Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, May 10, 2018

White House Sends Congress Rescissions Request; House Appropriations Committee Continues Consideration of Spending Bills   

Following weeks of speculation that the administration was developing a proposal to cut spending, the White House submitted a formal rescission request to Congress on May 8. The package totals $15.4 billion but does not rescind funds from the recently approved fiscal year (FY) 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

In a letter accompanying the rescissions list, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney noted, “the proposals include unobligated balances from prior-year appropriations and reductions to budget authority for mandatory programs.” Director Mulvaney added that the funding to be eliminated was either no longer needed, had not been utilized by relevant agencies for several years, or was for low-priority or unnecessary federal spending.

The White House rescissions package proposal would cancel unspent funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the 2015 Ebola outbreak, several Department of Energy technology loan programs, and Department of Agriculture dollars related to “carryover balances from animal and plant health programs, including funds for disease outbreak response for incidents that are now resolved.” No funds were cut from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Appropriators told reporters they would review the administration’s request but did not indicate when they would bring it to a vote. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “If it is frivolous stuff that we can get rid of and save the taxpayer money, then we ought to do it.”

His House counterpart, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), added that, because the rescissions would not affect 2018 spending, “We’ll take a look at it.” House Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) had previously speculated there would be “a lot of support” for efforts to rescind unspent funding from prior years.

Congress has 45 days to review the package. Both the House and Senate must pass legislation by that deadline for the proposed cuts to go into effect. During that period, agencies are prohibited from spending funds for programs included in the rescissions request.

Consideration of the rescissions package is not expected to affect the FY 2019 appropriations process, which is already underway. This week, the full House Appropriations Committee passed the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs bill, providing $732.2 million (an increase of $10 million) for the Medical & Prosthetic Research Program. Three other House subcommittees also approved spending measures, including:

  • Agriculture – a summary notes that the bill recommends a total of $3.1 billion (an increase of $72 million) for research programs including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
  • Energy and Water – provided $6.6 billion for the Department of Energy Office of Science, $340 million (five percent) above FY 2018 and
  • Commerce, Justice, Science – proposed $175 billion for NSF, a $408 million (five percent) increase.

House leaders also met with Republicans to strategize about completing consideration of the remaining spending bills. Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) told Bloomberg News that “the House’s plan is to pass all 12 appropriations bills by September 30 and then pray to God the Senate does something.” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-NC) seemed less certain, saying the appropriations plan is “all over the place,” and “is not finalized.”

Although the Senate Appropriations Committee has not approved any of the FY 2019 spending bills, they may try to combine several measures into a series of “minibus” packages to avoid an omnibus later this year. Senate appropriators are currently finishing hearings on the FY 2019 budget request with cabinet secretaries and agency directors.