FY19 Transportation Appropriations in Senate Committee Next Week, May Go to House Floor in Second “Minibus” Package

May 31, 2018

The fiscal year 2019 Transportation-Housing appropriations bill is scheduled to move through the Senate Appropriations Committee next week under the markup schedule announced May 14 by new Appropriations chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and ranking minority member Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

That schedule only says “week of June 4” but the normal practice is for the bill to move in subcommittee on the Tuesday of a markup week and then go through full committee on the Thursday, which would make the subcommittee markup sometime on June 5 and the full committee markup sometime on June 7.

Last week, the Appropriations Committee approved a spending plan for 2019 that would give the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee a net discretionary spending total of $71.417 billion, which is $383 million less than the bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee last week.

On its face, the Senate total is still $1.117 billion more than the fiscal 2018 enacted level. But on the THUD subcommittee especially, the net total can be deceiving. That net total includes HUD offsetting receipts, which are significant and which can vary widely from year to year. For budget scoring purposes, the committees have to use the Congressional Budget Office forecast for such receipts. The 2019 estimate for those receipts is $500 million below the 2018 estimate ($9.566 billion versus $10.066 billion), so the Senate bill is really only $617 million above 2018 in terms of gross appropriations. Add in the increased housing inflation cost for HUD section 8 vouchers, so no one currently in public housing gets evicted, and the gross spending increase shrinks further.

The draft House bill, approved in committee last week, has not yet been filed so it does not have a bill number.That legislation is likely to move to the House floor later this month as part of the second “minibus” package of appropriations bills.

The first three FY19 bills approved by House Appropriations – Military Construction/VA, Legislative Branch, and Energy and Water Development – are being combined into one minibus package by the House Rules Committee and should be on the House floor next week.

House Appropriations has already approved and filed two more bills – Commerce-Justice-Science and Agriculture – and the Transportation-HUD bill, when filed tomorrow or next week, will be the third, so it is likely that those three bills will be combined into the next minibus package, possibly the week after next. (A fourth bill, Interior/Environment, was supposed to get a full committee markup last week but that got canceled due to a brief illness of the chairman. It is not certain if that bill was originally intended for the second minibus, making it a four-bill package, or not.)

It is worth noting that those seven bills mentioned above for the first minibus and potential second minibus are also the first seven bills being moved by the Senate in their markup schedule. So, if and when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) decides to start bringing up House-passed minibus packages for floor debate, Senate-reported legislative language will be available to substitute for the House language and start the debate.

While getting appropriations bills through the Senate floor has proved next to impossible in recent years, this one may be an exception. The leadership “deal memo” accompanying the February 2018 bipartisan spending deal includes the following promise:

The Senate Leaders agree that if a bill has been reported on a bipartisan basis from the Appropriations Committee and is consistent with the BCA spending caps, has the support of the Chairman and Ranking Member, and the sequencing has the support of both the Majority and the Minority Leaders, we will work together to minimize procedural delays.

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