Today on the Hill: Attention Turns to FY18 Budget, Tax Reform as GOP Health Bill Falters

July 19, 2017

With the Republican ‘repeal and replace’ effort on life support, lawmakers are headed back to the drawing board on health care and Senate Democrats are reaching out to encourage the majority part to engage in bipartisan conversations. It is unclear how Republican leadership intends to move forward, but it is evident that other priorities are likely to be considered in the meantime.

Among those priorities is passing a budget for the 2018 fiscal year, with the House Budget Committee marking up a budget blueprint today that would provide reconciliation instructions for tax reform and make significant cuts to the nation’s social safety net. The proposal calls for $203 billion in mandatory cuts to discretionary spending — the largest amount of deficit reduction through the budget process in decades — with programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) likely to see significant funding reductions. House conservatives are reportedly unhappy with the package and it is unclear whether the Republican caucus could unite around the proposal if and when it reaches the House floor. With only two weeks left before the August recess and a slew of must-pass measures due in September, today’s markup should provide a reliable indicator of the budget’s likelihood of passing before the end of the fiscal year on Sep. 30.

The lower chamber will consider a pair of energy measures on the floor today, specifically measures to streamline the pipeline approval process (H.R. 2910) and promote cross-border energy projects (H.R. 2883). Both bills were passed on party-line votes out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee as Democrats have concerns that the bills would encourage the construction of projects that neglect environmental effects and tribal rights.   

The Senate’s floor action today consists of consideration of a controversial judicial nominee, John Bush to be added to the U.S. Sixth Circuit. Some Democrats in the Senate have offered concerns that Bush is out of the ideological mainstream, particularly on abortion, but he is expected to be confirmed on the strength of Republicans’ 52-seat majority. A less-contentious nominee, David Bernhardt to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, is next in the Senate’s confirmation queue.