Year-End FY19 Appropriations Bill Passes Congress, Averts Shutdown; Trump Declares Border Emergency

February 15, 2019

Yesterday, both chambers of Congress passed a $325 billion appropriations measure, which President Trump signed the bill into law at about 2 p.m. today, that will prevent any more lapse-of-appropriations government shutdowns until at least October 1.

Also this afternoon, Trump signed a proclamation declaring “that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States” and invoking his authority to move money around under 10 U.S.C. §2808 to start building a U.S.-Mexico border wall. That law allows the Pentagon to undertake unauthorized military construction activities “only within the total amount of funds that have been appropriated for military construction, including funds appropriated for family housing, that have not been obligated.” This means money in the military construction appropriations bill. The President’s proclamation did not invoke a separate statute that could allow him to redirect money from the Army Corps of Engineers water resources program (which is funded by a separate appropriations act), so Corps water projects appear safe for the time being.

The Senate passed the bill (H. J. Res. 31) yesterday afternoon by a vote of 83 to 16 and the House of Representatives followed suit last night by a vote of 300 to 128. In the Senate, Democratic support was solid, except for four presidential candidates (Booker (NJ), Gillibrand (NY), Harris (CA) and Warren (MA)) and Ed Markey (MA). Republican opposition in both chambers was on the more conservative side of the party, largely centering around disappointment in how far the border security provisions did not go.

Yes No
Senate R’s 41 11
Senate D’s 42 5
TOTAL 83 16
House R’s 87 109
House D’s 213 19
TOTAL 300 128

The legislative text of the enrolled bill as presented to the President for signature is here and the joint explanatory statement of managers from the conference report is here.

What’s in. Here is what is in the final agreement:

  • Division A – Homeland Security Appropriations Act
  • Division B – Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
  • Division C – Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
  • Division D – Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act
  • Division E – Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act
  • Division F – State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act
  • Division G – Transportation and HUD Appropriations Act
  • Division H – Extensions, Technical Corrections and Other Matters

Our overview of the transportation-related provisions of the Homeland Security bill, which had not been seen yet in this budget cycle, is here. The Transportation-HUD provision of the bill appears identical to the version that the House passed in a different appropriations measure on January 23 as H.R. 648. And that was almost entirely based on deals struck during negotiations in September 2018 and kept under wraps until last month. Our writeup of the Transportation-HUD portions of that legislation, from last month, is here.

What’s out. The package filed last night is more notable for what’s not in in it.

Appropriations staff refer to the items at the end of an omnibus appropriations package, after the last of the actual appropriations measures, as the “ash and trash” section. And the package filed last night is remarkable for how small the “ash and trash” of Division H is – just six pages. There are extensions of five immigration-related legal provisions, technical corrections to recently enacted education and defense authorization laws, a $30 million transfer from the House of Representatives building fund, and a PAYGO waiver for the whole thing. That’s it. Compare that to the ash and trash in last year’s omnibus which had ten extra divisions of the bill after the appropriations ended.

Here are items that were, at one point, under discussion for inclusion in the omnibus but are not included in the version filed last night:

  • Additional targeted emergency appropriations for disaster assistance. (The Homeland bill does contain a $12 billion re-up of the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, but the conference report contains none of the targeted emergency appropriations for hurricane, flood, typhoon, earthquake and wildfire relief contained in H.R. 268 as passed by the House last month.) Those will have to wait on future Congressional action.
  • Extensions of tax provisions that expired on January 1, 2018, sought by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • A new budget deal increasing the spending caps on discretionary appropriations for fiscal year 2020, which will be necessary before the FY20 appropriations process can get very far.
  • A provision sought by Senate Appropriations chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) to make future appropriations from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund exempt from budget spending caps (up to the actual levels of the previous year’s trust fund tax receipts and interest). This provision, backed by port interests and similar to a proposal by House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) from last year, was included in Shelby’s version of an omnibus appropriations bill proposed last month (see our writeup here).
  • A provision providing back pay for federal contractors that went without pay during the government shutdown, which apparently has never been provided following previous shutdowns, either.
  • An extension of the Violence Against Women Act.
  • Various TANF and Medicaid extensions that were in the end of H.R. 648.
  • The intelligence community reauthorization act.
  • A provision clearing the statutory PAYGO budget scorecard so as to avert a minor round of budget sequestration ($1 billion or so spread across all mandatory, non-exempt programs) next year.

Not counting emergency spending (which varies widely from year to year, making comparisons difficult), total discretionary appropriations for fiscal 2019 total $1.336 trillion. This is $39 billion more than fiscal 2018 and $151 billion more than fiscal 2017 (so you can really see the effect that the two-year budget deal for FY18-19 had, and how important it is to get another two-year budget deal for FY20-21, lest the budget caps drop back down to the ballpark of the 2017 numbers). The totals, by appropriations bill, are below.

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