Federal Update: Congress Approves Two-Year, $300 Billion Budget Increase

February 9, 2018

After Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY, AB’71, JD’74) unveiled a massive budget agreement on early Thursday, Congress moved quickly to continue government funding and pass this deal. There were objections to the deal from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) that led to a brief middle of the night shutdown but ultimately, the deal continuing funding and providing a $300 billion increase of discretionary funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 passed both houses with strong bipartisan votes of 71-28 and 240-186. The President signed the bill this morning.

The budget deal was rolled into a package with $90 billion in disaster aid, a one-year extension of the suspension of the debt limit, tax provisions, and an extension of current government spending through March 23 to allow appropriators to write final FY18 bills with the newly added funding. The deal will raise the spending caps for the remainder of this fiscal year and next year by a total of $296 billion, with $131 billion going to non-defense accounts and $165 billion (including off-budget war funding) going to defense over two years. While some of this funding is earmarked for specific purposes—including a $2 billion boost for NIH funding—it will eventually be up to appropriators to allocate the new funding within their individual spending bills, and they will have the next few weeks to rewrite their FY18 bills and most likely package them together into an omnibus bill to finalize the year’s federal discretionary spending.

Conservative deficit hawks and progressive Democrats alike opposed or expressed frustration with the deal, with the GOP focusing on deficit spending and many progressives objecting to the failure to address DACA in the spending deal. Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan have both pledged to consider DACA legislation, with the Senate committed to an open process next week, but without the leverage of government funding there is concern, those objecting to immigration reforms are in a strengthened position to block any deal.

As the immigration debate moves forward in the coming days and as appropriators set to work writing their bills to the new, higher funding targets, we will stay in touch with leadership, key members, and alumni to advocate for University priorities across the board. Please feel free to be in touch with the Suzanne Day (suzanne_day@harvard.edu) or Jon Groteboer (jon_groteboer@harvard.edu) in the DC Office of Federal Relations anytime with questions.