Senate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels

Senate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels

The Senate Appropriations Committee departed from the budget plans of President Trump and the House, choosing to stick to 2017 funding levels for its fiscal 2018 spending plan.

The committee’s funding guidance laid out on Thursday $1.07 trillion in discretionary funding: $551 billion for defense and $518.5 billion for non-defense, with an additional $103.7 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which does not count toward budget caps.

On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee approved a $1.1 trillion resolution that increased defense spending by $70.5 billion and cut non-defense spending by $7.5 billion compared to 2017 levels; it also cut OCO spending by $16.7 billion. 

“Negotiations with Congress and the President may eventually produce a new budget agreement. Until such time, however, it is reasonable that we move forward using fiscal year 2017 funding levels,” said committee Chairman Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTodd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm US farming cannot afford to continue to fall behind Mississippi Democrat drops Senate bid MORE (R-Miss.).

The Senate is significantly behind the House in the budgeting process. It has yet to pass a budget resolution, and its appropriators have only approved three spending bills so far. The House Appropriations Committee, on the other hand, approved that last of its 12 spending bills on Wednesday night.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE (R-Wis.) plans to bring four of these bills to the House floor next week as one bill, a miniature omnibus or “minibus” focused on security issues.

Both chambers' budgets part from the nonbinding proposal Trump offered earlier this year, which would have increased defense spending by less than the House but would cut nondefense spending far deeper.

The Senate’s spending plan, however, would not be able to move forward even if it got the House’s support. The 2011 Budget Control Act imposed tough spending restrictions, known as sequestration, which are set to impose cuts of $2 billion in defense and $3 billion in nondefense in 2018.  

New legislation, which would require Democratic support in the Senate, would be necessary to lift those caps.

Democrats in the Senate Appropriations Committee offered an alternative approach, requesting $54 billion increases in both defense spending and non-defense spending relative to the 2018 caps. 

“Sequestration has had a devastating effect on our domestic priorities and military readiness," said Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Budget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Kavanaugh paper chase heats up MORE (D-Vt.).

“Increasing non-defense programs by $54 billion may sound like a lot of money, but even if this Committee were to agree to the allocation I propose today, some of these bills will still only be at, or even lower than, the funding levels they had in fiscal year 2010 — eight years ago.” 

If the House and Senate fail to pass spending bills or agree to a continuing resolution that keeps current funding in place by October, the government will shut down.