Government affairs

Legislative Updates

Budget process underway in Congress

With the Trump administration’s first full budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 out, Congress now turns to its onerous task of pulling together its own budget principles and will decide whether it includes some, all or none of the White House's priorities.

Typically, the House and Senate start with their respective Budget committees writing their own budget resolutions to provide a framework for the allocation of the committees’ spending authority for the fiscal year. Once those resolutions pass, the committees begin “marking up” through each of the appropriations subcommittees, meaning the subcommittees will determine how the funding is appropriately distributed, according to programs.

Following a mark-up, the House and Senate would normally vote on their appropriations bills separately, then meet to reconcile differences between the bills, before presenting a finalized, identical version of each bill to be voted on one last time in each chamber. After passing both the House and Senate, each of the 12 appropriations bills goes to the president to be signed into law and, voila, funding is complete.

However, nothing about this administration or one-party Congress has been predictable so far. With Congress struggling to adapt to an unconventional administration, it is highly unlikely that tradition and process will prevail. In fact, at this writing, the House Budget Committee was preparing a budget resolution that for the House to vote on at the end of June that paves the way for all appropriations bills to be rolled into a single bill, known as an “omnibus.”

The budget resolution process is expected to include “reconciliation instructions” that mandate each of the 12 committees that authorize funding to identify budget savings, typically by eliminating programs or reducing services or funding levels. When it comes to the Postal Service (and all federal employees), jurisdiction lies with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The majority of that committee's work is focused on government oversight, so they have little choice but to look at health and retirement benefits to find cuts that adhere to reconciliation instructions. It’s all very complicated but, quite simply, letter carriers are vulnerable.

NALC members should be aware that such serious cuts can be brought up as an option for savings at any point; they are not limited to budget and appropriations deliberations. For instance, raising the debt ceiling—the legislative limit on the amount of national debt that can be issued by the U.S. Treasury—is expected to be debated extensively in the coming weeks. Such debates typically bring up avenues for savings. Should raising the national minimum wage be seriously considered, then cuts in health care and retirement benefits would likely follow.

NALC joined the Federal-Postal Coalition in sending letters to the House and Senate urging members of Congress to reject attacks on earned benefits that serve only to hurt working-class families. Be sure to contact your House and Senate representatives to let them know you do not support such measures.

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