Senate Kills White House Spending Cut Package

June 22, 2018

A $14.7 billion package of spending cuts died in the Senate this week when the chamber voted, 48 yeas to 50 nays, against discharging the bill from the Appropriations Committee. The House-passed bill (H.R. 3) now remains in the Appropriations Committee, almost certain to languish until it dies at the end of the Congress.

Given that the spending cuts bill was a high priority of the Trump Administration, the vote was almost exclusively party-line, with the following exceptions:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) missed the vote – but so did Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), which evened the score. So a true party-line vote would be 50 yeas, 48 nays.

However, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted “no,” as did Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). Collins’s vote was not especially surprising, as she generally opposes cuts to appropriations that she has already voted for, and is high on the list of Republicans most likely to vote against the expressed interests of the Trump Administration. But Burr – who is very conservative – was more of a surprise.

Apparently, Burr’s opposition turned on a proposed $16 million cut to prior appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The statutory authorization for the Fund is set to expire on September 30, 2018 and Burr has not yet been able to get a commitment to move his bill (S. 896) extending the Fund.

The LWCF started FY 2017 with a cash balance of $20.9 billion, received $967 million in cash deposits, only spent $412 million, and ended the year with a cash balance of $21.5 billion. It is like the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund in the sense that its annual revenues have become totally unhinged from its annual spending. Almost all of the LWCF’s annual proceeds are Outer Continental Shelf royalty and rent payments from oil and gas leases, but $1 million per year of the Fund’s deposits comes from federal gasoline taxes to represent the taxed gasoline used by motorboats.

Had Burr voted “yes,” the vote would have been a 49-49 tie and Vice President Pence could have cast the deciding vote and brought up H.R. 3 for debate. But that does not guarantee that the bill would have passed – other Republican appropriators who voted “yes” on the procedural motion to bring up the bill might have voted “no” on final passage.

For more details of the spending cut proposal, see this ETW article from two weeks ago.


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