Topline Budget Information Expected on Hill March 13 Week: Aides

By Jonathan Nicholson

The White House is expected to send some topline fiscal 2018 budget information to Capitol Hill in mid-March, congressional aides on both sides of the Capitol said, though how detailed it would be was unclear.

The Senate had been told to “expect something from them March 14" but had been given few other details, a Senate aide said in a Feb. 21 e-mail. Another aide said the House received similar guidance for the week of March 13.

The White House Office of Management and Budget did not return a request for comment.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, formerly Rep. Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who was confirmed by the Senate Feb. 16, had started working on the fiscal 2018 budget.

“I can confirm that the OMB director, the budget director, is working on a budget. Beyond that, I’m not going to get ahead of the OMB director right now,” Spicer said in response to a question at the daily White House briefing over whether the budget would include eliminating the controversial Export-Import Bank. “They’re drafting a budget. They’re talking to members of Congress and other interested parties about funding levels and such. But we’re not at a position to go yet.”

Missed Deadline

The statutory deadline for the White House to submit a budget is the first Monday in February, which fell on Feb. 6 this year. However, there are no penalties for missing the date and the Obama administration often missed it.

Incoming administrations usually fail to meet the deadline and submit instead an abbreviated version of a full budget, with the larger document coming weeks or months later. The abbreviated budget is what is expected on Capitol Hill in mid-March.

How quickly the House and Senate Budget Committees will take up the first Trump budget and incorporate it into their own largely nonbinding budget resolutions is unclear. They will be waiting on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to send them its March baseline, based on current law, but also on the results of efforts to find a consensus among congressional Republicans on partially repealing the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said ACA repeal legislation will be introduced in the House after lawmakers return from the week-long break from Washington for the Presidents Day holiday.

Under the fiscal 2017 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 3), committees in both the House and Senate were to have sent ACA repeal bills to their respective budget committees by Jan. 27. While there is no penalty for missing that date, Republicans want to pass repeal legislation before adopting a fiscal 2018 budget. Otherwise, the ACA bill could lose its filibuster-proof status seen as necessary to pass the Senate with only Republican votes.

Everything Up in Air, Enzi Says

Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said he was sympathetic to the Trump administration over its delay in getting Mulvaney confirmed and sending a budget to the Hill. “He wasn’t even in place by the first Monday in February, so we’ve got to cut him a little slack and give him a little bit of time,” Enzi said Feb. 17.

Typically, budget resolutions are marked up and adopted in each chamber in March, with a final vote in April or sometimes May. But the the slow start to budget season, combined with an expected supplemental appropriations bill and the need to fund government operations past April 28, could push those timelines back.

“We’ll be working with him on some budget matters, and after we get that done, we’ll be able to start our work,” Enzi said of Mulvaney. “We’ll see how long it takes. In other words, everything’s up in the air.”

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