Is Congress ready to act on that recission package from the White House? What will it mean for education spending?
Will military families be offered vouchers that they do not want?
Will the Department of Education roll back "disproportionality" regulations intended to address the over-representation of minorities in special education?
Congress is back in the swing of things after spring recess. Spending decisions are most prominent on the agenda before full time focus on the election kicks in.
After floating the likelihood of a $60 billion recission package which would cut funds included in the just-passed FY 2018 spending bill, the White House shifted gears and put forward a more modest proposal of $15 billion. The package does not touch the FY 2018 spending bill, but rather targets "unspent" funds. Almost half of the $15 billion would be cut from the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). No education programs are proposed for cuts. While some House Republicans have expressed concern about the CHIP cuts, others are calling for bigger cuts throughout the government.
Congressional opposition to the original idea of a $60 billion recission package was rapid and bi-partisan. However, the scaled back package may be more palatable. Congress has 45 days to act on the proposal. The House is considering acting on the package as early as next week. It is not yet clear if the votes are there to pass it. The bigger question mark is in the Senate. A number of legal and procedural questions have been raised in the Senate as well in terms of the rules related to potentially cutting mandatory spending, which much of the proposal is. Analysts note that the $15 billion recission package wouldn't make a dent in the fiscal outlook of the country as it is such a tiny sliver of funds - funds which appear to be defunct already.
The White House has also floated the idea of a second recission package which would tackle cuts in the FY 2018 spending bill. This package is likely to be substantially larger than the current one and also likely to face a mountain of opposition.
As the Congress moves to consider the recission package, it is also moving on the 12 FY 2019 appropriations bills. In an effort to make headway as soon as possible so attention can turn to elections, both bodies are pursuing "regular order." In other words, each body is seeking to act on each of the 12 bills as soon as possible. The House has already begun markups on individual bills and the Senate is hoping to have each of the 12 bills passed through Committee by July 4. Since the Labor/HHS/Education spending bill is one of the largest bills and the most controversial, it is the least likely to make it through the process on the expedited timeline.
Because the two year budget agreement set caps for FY 2019, the process is likely to run relatively smoothly this year. Allocations are likely to be similar to last year, though perhaps slightly increased in the Senate. Education advocates hope for a year of some modest increases and holding the line against cuts. One challenge is always that the Labor/HHS/Education bill generally allocates any additional funds to the National Institutes of Health first. Also competing for additional funds will be the program intended to fight opiod abuse.
Budget watchers expect that completion of all 12 bills before the election is mighty ambitious. A more likely scenario is the completion of a few bills and the adoption of a temporary continuing resolution (for the Labor/HHS/Education bill and others) running past the election, probably into December. At that point consideration of a final FY 2019 spending bill would unfold with the new election results in hand.
For a great chart on how the budget and appropriations processes are supposed to work, see:
As you will recall, the House has been moving a bill intended to create a voucher program for children of the military utilizing existing Impact Aid funds. The bill, HR 5199, was introduced by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) and has 65 Republican co-sponsors. The intention was to include the bill as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which was marked up in Committee this week. The voucher proposal was not included, nor was it offered as an amendment. This is likely because of the significant opposition to the proposal including 90 national education, disability and civil rights organizations and 27 veteran and military organizations. In addition, it appears as if the bill would not have had enough support to pass.
The next step for the National Defense Authorization Act is floor consideration. That may happen as soon as the week of May 21. It is anticipated that Rep. Banks will offer his voucher bill, or some version of it, as a floor amendment - assuming it makes it through the Rules committee. Education and related organizations are on high alert, as many Republicans see expansion of vouchers as an election year issue.