VA/MILCON appropriation advances amid a Budget Stalemate:
On Tuesday, March 22, the House Appropriations Committee released their initial mark of the FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. The total discretionary spending for the bill comes to $81.6 billion, which is $1.8 billion over FY16 levels and $1.2 billion less than the President’s budget request.
Committee Chairman Harold Rogers expressed support for the bill, stating, “The Committee is getting off to a fast and productive start.”
So, the appropriations process has officially begun. What’s the problem?
The problem is that before going on recess for the Easter Holiday, House Republicans never agreed upon an overall budget, as Speaker Paul Ryan hoped they would. Chairman Rogers may be happy to see the appropriations cycle kick off, but Speaker Ryan has explicitly declared that he will not support the passage of 12 individual appropriations bills without an agreed topline spending limit.
Freedom Caucus Republicans will make a budget agreement difficult, given the 40 votes they carry in the House. Their insistence on cutting the previously agreed upon $1.07 trillion spending level to $1.04 trillion increases the possibility that Speaker Ryan will be forced to push through another sweeping omnibus appropriation at the end of this year.
Until then…the appropriations process will resume after the House returns in two weeks, and dominate floor activity for the next three months. If a new budget agreement is not reached, the proposed FY17 appropriations legislation under review will operate under the budget deal of $1.07 trillion topline from last year’s negotiations.
What to expect next…
Members of Congress will spend the next two weeks hearing from constituents during their district work periods. They will then return to a furiously paced appropriations and budget timeline and decision process that should be largely complete by mid-summer, and that they will carry into the November elections.