9 of 12 FY19 Spending Bills Soon to Be in House-Senate Conference

September 6, 2018

Congressional negotiators continue to make progress on the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills – progress that would have been just an average budget cycle in the 1980s or 1990s but which is positively spectacular in this dysfunctional age.

Earlier this week, the House voted to send the two-bill appropriations package containing the Defense bill and the Labor-HHS-Education bill (the two largest annual spending bills) to conference. And later today, the House is scheduled to vote on asking for a House-Senate conference on the four-bill package containing the Transportation-HUD, Interior/Environment, Agriculture, and Financial Services/General Government bills. The three-bill package with the Energy and Water Development, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction/Veterans bills was sent to conference before the August recess, and those conferees held a formal meeting yesterday.

The decision by House leaders to go straight to conference on the four-bill package is important because it is a formal recognition that the House will not debate and vote on the Transportation-HUD bill (H.R. 6072) or the Agriculture bill (H.R. 5961) this year. Instead, they will go straight to conference with the Senate, where the committee-approved versions of those House bills will be weighed against the versions of those bills that were actually amended and passed by the full Senate.

Everything in the three-bill package associated with the Energy and Water bill appears to have been resolved except the Great Big Question of what to do about funding for the new veterans health program created by the bill signed by President Trump on June 6. That bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate, created a new veterans health program but did not provide any funding for it. Senate Appropriations chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and his ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have presented a united front, drawing a line in the sand to say that funding for the new program should not come out of the Appropriations Committee’s annual discretionary totals.

The amount needed for the new veterans health program in 2019 is not much (maybe $1.6 billion) but is predicted to grow rapidly and exceed $10 billion per year starting as soon as 2020, all of which would have to displace funding for ongoing non-defense programs.

Congressional leaders still think there is an outside chance of getting all three “minibus” packages to the President’s desk before the start of fiscal year 2019 on October 1. The first package only awaits a resolution of the veterans issue by party leaders and the White House. When it comes to the four-bill package that contains the Transportation-HUD bill, any delays that push the package past September 30 probably won’t be the fault of the Transportation-HUD bill. THUD has received a tentative budget allocation that is slightly less than the House ($71.8 billion) or Senate ($71.4 billion) – but we are in rarefied air here. The 2019 House and Senate funding levels and the 2018 enacted level are so far above past years that the committees will most certainly be able to work something out:

When it comes to the policy-related disagreements that usually bedevil appropriations bills, the hardest item in disagreement in recent years on the THUD bill has been the “F4A” trucker meal and rest break provisions relating to California, and that one is also in dispute in the FAA reauthorization bill and is more likely to be settled there, taking press off of the appropriators for once. But other policy disagreements in the other three bills in that minibus package may be less easy to solve this year.

The three “orphan” appropriations bills not in any of the minibus packages are certainly headed towards a stopgap continuing resolution starting October 1, as are any of the minibus bills not signed by then. The scope and conditions of a CR have not yet been nailed down, but decisions must be made by late next week since the House will be out of session for all of the following week because Yom Kippur falls in the middle of the week. After it adjourns on Friday September 14, the House won’t be back until Tuesday September 25, by which point any decisions on what to include or not include in a CR that must be enacted by September 30 must already be made.

FY 2018 DISCRETIONARY APPROPRIATIONS

Millions of dollars of budget authority
House Senate
Minibus #1
Energy and Water Development 44,700 43,766
Legislative Branch 4,880 4,790
Military Construction/Veterans 97,136 97,086
Minibus #2
Agriculture 23,242 23,235
Financial Services/General Govt. 23,423 23,688
Interior/Environment 35,247 35,853
Transportation-HUD 71,800 71,417
Minibus #3
Defense 606,505 607,129
Labor-HHS-Education 177,105 179,289
Orphan Bills
Commerce-Justice-Science 62,520 62,995
Homeland Security 51,403 48,335
State/Foreign Operations 46,000 46,418
GRAND TOTAL SUBJECT TO CAPS 1,243,961 1,244,000
House Homeland score based on subcommittee allocation

Reminder: Every single budget document, hearing, bill, report, or floor debate on the fiscal 2019 federal transportation and infrastructure budget can be found here: https://www.enotrans.org/fy19/

 

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