March 6, 2017

The President’s Budget

Rich Meade

On Monday, February 27th the White House arranged a background briefing on their plans for the president’s budget.  Senior officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced a few details about their plans for the budget.

The first announcement was that starting Monday at noon OMB would be starting the process known as passback.  This is the internal collaboration that happens between OMB and the agencies where OMB gives top-line guidance to the agencies and the agencies come back with proposals for specific funding levels for their programs.

The second announcement was that for FY 2018 the President will propose to increase defense spending by $54 billion and decreasing non-defense discretionary spending by $54 billion.  Few specifics were offered during the briefing on where the cuts would be made except for they will propose a large reduction in foreign aid.  Additionally, the OMB officials cited unauthorized and duplicative programs as targets for reduction or elimination.  All of their proposed reductions would come from non-security accounts in the federal budget.

One of the senior advisors to OMB Director Mulvaney came from the Heritage Action for America.  So there is a lot of speculation that proposals from the Heritage budget will be well received by the current OMB.

The OMB officials announced they will be releasing a budget blueprint on March 16.  This will have some additional details of major initiatives the President will propose in his budget submission, but will not likely have funding levels for specific programs.  That level of detail will come when the President submits his full budget to Congress in May.  Congress can use the president’s budget blueprint as a framework for writing the congressional budget.

To keep this in perspective the president’s budget is a proposal by the president to Congress.  Congress will deliberate and decide on discretionary spending limits for defense and non-defense spending as part of their congressional budget process.  Further, the congressional budget does not typically make specific recommendations about spending levels of discretionary programs but rather sets an overall limit.

The appropriations process then determines the specific funding levels for each federal government program.  Appropriations bills require 60 votes to make it through the Senate.  So even if the president proposes a number of program eliminations as part of his budget, Congress will ultimately decide on the funding level for those programs.