Following the release of the President’s budget blueprint in mid-March, members of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees have been working on putting together their budget proposals. A key sticking point that some members of the House of Representatives wish to resolve early are overall budget caps. The House continues debate today on a plan to raise budget caps, a much needed step to move appropriations bills forward and avoid a government shutdown. House Democrats continue to work on moving a budget deal that lifts caps for non-defense discretionary accounts and defense spending, an approach that contrasts with Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) recent approach, or the president’s budget proposal that completely assumes sequester levels for most programs but seeks to use a special off budget fund to increase defense spending, which even Republicans in Congress oppose. The current push is for “parity” between defense and non-defense accounts.
Why is this important? Two main reasons: 1) First, without a deal on the overall budget, budget caps set under the Budget Control Act of 2011 will be enforced in January 2020 causing a deep cut (sequestration) to federal spending, and 2) without a budget deal, Congress may be unable to move appropriations bills quickly. House majority leader, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), has said that he wants the House to pass all appropriations bill by the end of June. While the lack of a budget deal won’t probably affect the House’s work, it will prevent the Senate from acting, given the differences between House and Senate rules.
Infrastructure spending is also on the mind of many across the Great Lakes region. Signs from Washington, according to an E&E story, aren’t looking good. The main point of disagreement is how any infrastructure package would be paid for. But the specific details of an infrastructure package could also cause disagreement between members, as many Democratic Members of Congress would want provisions addressing climate change included in any bill on infrastructure.