Congress Passes a Budget Agreement

By Laura Walling, GII senior director of government affairs, advocacy & legislative affairs

Just prior to leaving for the August Congressional recess, the Senate passed a bipartisan budget deal, which was also agreed to by the White House. The House passed their version a week before the Senate. The deal increases military and domestic spending by $320 billion over two years and suspends the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021, eliminating the threat of a default until after the 2020 presidential election. The deal also raises the spending caps imposed under a 2011 deficit reduction law, providing an extra $324 billion in discretionary funding over the next two fiscal years. Defense spending caps would increase from $716 billion this year to $738 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2020 and rise again to $740.5 billion in FY2021. Nondefense spending caps would grow from $605 billion this year to $632 billion the next fiscal year, and to $634.5 billion in fiscal 2021.

Goodwill Industries International worked with a number of coalitions to urge Congress to pass the budget agreement. Beyond averting $55 billion in sequestration cuts, which were scheduled to take effect on October 1, the measure can result in housing, human service, employment, education and other programs receiving increases instead of further cuts after years of austerity.

With a budget in place, lawmakers can now move forward with the appropriations process where they allocate funding to specific programs, although there aren’t many days for lawmakers to complete action on all 12 measures before September 30th (the end of FY2019) after they return from recess. The House has passed 10 of its 12 appropriations measures for next year, while Senate appropriators have been waiting for the topline numbers to finish crafting their bills. Because of the tight deadline, one or more continuing resolutions are expected. When the Senate does begin to take up their appropriations bill, the Labor-Health Human Services-Education bill is supposed to be addressed first.

Stay tuned for additional updates on the budget and appropriations process via GII’s Legislative Action Center and on Twitter @GoodwillCapHill.