After months of negotiations, the House and Senate have finally reached a two-year budget deal to keep the government running, increase annual discretionary spending caps for defense and non-defense programs ($300 billion), and provide disaster relief ($89 billion). The Senate passed the bill 71-28 around 2am this morning, and the House followed shortly thereafter with a vote of 240-186. The agreement paves the way for the next critical step in the government funding process, appropriations.
The budget deal sets the parameters within which Congress can fund particular programs, but it does not dictate how much money each discretionary program will receive – the allocation of funds is left to the congressional appropriators. In a normal budgetary cycle, new appropriations bills would be passed annually before September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. However, when appropriations are delayed, Congress typically passes a “Continuing Resolution” (CR), which keeps federal programs running at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels. Because there has been no overall budget deal until this week, the government has been operating under a series of CRs for the past four months, since the beginning of FY 2018. By raising the discretionary funding caps for two years, Congress has dramatically improved the odds that congressional appropriators will be able to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2018, as well as for FY 2019 later this year.
In addition to raising spending limits, the deal includes yet another CR, the fifth since last October, extending FY 2017 funding levels through March 23. This timeline should give the Appropriations Committees time to hammer out the details of an omnibus appropriations bill that adjusts spending upward to the new budget caps.
Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 9, 2018