House and Senate Get Moving on 2017 Spending Bills

More than a dozen markups and hearings are scheduled this week for House and Senate Appropriations committees and subcommittees. Appropriators are moving ahead with writing their respective fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills, despite no agreement on top-line funding levels by way of a budget resolution.

You will recall that a bipartisan budget deal was struck back in October, which provided for an extra $30 billion (of a $1.1 trillion total federal budget) in discretionary spending—split evenly between defense and nondefense—in FY 2017. However, the most conservative wing of the GOP in the House are digging in their heels, demanding that total funding next year not exceed the caps set in the 2011 budget agreement. Specifically, they want $30 billion cut from the October deal, taking all of it from the nondefense side where funding for federal research agencies lives. With no end in sight for the debate around top-line spending, House Appropriations Subcommittees have begun pressing forward, writing and marking up their bills consistent with the higher levels agreed to in the fall.

Any effort to enact a budget resolution in the Senate has been all but abandoned. In fact, the Senate is bringing its first FY 2017 appropriations bill, Energy and Water, to the floor this week, setting a record for the earliest Senate floor vote. The House traditionally moves before the Senate on spending bills, but, this year, the House does not intend to get its first bill to the floor for at least another month.

The full House Appropriation Committee will mark up the Agriculture Appropriations Bill on April 19 (see related article), which includes funding for research and statistical agencies of interest to the COSSA community. In addition, the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill, which funds the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Census Bureau, and other relevant agencies, will be marked up by the Senate CJS Subcommittee on April 19 and the full Appropriations Committee on April 21; stay tuned for COSSA’s full analysis.

It remains to be seen whether promises to move all 12 appropriations bills through the House Appropriations Committee by the end of June will stick or what the Senate’s quick start means for some of the more controversial bills later in the queue. Election year politics always throw a wrench or two into what is already a challenging environment for deal-making.

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