What's Been Happening in Congress?

There are several moving pieces occurring at once in Congress right now impacting nonprofits and the communities we partner with every day. Let’s break them down a bit…

After a brief government shutdown last week, Congress accomplished the following: 

  1. Passed another continuing resolution that funds the government through March 23rd. 
  2. Passed a deal that lifted budget caps by nearly $300 billion. For those who work a lot at the state level, it’s easier to understand these as targets. Of this, $131 billion is for non-defense discretionary spending which is where a lot of funding that supports communities with programs like WIC, HUD, AmeriCorps, and other essential programs.  You can find the history of these budget caps here (sequestration!) which explains in detail the process and why nonprofits care about these budget caps. We still need a budget! What specific budget appropriations comes out of this, is still to be determined. Remember, the CR is only through March 23rd. But now that the topline numbers have been agreed upon, Congress can complete the annual appropriations process and the plan is for Congress to pass an FY 2018 omnibus bill in the next six weeks with detailed spending levels for each government program.
  3. Raised the debt ceiling by the appropriate amount until March 2019. The debt ceiling refers to how much money the government is allowed to borrow. If the debt ceiling isn't raised, the government runs out of money to pay what it owes, which can be damaging to U.S. credit ratings and lead to the shutdown of some government programs.


The legislation did not include a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We will see several more immigration debates in the next few weeks with the March 6 deadline for DACA quickly approaching.

Budget Proposal Released

President Trump also released his administration’s budget proposal yesterday. There are some deep cuts proposed, including cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP. It’s important to remember that this is a nonbinding document. It is only a first step in a winding process of how a federal budget is passed and it should be viewed as a values statement

But, at the end of the day, it will take 60 votes in the senate to pass a budget and there isn’t support on either side of the aisle for many of these cuts. Nevertheless, having a top-line review of what’s in the budget can help plan conversations and share stories with members of congress. In summary, the FY 2019 President’s budget includes:

Top Line

  • Sets base non-defense discretionary spending at $560 billion; base defense spending is set at $652 billion


Eliminates Funding for the Following Programs and Agencies (Select list)

  • Corporation for National and Community Service
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Legal Services Corporation
  • Public Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Social Services Block Grant
  • Community Development Block Grant


Sets Base Spending Levels for Agencies (As compared to 2017 enacted)

  • Department of Agriculture – $19 billion (16 percent decrease)
  • Department of Commerce – $9.8 billion (6 percent increase)
  • Department of Defense – $686 billion (13 percent increase
  • Department of Education – $59.9 billion (10.5 percent decrease)
  • Department of Energy – $29 billion (3 percent decrease)
  • Department of Health and Human Services – $68.4 billion (21 percent decrease)
  • Department of Homeland Security – $46 billion (8 percent increase)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development – $39.2 billion (18.3 percent decrease)
  • Department of the Interior – $11.3 billion (16 percent decrease)
  • Department of Justice – $28 billion (1.2 percent decrease)
  • Department of Labor – $9.4 billion (21 percent decrease)
  • Department of State – $25.8 billion in base level funding (26 percent decrease)
  • Department of Transportation – $15.6 billion in base level funding (19 percent decrease)
  • Department of Treasury – $12.3 billion (3 percent decrease)


Similar to 2017, it’s important for nonprofits to continue to tell their story about why nonprofits are essential to strong, thriving communities and are an important partner with the government. But, like in 2017, this is going to be a long process. So, make sure to connect with members of congress in the coming weeks!


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