July 24, 2019
2-Year Budget Deal Agreement Reached
House to Vote on Passage Tomorrow

July 24, 2019

2-Year Budget Deal Agreement Reached: House to Vote on Passage Tomorrow

After weeks of negotiations, Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration agreed to a 2-year $1.37 trillion Budget Deal that raises spending caps, increases the debt limit, and permanently ends sequestration for discretionary programs, including for the Indian Health Service (IHS). The agreement was reached in principle with an announcement by the President on Monday, July 22, 2019, with House and Senate leaders now working to build broad support among their members to ensure passage of the deal on the floor.

The House is set to vote on the Budget Deal tomorrow, Thursday, July 25, before breaking for a six-week recess. The Senate will likely vote on it next week before the chamber also breaks for August recess. Below are several of the important elements of H.R. 3877 – the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019.

For FY 2020:

  • Increases spending caps for defense programs by $19.5 billion over current levels, to a total amount of $666.5 billion

  • Increases spending caps for non-defense programs by $24.5 billion over current levels, to a total amount of $621.5 billion

For FY 2021:

  • Both defense and non-defense spending caps would be increased by an additional $5 billion, to $671.5 billion and $626.5 billion respectively

The 2-year Budget Deal will also suspend the debt limit through July 31, 2021, thus preventing any catastrophic defaults on federal obligations. Importantly, the Budget Deal also permanently ends sequestration for discretionary programs, which have long been the ire of members of both parties. Sequestration disproportionately impacted the Indian health system when it was last triggered in 2013; however, with sequestration now eliminated, there is no longer a threat of across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs if Congress were to pass FY 2020 funding bills that exceed budgetary spending caps.

As part of the agreement, lawmakers would also be barred from inserting any controversial policy “riders” into appropriations bills such as budgetary gimmicks, or other unrelated provisions such as restricting the Pentagon from using funding to build a border wall on the Southern border.

Because the two-year deal includes significant increases to discretionary spending caps, lawmakers and the Trump Administration agreed to roughly $77 billion in mandatory funding offsets to help reduce the federal debt. The offsets will come from extensions to customs user fees collected by the Treasury Department and cuts to Medicare outlays under Part A and Part B. Importantly, the Budget Deal also nullifies Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) restrictions for certain portions of the bill, which will prevent the triggering of funding cuts to important off-budget programs such as Medicaid. The PAYGO rule is enforced when increases to mandatory funding levels aren’t offset by reductions elsewhere in mandatory spending.

The Budget Deal also establishes that if the House and Senate fail to adopt an FY 2021 budget resolution before April 15, 2020, they would still be able to move forward and markup FY 2021 appropriations bills. This provision takes pressure off of both chambers to come up with another budget resolution next spring, and likely permits both chambers to engage in more timely consideration of FY 2021 spending bills.

While advance appropriations for Indian programs such as IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were not included as part of the Budget Deal, NIHB remains committed to advocating for its passage through regular order. NIHB has held numerous meetings with Congressional leaders, including with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office, to continue building support for advance appropriations as it moves through Committee. Because H.R. 3877 is a 2-year Budget Deal, should Congress pass legislation authorizing advance appropriations for Indian programs, the earliest authority would come in FY 2022.

Senate to Commence work on FY 2020 Appropriations
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) indicated that appropriators will allocate subcommittee spending levels for all twelve appropriations bills during the August recess and quickly commence with markup once the chamber returns from recess on Monday, September 9, 2019. As NIHB has previously reported , the Senate has not begun work on any of the twelve appropriations bills for FY 2020. After this week, the Senate will only be in session for another 4 weeks before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, leaving very little time to introduce, pass, and resolve any differences in their spending bills with those already passed by the House of Representatives.

NIHB will continue advocating for funding increases for IHS in the Interior budget, and also for other significant Indian health programs such as Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country and Tribal Behavioral Health Grants that fall under the Labor-HHS budget. While it remains unclear if the $537 million total increase to the IHS budget passed by the House of Representatives will be maintained in the Senate, it is imperative that Senate appropriators hear directly from Tribes and Tribal organizations about the need for these funding increases.

The full text for H.R. 3877 – the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 – is available here .

To access a fact sheet explaining the highlights of the Budget Deal, click here .

To access the IHS Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup Recommendations for FY 2020, click here


National Indian Health Board |  www.nihb.org
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