Budget Update: As previously expected for most first year, new administrations President Donald Trump’s administration will likely forgo submitting to Congress a budget outline this month. The administration will more likely wait until April or even May to release its full FY 2018 budget. The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires that the President submit their budget request for the upcoming fiscal year no later than the first Monday of February. Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who served as Appropriations chairman for the last three Congresses, urged the administration not to skip the budget outline because doing so would push back the appropriations process. Rogers said such a delay would run the risk of having Congress adopt a continuing resolution (CR) next fall.
The federal government also does not have final spending levels for FY 2017. If Congress is unable to agree on a giant omnibus spending bill by the April 28th deadline of the current CR, we will likely see an extension of the CR for the remainder of the fiscal year. Across-the-board cuts to non-defense spending of less than 1 percent would go into effect if such a CR is passed.
Affordable Care Act Update: Republican policymakers are rushing to get Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts back on track by incorporating as much of a replacement policy as possible into a repeal bill. Four replacement measures are currently under consideration, with a goal of beginning work on the legislation in the relevant House committees by the end of the month. The Republicans’ emerging blueprint would include expanding Health Savings Accounts, enacting high-risk health insurance pools, reforming Medicaid and authorizing tax credits to help Americans buy insurance policies. The “repeal and replace” legislation is expected to be taken up and passed under an expedited process only requiring 51 votes for passage in the Senate (known as reconciliation). We look forward to providing available analysis of these proposals as they become available.
Medicaid is proving to be the most complex piece of a replacement plan. Republican lawmakers have called for a dramatic overhaul of the program, including the establishment of Medicaid spending caps in each state tied to the number of enrollees. It is unclear whether these lawmakers will attach this sort of Medicaid structural change—known as “per capita caps”—to the repeal bill or pursue smaller Medicaid reforms in the repeal bill. If these proposals are successful they have the potential to seriously impact the availability and accessibility of Medicaid particularly for low-income populations.
Immigration Update: The halt on President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting travel to the US by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries remains in place this week after the 9th circuit court of appeals unanimously refused last week to reinstate the travel ban. The three judges on the appeals court argued that the government has provided no evidence of any threat posed by travelers from these seven countries. The Trump administration has argued that the ban is necessary to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country and is not discriminatory because the text of the order does not mention any particular religion.
Immediately following the verdict, President Trump tweeted his response: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” This tweet indicates that the Justice Department is likely considering a range of options for the President’s consideration from rewriting the Executive Order, to seeking a judicial opinion from a potentially more favorable appeals court, to asking the Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision, but the administration has not officially announced its next steps.
Cabinet Updates: A number of key political appointees were confirmed by the Senate last week. Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor who has devoted much of her life to promoting charter schools and vouchers, was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Education last Tuesday in a 51-to-50 vote—but only with the help of a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. It was the first time a vice president has been summoned to break a tie on a cabinet nomination. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed last Wednesday as President Trump’s Attorney General by a near-party-line vote, 52 to 47.
Representative Tom Price (R-GA) was approved on Friday to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, by a party line vote of 52 to 47. Mr. Price has led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and proposed a replacement plan that would weaken federal insurance standards and give states more authority. Democrats have denounced his desire to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid by making fundamental, potentially damaging changes to the programs.
Votes are scheduled today on former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin’s nomination to be Treasury secretary; no votes have yet been scheduled for the confirmation of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to lead the Department of Agriculture, and no final vote has been scheduled for the confirmation of Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) to direct the Office of Management and Budget.