FY 2019 Budget Resolution

What is a Budget Resolution?  

  • Following transmittal of the President’s Budget, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 calls for Congress to begin its own budget process, including adoption of a spending and revenue framework called a “Budget Resolution.”
  • The Senate and House Budget Committees hold public hearings in February at which they receive testimony on the President’s Budget proposals from Administration officials, outside experts, trade associations and other interest groups, Members of Congress, and the public. At the same time, the other committees of Congress review the President’s Budget proposals and transmit to the Budget Committees their own “views and estimates” on appropriate spending or revenue levels for programs within their respective jurisdictions.
  • The Senate and House Budget Committees – using the President’s Budget request, information from their own hearings, views and estimates from other committees of Congress, and projections from the Congressional Budget Office – are required to draft their respective versions of a “Congressional Budget Resolution” in a series of working meetings known as committee “mark-ups.”
  • It is important to understand that the Budget Resolution does not become a law and therefore is not presented to the President for signature. Rather, it is a congressional blueprint to guide subsequent action on specific spending and revenue measures. The Budget Resolution:
    • (1) sets total federal spending and revenue levels;
    • (2) allocates spending to each Committee, including a lump-sum to the Appropriations Committee for all “discretionary” spending;
    • (3) establishes procedures to enforce the budget blueprint; and
    • (4) may include optional special provisions called “budget reconciliation instructions” aimed at expediting changes to mandatory spending programs (mostly entitlements) or tax laws through a filibuster-proof Budget Reconciliation Bill requiring only 50 votes for Senate passage.
  • When the House and Senate Budget Committees complete committee action on their respective Budget Resolutions – with or without reconciliation instructions – they report the resolutions to the full House and full Senate, respectively. Members of the House and Senate then have an opportunity to alter the work of their respective Budget Committees by offering amendments to the Budget Resolution during debate on the House and Senate Floors.
  • Senate debate often includes a long series of votes on non-binding policy statements – commonly called the “vote-a-rama.”  Unfortunately, the dominance of non-binding “sense-of-the-Senate” statements in the vote-a-rama often obscures the importance of amendments that have serious impact – for example, changing the caps on spending, changing the revenue floor, or altering reconciliation instructions.
  • When the Senate and House have both passed their respective versions of the Budget Resolution, they appoint several of their Members to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences between the House- and Senate-passed resolutions. When differences have been resolved, each chamber must then vote on the compromise version of the Budget Resolution called a “Conference Report.”
  • Budget Resolutions are not always completed.  Congress failed to complete action on a Budget Resolution in nine fiscal years since the Budget Act was adopted in 1974, including fiscal years 2011 through 2015.

Will there be an FY 2019 Budget Resolution?  

  • Typically, in March, Congress’ Budget Committees would begin drafting a Congressional Budget Resolution for the upcoming fiscal year beginning October 1 (FY 2019).  The Budget Resolution:
    • sets total federal spending and revenue levels;
    • allocates spending to each Committee, including a lump-sum to the Appropriations Committee for all “discretionary” spending;
    • establishes procedures to enforce the budget blueprint; and
    • may include optional special provisions called “budget reconciliation instructions” aimed at expediting changes to mandatory spending programs (mostly entitlements) or tax laws through a filibuster-proof Budget Reconciliation Bill requiring only 50 votes for Senate passage.
  • Adoption of a congressional budget resolution for FY 2019 is essential only if the GOP wants to use a filibuster-proof Reconciliation bill to advance tax measures, entitlement reforms, or new mandatory spending (for example, infrastructure spending).
  • However, it appears unlikely the House and Senate Budget Committees will advance a budget resolution, because:
    1. The GOP leadership has backed away from entitlement cuts this year;
    2. The decks have been largely cleared of tax legislation with last year’s enactment of tax cutsthe 4th CR’s delay of several Affordable Care Act taxes, and the Bipartisan Budget Act’s enactment of tax extenders;
    3. Establishing overall discretionary spending levels — once the domain of the Budget Resolution — is now negotiated through biennial adjustments in the statutory spending caps
    4. There seems to be little GOP interest in new mandatory spending for infrastructuremaking a Reconciliation Bill unnecessary; and
    5. The GOP remains deeply split over spending and debt levels and would gain little by teeing up another difficult vote.