit additional discretionary funds while remaining within the statutory spending caps.  FedWeb explanation of CHIMPs
  • Sanctuary Cities:  Some House GOP Members want to include provisions to withhold Federal funds from so-called "sanctuary cities," localities which limit their assistance to federal immigration authorities seeking to apprehend and remove unauthorized aliens.

Items that Have Been Resolved:  

  • NIH Boost:  House Labor-HHS Appropriations Chairman Cole said negotiators have agreed to a bigger bump in funding for NIH than the $2 billion over two years called for in the bipartisan budget agreement.

Issues that Are Unlikely to be Addressed in the Omnibus:

  • Tax Provisions:  Technical Corrections, FAA excise taxes, Internet Taxes:  Despite efforts to include provisions to extend FAA excise taxes that expire March 31,  and correct errors in last year's tax bill, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said there will be no tax provisions in the omnibus, and Senate Democratic Leader has indicated his caucus is not interested in addressing technical fixes without making policy changes to the new tax law.  In addition, also off the table for this negotiation, is a measure to require online vendors to collect sales taxes for states in which they don't have a physical presence.  Background: Internet Sales and State Taxes
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Last Week:

  • Last Wednesday, Senate passed 67-31 S. 2155, loosening regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act.  The bill would: relax certain mortgage lending rules; provide regulatory relief to community banks, for example exempting banks with under $10 billion from the Volcker Rule (that restricts banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments that do not benefit their customers); impose additional requirements on credit reporting agencies; and loosen regulations on most banks.  The nonpartisan CBO estimates that the probability of a systemically important financial institution failing is "small under current law and would be slightly greater under the legislation."  CRS Summary of the Bill   Bill Text   CBO cost estimate
  • Second round of tax cuts?  President Trump and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) called for a second round of tax cuts, to make permanent the individual tax cuts expiring in 2025.  Last December's "first round," that provided modest and temporary tax cuts for middle income Americans, while giving large tax cuts to upper-income households, and large and permanent tax cuts to corporations, is projected to add $1.5 trillion to the public debt, pushing total debt to nearly 100% of GDP.  However, a "second round" is unlikely because using a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill to make the tax cuts permanent would violate the Senate's Byrd Rule by increasing out-year deficits.

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About Charles S. Konigsberg and the Federal Budget Group LLC
Charles Konigsberg

Charles Konigsberg, President of the Federal Budget Group and Founder of FedWeb.com, has served as Assistant Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget, General Counsel and minority Chief Health Counsel at Senate Finance Committee, Minority Chief Counsel at Senate Rules Committee, Staff Attorney at Senate Budget Committee, Director of Congressional Affairs at the Corp. for National Service, Director of the Bipartisan Debt Reduction Task Force, and is author of a comprehensive, plain English explanation of the Federal budget, America’s Priorities.”.

2018 Congressional Calendar

(Note: House is in recess numerous Mondays and Fridays; check majorityleader.gov)

  • Jan 3: HSE, SEN convene
  • Jan 22-26: HSE recess
  • Feb 1-2: HSE recess
  • Feb 8-9: HSE recess
  • Feb 19-23: Pres Day recess
  • Mar 26-Apr 6: Easter/Passover recess
  • Apr 30-May 4: HSE recess
  • May 28-Jun 1: Mem Day recess
  • Jul 2-6: July 4 recess
  • Jul 30/Aug 6-Sept 3: HSE/SEN Summer recess
  • Sept 10-11: Rosh Hashanah recess
  • Sept 17-21: HSE recess
  • Oct 15-Nov 9: HSE Election recess
  • Oct 29-Nov 12: SEN Election recess
  • 19-23: Thanksgiving recess
  • Dec. 13/14: HSE/SEN Target Adjournment