UPDATES FROM FEDERAL LOBBY TEAM FROM THE TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS

Congress Unveils $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Ahead of Friday (March 23,2018) Funding Deadline

Late Wednesday night (March 21, 2018)

Congressional leaders unveiled a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending measure  as they seek to clear their last major fiscal hurdle before the November midterm elections.

The measure is the result of three days’ worth of tense negotiations in Congress, as well as the White House as Washington seeks to avoid its third government shutdown in as many months.

The 2,200-page bill would keep the government funded through Sep. 30, 2018 and conforms to spending levels of the two-year bipartisan budget agreement reached in February to adjust defense and nondefense discretionary funding caps for FY2018 and FY2019.

Stalled negotiations led congressional leaders to abandon potential action on many controversial policy riders lawmakers were trying to include in the must-pass bill — likely one of the last major legislative vehicles to reach the President’s desk before the midterms.

There is no agreement to protect so-called Dreamers, as Democrats had initially sought, or cuts to funding for sanctuary cities, as Republicans had wanted. Lawmakers also declined to insert Affordable Care Act (ACA) market stabilization language due to disagreements on whether ACA funds could be used for abortions.

The 2018 omnibus does include a host of additional priorities sought by both sides,

Including:

(1) measures aimed to boost school safety and background checks for gun purchases;

(2) $4 billion in additional money to fight the opioid crisis in the first installment of a $6 billion two-year commitment;

(3) $21.2 billion to support to rebuild and improve infrastructure; and

(4) a $16.1 billion boost in appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies.

The bill also includes $1.57 billion toward border security in the form of fencing along the southern border.

  • Timing. Despite the fact that many lawmakers are only seeing the bill for the first time tonight, the time to pass the omnibus is dwindling. It must clear both the House and Senate, then be signed by President Trump before 12:01 a.m. on Saturday — when the government’s current funding lapses — to avoid a government shutdown. The House is currently planning to vote on the bill Friday morning, sending the package to the upper chamber where Senate leaders will need to be careful to avoid the filibusters of any skeptical senators in order to pass it before midnight. With such a short timeline, any unforeseen delay may necessitate the use of a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to avoid the government slipping into a shutdown Friday night.

 

  • Potential Obstacles. The House Freedom Caucus and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who have expressed criticism about the underlying policy and transparency of the package — are considered the two most immediate obstacles toward clinching a deal to avoid a third shutdown. Both could put a wrench into leadership’s voting schedules if they stand firm on demanding any concessions to be included in the omnibus. President Trump reportedly signed off on the deal late this afternoon, but the possibility exists that he could veto the bill over certain marquee issues – such as border security and funding for the Gateway tunnel project in New York. However, that is considered unlikely, particularly if the government shutdown deadline is pressing.

 

  • Context. With the midterm elections approaching, there was an appetite from party leaders to swiftly reach an agreement on the spending bill so that they could turn their attention to the intensifying battles for control of the House and Senate in November. That led to punts on a few key issues – most notably ACA market stabilization and a solution for the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) program.

The explanatory statements for a selection of domestic appropriations packages – Labor-H, Financial Services, and Agriculture – are attached. The full complement of statements can be found on the House Rules Committee website here. We will keep you apprised of additional policy developments as Capitol Hill digs through the details of this year’s mammoth spending package. 

Questions?  Please contact Chris Lamond at clamond@thornrun.com or Bruce Gibson at bgibson@txbiz.org