Senate panel might not take up budget until October

Senate panel might not take up budget until October
© Greg Nash

The Senate Budget Committee led by Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (R-Wyo.) might not mark up its budget resolution until October, according to a Republican Senate source with knowledge of the timeline.

That timeline is an admission that the budget and spending process is unlikely to be resolved by the end of September and that a stop-gap spending measure will likely be needed to keep the government running.

Under normal order, the House and Senate are meant to pass budget resolutions in April, paving the way for appropriators to write, amend and pass 12 spending bills for the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.


Though the process is typically delayed somewhat when a new administration comes to power, the process for 2018 has gone considerably off the rails.

In the House, the Appropriations Committee marked up its bills before the Budget Committee passed its resolution setting spending levels. Four of the spending bills were passed on the House floor, and GOP leadership hopes to pass the remaining eight after the August recess. Only then is the House expected to take up the budget resolution, which will also unlock a procedure to pass a filibuster-proof tax-reform bill.

The Senate, however, has lagged behind. There, too, appropriators have begun marking up bills, but those spending measures are not in sync with the House’s numbers. Only half of the Senate appropriations bills have passed committee, and none have been considered by the full chamber, which was embroiled in the healthcare debate during the summer session.

Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee have not yet reached an agreement on their spending numbers, which may differ from both the Senate appropriators' numbers and the House’s bills. 

Failure to pass new spending bills by Oct. 1 would lead to a government shutdown.

Increasingly, Republicans on Capitol Hill are resigned to passing a continuing resolution, which continues current government funding levels with certain restrictions. There are just 12 legislative days scheduled for September.

The funding deadline coincides with another deadline: that for raising debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNew book questions Harris's record on big banks On The Money: US paid record .1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive MORE said that the government will run up against the legal limit for borrowing on Sept. 29 unless Congress acts. 

Conservatives are opposed to raising the limit without including spending reforms, but any attempt to attach policy changes is sure to rile Democrats, whose support will be necessary to increase the limit in the Senate.

A short-term continuing resolution is likely to include action on the debt ceiling as well.

The Senate Budget Committee is likely to move forward only once those issues are cleared, the GOP source said, paving the way for a fall battle on spending.