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Despite Budget Deal, Congress Slow to Make Progress on Appropriations

Sitting 4 weeks out from another fiscal cliff, lawmakers in Congress don’t appear to be in any hurry to fund the federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). Despite passing a substantial, 2-year budget deal earlier this month that lifts spending caps for defense and urgent domestic priorities by nearly $300 billion, Congressional appropriators have yet to determine amongst themselves exactly how to allocate the funds across various priorities.

At the heart of the current budgetary holdup are the all-important 302(b) allocations, which determine how much money each of the 12 House and Senate appropriations subcommittees will get to work with. The 2-year budget deal determined what the overall spending caps would be for defense and non-defense discretionary spending, but not how that money would be divvied up. Or, to put it another way, the spending deal mandated the size of the budgetary pizza, but not how big each appropriations subcommittee’s slice would be.

Complicating matters for appropriators is that the budget deal did specify that some funds be used for certain issues but did not mandate which appropriations subcommittee should receive it. For instance, the budget deal set aside $3 billion in both FY18 and FY19 to address the opioid crisis. However, since they didn’t state where they wanted the money the go, the Labor, Health & Human Services, Commerce, Justice, Science and Homeland Security subcommittees are fighting over how the funds are distributed. The distribution of these 302(b) allocations could go a long way in determining how much funding HIV programs receive in the final FY18 omnibus bill.

Looking past fiscal 2018, Congressional leaders are already focusing on fiscal 2019 and trying to come up with solutions and improvements to a budgetary process that has proven to be woefully dysfunctional in recent years. As was spelled out in the 2-year budget deal, the top four Congressional leaders will be selecting 16 members to make up a joint select committee tasked with making recommendations in legislative form on ways to overhaul the budget and appropriations process by the end of November. This will be the fourth budget working group in the last 8 years and we are cautiously optimistic of this group’s ability to enact a smooth process.

AIDS United joins our coalition partners in urging Congress to ensure that the Labor-HHS and Transportation, Housing & Urban Development appropriations subcommittees are adequately funded to enable all people living with and affected by HIV to have access to the treatment, prevention and housing services they need to live well and move us closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, February 23, 2018

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