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A Confident GOP Gets A Late Start On Next Year’s Budget

With less than 4 months before the government runs out of money, the deadline is looming for Congress to finalize a budget. The likelihood that they will finalize all 12 appropriations bills by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1 is slim. Despite the slow process, the majority leadership in both the House and Senate remain optimistic that the appropriations process will be completed on time.

The House began the appropriations process this week with a mark-up of the Military Construction / VA bill. However, they did so without a topline number of total discretionary funding. This will pose a challenge down the road because, not knowing the topline number, this will draw restrictions around other appropriations bills. Currently, no additional mark-up of appropriations bills is on the schedule.

Due to the delayed process, Senate lawmakers have also been drawing up spending bills without knowing the overall budget, caps, and discretionary funding. This Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised Senate appropriators to proceed in developing spending bills based on FY17 funding levels, which would then be “adjusted” when the FY18 budget agreement is reached.

The GOP is confident that they will complete the budget process in a timely manner, and will be able to avoid a Continuing Resolution (CR) at the start of the new fiscal year. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney is hoping to accomplish a “clean increase” in the debt ceiling (i.e. “a borrowing increase without any accompanying policy concessions).

Because any debt ceiling deal with Senate Democrats would require significant cuts in military spending, many GOP members are focusing instead on this “clean increase.” For appropriations, Mulvaney, believes it will be possible to pass the 12 federal spending bills without Democratic buy-in. Instead, he wants to cut Democrats out of the process entirely and focus on getting any possible concessions out of moderate Republicans. This process would be quite a feat, given how divided the parties are. Despite rumors of challenges within the GOP, Mulvaney asserted this week that “It is not a source of division right now in the White House, nor is it a source of division in the party.”

Lawmakers and advocates alike are in the dark about where the final numbers for the budget will land, but can reasonably expect cuts in health care and other essential services for people living with HIV.  Advocates should impress upon all members of Congress the urgent need for these services. The President’s austere proposed budget should not be used as the benchmark for compromise; instead, advocates should argue that any and all cuts to these vital services would have devastating effects. 

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, June 16, 2017

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