President Signs Two-Year Budget Agreement, Leading to Busy September for Congress
President Signs Two-Year Budget Agreement, Leading to Busy September for Congress

August 2019

On August 2, President Donald Trump signed a two-year budget agreement that suspends the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021, and raises spending caps for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The agreement avoids triggering sequestration and large spending cuts to levels established in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

As noted in the July 2019 AERA Highlights, the agreement includes an increase of $24.5 billion for nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs to $621.5 billion. The capped amount in the agreement is $10 billion lower than the amounts included in budget levels that the House deemed necessary in April for NDD programs.

The House has passed 10 of 12 appropriations bills, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) bill, which provides funding for the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, and the Commerce, Justice, Science bill, which includes spending for the National Science Foundation. The House legislation provided increases for those three agencies in FY 2020 (see May 2019 AERA Highlights). However, as the House bills are above the caps in the budget agreement, the final appropriations bills will include lower spending levels for these agencies than the House provided.

Congress will return from its August recess on September 9. The Senate, which has not passed any appropriations bills while waiting for a budget agreement, will be working to advance legislation prior to the end of FY 2019 on September 30. There have been reports that Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) plans to pair the appropriations for defense and LHHS, the two largest appropriations bills. It is also very likely that Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution for some of the 12 appropriations bills to avoid a government shutdown.