Here's the scoop on what's happening in Federal Policy from the NCSD policy team.
While Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had previously stated that his goal was to have the Senate vote on an ACA replacement before the July recess (which means it would happen in the next two week), that seems less and less likely to occur. Two senior Republican Senators said publicly this week that they are not close to a bill and they hope to have action on an ACA replacement package completed by the end of July. However, there are rumors that the Senate have sent legislative language to the Congressional Budget Office for review, which typically occurs soon before a package is voted on on the floor of the Senate. No legislative language has been released publicly from the Senate. Senator McConnell has left the door open in public comments to the possibility of the Senate voting on a package even if he is unsure if they have the votes to pass it.
As a reminder, any package passed by the Senate needs to meet the (more narrow) requirements for Reconciliation– which require provisions to have impact on the budget and cannot be primarily oriented toward making policy change– so the legislation can pass with 51 votes. Additionally, should the Senate pass a bill that is different from the bill that the House passed earlier this Spring, the House of Representatives would either need to also pass the Senate package, or the differences would need to be worked out in a Conference Committee.
While neither chamber has passed an FY18 Budget Resolution (which sets the top line funding levels for the Appropriations bills), the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal 2018 Military Construction-VA spending bill Thursday by a unanimous voice vote, marking the first fiscal 2018 spending measure to be reported out of full committee in either chamber.
There is no indication at this time that the House is close to acting on other Appropriations bills, as there is still much discussion of what top-line funding level these bills should be written to. Sequestration is back in full effect in FY18, so the top-line number that is in current law for non-defense discretionary funding in FY18 is $2 billion less than FY17. In addition, there is a desire from both Members of Congress and the Administration to increase defense spending. However, members of both parties are saying this cannot come through cuts to non-defense spending, as the President has proposed. These types of comments lay the ground work for a possible biartisan deal on raising the top-line budget caps, which bodes well for all non-defense discretionary spending. What any deal would look like, when those negotiations would occur, and how any changes to the funding levels would be paid for for are still very large open questions, however.