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Legislative Update

End of the Year Wrap Up

Since the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2017, the government has been operating on a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) that have maintained the FY 2017 spending levels for all federal agencies and programs.  The current CR expires on Friday, December 22, and Congress is expected to pass another CR into January, 2018. Progress towards finalizing the FY 2018 appropriations process is contingent on successful negotiations that are still underway on top line FY 2018 spending levels for both defense and non-defense spending. It will take several weeks for the Appropriations committee to prepare final FY 2018 spending bills once the FY 2018 spending levels are established. It is hoped that negotiations on the FY 2018 spending levels can be completed by December 22. The CR extension would then give the Committee the time to finish the bills, and the Congress the necessary time to pass the bills.

One item that has slowed the negotiations is the insistence by the Democrats for equal increases for both Defense and Non-Defense spending, and their insistence on the inclusion of several, "must pass" items including: legislation to reauthorize the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, and accompanying measures to reauthorize Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps; and, legislation to postpone scheduled cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH). 

Some House Republicans are demanding that the next CR fully fund defense through FY 2018, using the levels included in the FY 2018 House Defense Appropriations bill, while keeping the remaining agencies at the FY 2017 level into January.  Democrats are staunchly against this idea and will not support FY 18 funding for DOD to move forward without finishing the remaining appropriations bills.  In the end, it is most likely that a government shutdown will be avoided by extending the CR as necessary. 

Tax Reform-
With the Republican majority’s preoccupation with tax reform, Appropriations and other legislation has not been a priority.  With the Republicans desperate for a legislative win, Republican leadership and the White House are pushing hard for there to be a final bill signed before Christmas. As of this writing, both House and Senate Republicans have passed versions of tax reform legislation on party line votes without any support from Democrats.  While final passage of the Tax Reform bill seems likely, some uncertainty remains, particularly on the Senate side.  Several Republican Senators voted for the initial Senate bill based on promises by leadership that have not been kept in the final conferenced bill. For example, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was promised the passage of two bills as a condition of her “yes” vote. These bills (the Alexander-Murray legislation that would restore cost sharing subsidies and a “reinsurance” bill that would help cover costs and reduce premiums for individuals with expensive health conditions) have not been passed and are objected to by the House.  The Senate can only afford to lose two Republican votes for the measure to pass and Senator Bob Corker has already said he will not vote for the final bill.

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