Federal Budget Deliberations Continue as Deadline for New Spending Authority Looms
March 15, 2018
Congressional leaders spent much of the week of March 12 attempting to put the final touches on a $1.2 trillion fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations package. Faced with a March 23rd deadline to pass a new budget, the bicameral negotiations have been bogged down by partisan disagreements over a number of thorny issues.
As expected, differences over immigration policy have continued to mar the appropriations process. For its part, the White House signaled this week that it opposes including in the budget a prospective “three-for-three” deal, the terms of which would yield three years of border wall funding in exchange for a three-year extension of legal protections for young undocumented immigrants who would otherwise be subject to deportation. As of this writing, it remains unclear whether any sort of immigration compromise will be included in the final budget.
In addition to immigration, lawmakers are deadlocked over several other hot-button issues, including whether to attach various policy riders to the fiscal year 2018 spending legislation. As has been the case in recent appropriations cycles, partisan rifts over funding for Planned Parenthood and several key environmental issues are threatening to derail a final budget deal.
Looking ahead, GOP congressional leaders are hoping to forge a compromise with their Democratic counterparts in the coming days. Due to procedural considerations, the text of a final spending package will need to be released soon in order to allow both the House and Senate to vote on the measure prior to next Friday’s deadline. Failure to approve a new budget by midnight on March 23rd would require lawmakers to pass yet another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR).
Finally, several cabinet secretaries were on Capitol Hill this week to defend the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 spending request. As expected, the department heads faced pointed questions from congressional Democrats over various aspects of the White House’s budget blueprint, particularly as it applies to proposed spending cuts and program eliminations. Once Congress disposes of the fiscal year 2018 budget, congressional appropriators will turn their attention to crafting the 12 individual spending bills for the fiscal year that begins October 1.