On February 9, the House and Senate passed a 6-week spending bill that ended an hours-long government shutdown and President Trump Signed it shortly afterward. This continuing resolution (CR) that runs through March 23 was paired with a two-year budget deal that will raise spending caps on defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) program categories for 2018 and 2019 by $290 billion. In addition, the budget deal specifically provides:
- an additional four-year extension of the funding for the Children’s Health Insurance program
- a permanent fix for the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process
- a two-year extension of the Family to Family Health Information Centers
- a repeal of the Medicare panel created in the Affordable Care Act to implement Medicare cuts
- a two-year extension of funding for Community Health Centers
- a five-year extension funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program
- $6 billion for opioid and mental health treatment services, prevention programs, and law enforcement efforts
- $4 billion for college affordability, including programs that help police officers, teachers, and firefighters
- $5.8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant
- $20 billion for infrastructure (including funding for safe drinking water)
- a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health
- $4 billion for hospitals and clinics for veterans, and
- $182 million for the Census Bureau for 2020 Census preparations.
The budget deal also includes a number of other important provisions, including suspending the debt ceiling through March 1 of 2019, providing for disaster relief funding, extending expiring tax cuts, and providing a new prevention focus for child welfare services. It is estimated that only $100 billion of the $419 billion spending increases will be paid for with offsetting cuts. This raises concerns that the resulting increased deficits will create more pressure to cut mandatory programs (including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), particularly if Congress decides to extend the sequestration relief for discretionary programs and other provisions after 2019.
With the budget totals set, Congress now has until March 23 to come to agreement on item-by-item spending details, through an “omnibus” spending package that would combine the 12 appropriations bills covering all government agencies for the remainder of FY 2018.