The Senate returned this week to pass their budget reconciliation and did so late Thursday evening. The House passed their resolution last week. Tax reform instructions in the resolution were a point of contention for the Senate, but with the passage of the budget it paves the way for tax reform that only requires a simple majority to pass.
Language was added to the resolution to make it possible for the House to agree to the budget without having to convene a conference committee. Another key provision would allow Pentagon spending to be increased to $640 billion in FY 2018, without having to be offset, as long as Congress can separately agree on a deal to lift the spending caps.
Before the resolution passed, amendments were being proposed in abundance. Some sought to draw a line against tax breaks for the wealthy, require that the tax reform process be bi-partisan, and protect Medicaid. A provision to prevent cuts to Medicaid and reduce any tax breaks the wealthy might receive was defeated by a party line vote. A second amendment to bar tax cuts for the top one percent of earners was also defeated. Non-controversial amendments, seeking to boost small business and the family tax credit were also proposed and passed unanimously.
Without the two chambers having to conference to pass the budget resolution, the appropriations process could gain additional time. However, there is still a tight window of time and many contentions to work through.
The appropriations process is filled with controversial issues that need to be resolved by Dec. 8, when the current continuing resolution expires. The border wall, health care subsidies, planned parenthood, and disaster relief are still looming. It is possible we may see another continuing resolution to extend the current spending levels throughout FY 2018.
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