Quick Hit – February 15, 2017

What a time we’re in! A complex budget process has now been made even more challenging with a White House and Congress fully engaged in national security issues of great significance. Despite the high-energy news headlines and the distractions of the day, there will be funding bills that move forward in the coming months.

Congressional leadership appears to remain willing to help the new administration implement its agenda through legislative actions. How long the favorable alignment lasts is not known; however, it is likely Congress will prove to be a moderating force over time. Elections have a way of focusing actions and 2018 mid-term elections are not far off. Every Member of the House and roughly one third of the Senate – 23 Democrats, 2 Independents and 9 Republicans – are up for election in 2018.

What’s happening?

Health Care

  • GOP advocates in Congress have softened their tone recently regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new tag line is “repair and replace” as many come to recognize that complete repeal may actually cause harm to many in the health exchange.

Tax Reform

  • The current House GOP tax proposal would see an increase in the federal debt by an estimated $3 trillion over the next ten years. President Trump foresees a quick one-year turnaround for this plan, which will require significant work going forward.  Public statements look for movement before 2018.

  • Rep. Buchanan (R-FL) (pictured above), Chairman of House Ways and Means, has called the plan very “pro-growth” and predicts a release date of August. He is confident that the new plan will help business interests and thus increase investment, propping up consumers who serve as 2/3 of the nation’s economy.


  • Any delay in confirmation of Congressman Mick Mulvaney as OMB Director will directly impact timing of unfinished FY17 bills and the FY18 budget.


  • Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the budget would be out in a few weeks, but there is much speculation among Democrats in particular that the timeline will be much longer.


  • As reported in previous Quick Hits, the FY 18 budget will be delivered to Congress nearly three months later than is traditionally the case. Anticipate an FY18 budget to OMB byMay 1st, and to Congress by Memorial Day.


  • A supplemental FY17 appropriation will be forwarded to Congress in March; inputs are due from Executive Branch agencies by March 1st.


  • Questions are circulating about when the debt ceiling may actually be raised, as it could come as early as May or as late as August or September. GOP members will look to separate the debt ceiling discussion from appropriations battles.


  • Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) (pictured below) will most likely become Budget Committee chair after the confirmation of Congressman Tom Price for HHS Secretary, and she could bring strong thoughts to the table regarding ACA.


  • Countless senior civilian appointments remain unannounced, unconfirmed, and therefore, unfilled across government. SASC Chairman McCain has expressed concern at the slow pace of names being forwarded to his committee for consideration of numerous defense posts. Beneath the surface it is clear that SecDef Mattis has expressed his intent to offer input on leadership positions within his department.

Status of Cabinet confirmations

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
Defense: General James Mattis
Homeland Security: James Kelly
Transportation: Elaine Chao
Health and Human Services: Tom Price
Education: Betsy DeVos
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Treasury: Steven Mnuchin
Veterans Affairs: David Shulkin

Still to be confirmed:
Labor: Andrew Puzder
Housing and Urban Development: Ben Carson
EPA: Scott Pruitt
OMB: Mick Mulvaney
Energy: Rick Perry

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