Skip to content

More Questions and More Answers … Once Again

September 20, 2019

Q: What does it mean that the House has passed a “clean” Continuing Resolution?

A: A “clean” bill usually means a bill that has been stripped of all controversial or partisan provisions and does not include any new policies that might affect later resolution of issues on which there are disagreements. A “clean” CR has those same characteristics plus representing the minimum provisions necessary for the government to continue operating. This process was particularly difficult this year because a number of programs expire on October 1, 2019 and there were disputes about expenditure of funds appropriated for FY 19.

Q: What is the DOD funding issue that is impeding short-term progress in the Senate on appropriations bills?

A: Republicans want to negate the impact of the President’s decision to transfer some FY 19 DOD funds (that were already allocated to specific projects) to border wall funding. They propose to do this by adding the same amount of money back into the FY 20 DOD bill. Democrats believe that condones what they consider to be an illegal transfer of funds by the President.

Q: What does it mean that the House and Senate 302(b) allocations are misaligned?

A: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA) resolved disagreements among the House, Senate, and White House with regard to aggregate defense and non-defense discretionary spending for FY 20 (and also FY 21). However, the agreement did not resolve how that money would be allocated among the 12 subcommittees, whose collective jurisdiction encompasses all government spending. Unless there is a prior agreement, the 302(b) allocations to each subcommittee will reflect the different priorities of the House and Senate. For example, if the House wants to spend more money on education, job training, and research, then they will put more monies into the 302(b) allocations for subcommittees that fund those functions. If the Senate wants to provide more monies for border security and law enforcement, they will put more monies into the 302(b) allocations for subcommittees that fund those functions. 

The further difficulty in resolving the mis-alignment is that the House-passed and pending non-defense bills are, in the aggregate, $15 billion above the Senate bills, which are set at the BBA spending ceiling. So, for example, the House allocation for discretionary spending in the Agriculture/FDA bill is $1.2 billion more than the Senate’s allocation. Even if the House and Senate were to agree on priorities, the available allocated monies are also misaligned.

Q: Why are appropriations bills unlikely to move in the Senate until Labor-HHS appropriations are set?

A: The plan has always been to move Defense and Labor/HHS in the first minibus. Those two agencies represent about 70% of aggregate federal discretionary spending. Combining them in one minibus forces proponents of large defense increases to vote for human services programs and advocates for domestic programs to vote for defense spending. However, funding for L-HHS (about one-third of non-defense spending) is unlikely to move until there is an agreement that sets funding at a level that  neither enriches nor shortchanges the remaining 10 non-defense funding bills. Ranking Member Leahy has pointed to an overall 3% increase in non-defense funding under BBA, but only a 1% increase proposed for L-HHS by Republicans. Apropos, Republicans are looking to hold back monies to pay for substantial increases in Homeland Security (likely the last bill) and Democrats oppose this. 

Editorial note: The Analysis and Commentary section is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

Comments are closed.