Congress is working on the FY20 budget but many obstacles remain

The process for developing the federal budget for FY20 is in full swing. The Trump Administration submitted its request to Congress last month which included deep cuts to key programs. Members of Congress are circulating “Dear Colleague” letters in support of their funding priorities. A plethora of interests from across all sectors are engaged in fly-ins and advocacy days, typical for this time of year.

But the biggest hurdle to an orderly budget process remains. Congress must agree to raise the budget expenditure caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 to avoid across-the-board cuts, also known as sequestration. A coalition of interests is asking Congress to develop a two-year agreement to raise the caps for FY20 and FY21 and allow for additional resources for discretionary spending.

On Tuesday April 9, House Democrats abandoned a floor vote on H.R. 2021, the “Investing for the People Act of 2019,” after progressive Democrats opposed the defense spending figure. The measure would have raised non-defense discretionary spending to $631 billion for FY20, a 5.7 percent increase above FY19, and defense spending to $664 billion for FY20, a 2.6 percent increase over FY19. 

The House did pass a resolution establishing an overall limit of $1.3 trillion for defense and non-defense funding, which is nearly the same level as FY19. This opens the door for the House Appropriations Committee to continue crafting FY20 spending bills and begin marking up measures in the weeks ahead. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) intend to launch budget negotiations at the staff level. They reportedly intend to negotiate a two-year deal to raise the caps and avoid $126 billion in automatic budget cuts. The administration has stated that they do not support raising the budget caps, but according to the Washington Post McConnell has said Pelosi and President Trump “both support trying to reach an agreement on a new spending pact for both the Pentagon and domestic programs.”

Source: AAU and APLU reports