This week, Congress had a busy schedule of hearings on the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 agency-by-agency budget requests. The House Committee on Appropriations held 19 hearings this week, while the Senate Committee on Appropriations held five hearings. Administration officials from across the federal agencies testified at hearings on the President’s FY19 budget request, including at those for the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. These hearings come on the heels of the recently passed $1.3 trillion FY18 omnibus spending package, which included higher-than-anticipated funding for many agencies due to February’s budget deal, which boosted non-defense discretionary spending by $63 billion 2018 and $68 billion in 2019 above the levels in the 2011 Budget Control Act, also known as sequestration.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report this week detailing the impact that the $1.5 trillion tax bill and recent omnibus spending package will have on the federal deficit. According to the report, tax cuts and spending increases will add $242 billion to the federal budget deficit in 2018 alone (for a total of $804 billion in FY18, up from $665 billion in FY17), while the annual deficit will top $1 trillion in just two years and rise to $1.5 trillion by 2028. The national debt is on track to approach 100% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2028, which is “far greater than the debt in any year since just after World War II.” In response, House Republican leadership scheduled a vote this week on a proposed amendment to the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. Because the proposal amends the Constitution, it would need both a two-thirds approval of both the House and the Senate to pass, and ratification from three-fourths of the states. This week’s House vote failed by 233-184. Additionally, the White House has floated the idea of a Congressional vote on a rescission package, or the cancellation of budget authority provided by Congress, which would allow the President to block discretionary funds from being spent for 45 days while Congress determines its course of action. This would need to pass both the House and the Senate by a simple majority.