Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Benjamin Krinsky
Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Appropriations Season Gets Underway; Senate Looks to Propose Budget Resolution, House Unlikely to Follow Suit

Appropriations season kicked into higher gear this week, even as broader budget issues remain unresolved. Various House Appropriations Subcommittees heard testimony regarding the Administration’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget. Hearings this week included:

Despite a busy schedule, the Budget Control Act (BCA) overshadows the appropriations process by placing strict limits on discretionary spending for both defense and non-defense programs. Although Congress reached agreements to temporarily raise these caps in 2013, 2015, and 2018, under current law, the cap on non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2020 is $55 billion below FY 2019.

Given the looming political battles over the BCA caps, Congress will probably not pass a budget resolution this year. Bloomberg Government and CQ reports indicate that House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) may not even put forward a budget resolution due to debates within the Democratic Party over defense vs. non-defense spending, as well as other fiscal policy matters. In contrast, Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-WY) is moving forward with a budget resolution that stays within the current caps on non-defense discretionary spending. But according to Bloomberg, Sen. Enzi commented in February that “to get anything done, it’ll be necessary” to raise the BCA caps.

Should Congress fail to pass a budget resolution, the appropriations process can still move forward. Under rules in both chambers, the bodies may pass so-called “deeming resolutions” to allocate spending on an ad hoc basis. With each chamber controlled by a different party – and given the deep divide between them on government spending – the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will likely markup bills using different topline budget limits. In the end, how the FY 2020 federal budget gets resolved remains unclear.