Congress Passes Budget Deal: Three Things You Need to Know

The United States Chamber reported today that Congress finally passed the Bipartisan Budget Act. They added that there are three important things everyone should know:

1. Congress Just Crossed-Off a Large Part of Its “To-Do” List.

Items included in the agreement:

  • Budget Caps Deal for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 (including $20 billion set-aside for infrastructure)
  • Debt Limit Suspension Into 2019
  • Disaster Funding (Hurricanes, California Wildfires)
  • Tax Extenders (including energy sections 179D and 45L)
  • Healthcare and Medicare Extenders (and a repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)

2. The Number of “Must-Pass” Vehicles Between Now and September 30th(End of the Fiscal Year) Is Now Very Small.

Congress gets most of its work done when they are up against the deadline for “must-pass” legislation (like avoiding a government shutdown). With enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act, there are much fewer “must-pass” items left this year. Those that remain include:

  • Expiration of the current continuing resolution (CR) on March 23, 2018.
    • Congress must act again to keep the government open. An omnibus spending bill is expected which will require bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
    • This is the biggest and most likely vehicle for other items to be attached.
  • Expiration of authorities for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate on March 31, 2018.
    • While a must-pass bill, this could easily be dealt with in the spending bill that needs to be enacted the week prior.

3. The Fate of Dreamers and Measures Related to the Affordable Care Act Are Now Much More Uncertain.

Congress and the President continue to debate how to find a permanent solution for those individuals affected by the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Three factors are increasing the likelihood that no near-term resolution will be found.

  • First, the recent court order that temporarily reinstates DACA for individuals who received prior approvals for protection under the program reduces the pressure to act by March 5th (though the administration is appealing that ruling).
  • Second, the Democrats believe the Republican demands in exchange for Dreamer relief are unacceptable, whereas Republicans think Democrats have not moved far enough in their direction.
  • Third, in the absence of a “must-pass” vehicle, DACA would have to pass Congress as a stand-alone piece of legislation. That is especially difficult in the House of Representatives, where Republicans will be reluctant to put a bill on the floor that is not supported by a majority of Republicans.In December, there were encouraging signs that Congress would act in a bipartisan manner to stabilize and reform the health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, including by establishing a federally funded reinsurance program and reinstating cost sharing reduction payments. With completion of a budget deal and other healthcare related items, this is now less likely.“I’ve been working hard the past 12 months in DC to educate Congress and Senate of the importance of 179D and 45L in terms of job creation and the importance of using 179D to have our country be more energy efficient. I’m thankful through our efforts, we were able to get these important tax benefits extended through 2017,” said Tax Reform Expert and CEO of Engineered Tax Services, Julio Gonzalez.The Chamber also noted that “The Bipartisan Budget Act was in fact bipartisan passing with the support of a sizeable numbers of Democrats and Republicans; proving not all hope for governing is lost. 

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