As the House finished work this past week on next year’s funding for the federal government, approving a package of eight different different spending bills, one thing noticeably absent from the debate on the House floor was a successful push to make new cuts in next year’s budget, as efforts to make deeper spending reductions were routinely rejected by a coalition of both parties.
It was the first time since 2009 that the House had approved all 12 funding bills before the start of new fiscal year – but none of those plans have yet to reach the Senate floor – as the Congress continues to find it difficult to do the yearly job of passing appropriations bills before October 1.
The outcome had conservative groups grinding their teeth, wondering where all the plans had gone for real budget cuts in the federal government.
“The House has failed to meet this challenge,” the Heritage Foundation complained about the spending details approved by the House for 2018, arguing the Congress should instead buckle down, “cut wasteful programs and reduce the federal deficit.”
There was such an opportunity on the House floor, as members of both parties had the chance to offer amendments to the package of eight spending bills.
But amendments designed to make cuts were not destined to be winners on the floor of the House. Some examples:
+ A plan from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to get rid of money to support long distance routes on Amtrak was defeated 293-128.
+ An amendment from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to reduce spending on the “Essential Air Service” program by $150 million was defeated 280-140.
+ A two percent cut in the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development from Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) was defeated 280-140.
+ Another plan from Grothman to reduce Economic Assistance offered under U.S. foreign aid programs was rejected 307-105.
+ A plan from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) to reduce the EPA budget by $1.8 billion was defeated 260-151.
+ An amendment from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to cut positions and funding at the Mine Safety Health Administration by 10 percent failed on a vote of 238-178.
+ From Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), a one percent overall cut to the spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs was defeated 260-156.
+ A 1 percent across-the-board cut offered by Blackburn to Interior spending programs was defeated 248-156.
+ A 10 percent cut in general administrative and departmental expenses for agencies in the Financial Services budget was defeated 241-166.
+ A 5 percent cut in the budget of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was defeated 313-98.
+ A 2 percent cut in certain programs at the Education Department was defeated 285-131.
+ A plan to cut $99 million from the budget of the National Labor Relations Board was defeated 241-175.
Those are some of the highlights of efforts by GOP lawmakers to make cuts – they just did not have anywhere near the votes to knock such money out of these spending measures.
That outcome was noticed by some.
On the flip side, one can find dozens of amendments that were approved by the full House, which increased funding of certain programs – and they came from both parties.
A few examples:
+ From Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), an extra $1.5 million to continue research on human impact of contaminated seafood.
+ From Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), $500,000 more for the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program.
+ A bipartisan amendment approved a $7 million increase for “Assistance to Small Shipyards”
+ Democrats added $2 million more for the Public Housing Capital Fund at HUD.
+ Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) added $100 million for the Community Development Fund at HUD.
The House-passed spending bills now go to the Senate, where they are unlikely to get final action any time soon.
A temporary budget kicks in on October 1, and runs out in early December – so, after Thanksgiving, look for a giant catch-all spending bill to fund the federal government.