Last week something historic happened – Congress passed major spending bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 on time. H.R. 6157, the “Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2019” was signed by President Trump on September 28.
This is significant for many reasons. To start, the troops will see a 2.6 percent pay raise, the largest one in nine years, and important education and health programs will also see a boost. The deal marks the first time in over twenty years that a sitting President took action on-time to fund federal priorities in the Labor-H portfolio and ten years for the DoD portfolio.
The pairing of DoD and Labor-H joined the two largest spending bills into a deal that neither Republicans nor Democrats could refuse. Shutdown averted. When Congress returns after the November election, they will need to take up spending covered by the Continuing Resolution (CR) for agencies ranging from the National Science Foundation to the Homeland Security Agency – punting spending decisions on a proposed border wall and immigration policy before the CR runs out on December 7.
Up next is a brokered deal on the federal budget. With the success of the DoD-Labor-H “minibus” as momentum, the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform met last week and has tentatively agreed on several reforms that would smooth out the process going forward.
Led by Reps. Womack (R-AR) and Lowey (D-NY), potential recommendations include taking a formal step to lock in a requirements for two-year budget resolutions (we currently operate year-to-year unless Congress makes an exception), officially linking spending bills together into a series of “minibuses” (e.g. how bills passed this year) and possibly implementing various repercussions if Congress is unable to pass all spending bills before the end of the fiscal year. All of this is up for discussion post-election. Stay tuned as federal budgeting and funding will be a reoccurring theme for the lame duck Congress.