September is going to be a mess. Congress must sort out some really complicated financial issues.
This is Trahant Reports.
There is the budget, plus an increase in the debt limit, how much money to actually spend on federal programs and services, and, if there’s time, tax reform.
This should be easy in a one-party government. The House acts, then the Senate does its thing, and President Donald J. Trump signs the idea into law. Easy. Except there is not a real Republican majority in Congress. The House is made up of at least three factions, or parties, Republicans, Democrats, and the more conservative House Freedom Caucus. So in order to gather enough votes to pass a spending bill, or any other of the financial challenges, at least two of the three factions have to agree.
The Senate has its own divisions within the Republican Party. (The very reason why the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act has not yet become law.)
And to make it even more complicated, the White House is not on the same page either. The president proposed a stingy budget that’s been pretty much rejected by members of the House and the Senate.
For example the Trump proposed budget calls for $4.7 billion for the Indian Health Service, a cut of some $300 million or 6 percent of the agency’s budget. But the House spending plan that is now being considered calls for an increase of $97 million over last year’s levels. Indeed, the Appropriations Committee that funds IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs plans to spend a total of $4.3 billion more than the president requested on programs under its jurisdiction.
The Senate will come up with its own spending plan. Then, in theory, the two houses will resolve their differences and agree on how much the federal government should spend over the next year (and the president can go along or veto the legislation and start all over).
But that’s not how Congress is actually legislating these days. More often Congress is unable to agree and instead passes a temporary spending plan based on last year’s budget or a Continuing Resolution. That’s an easier sell to members because it represents a last minute, throw up your hands, and do something, approach.
And the budget is only one fiscal crisis facing Congress next month. The same divisions play out on other complex financial issues, such as raising the debt limit, the amount of money the country borrows to pay its bills, or a new budget plan that Congress will have to follow for the next few years.
So yes, September is going to be a mess. And after the budget, spending bills, and debt limit fight is complete, there’s still tax reform on the agenda. Another mess. I am Mark Trahant.