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August 7, 2017: ASPET Government Affairs and Science Policy Update

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Congress Begins Summer Recess; Appropriations to Resume After Labor Day 

Recess: With the Senate having finished a handful of votes this week, both chambers of Congress are now on summer recess; members will return in early September immediately after Labor Day. On the NIH appropriations front, the current rumor is that the Senate Labor Health and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up their fiscal year (FY) 2018 spending bill on Wednesday, September 6, followed by the full-committee markup on Thursday, September 7. We will keep you informed of any changes to this schedule.

In other appropriations news, Senate Republicans have stated their intention to include funding for security enhancements along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a border wall, in the FY 2018 spending bills that will be considered in the fall. It remains to be seen how these proposals will affect the forthcoming budget negotiations in September.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) Analysis of FY 2018 Budget Resolution: The CBPP has released an in-depth analysis of the House FY 2018 budget resolution's impact on nondefense discretionary programs here.

Debt Ceiling: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Thursday told the House Financial Services Committee that the government can pay its bills through the end of September without a debt limit increase. Mnuchin also said he and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney have an understanding that Mnuchin is representing the administration on this, and reiterated that the lift should be "clean" rather than conditioned on other legislation. He also noted that his estimate was based on information that could change.

Since March 15, when the most recent debt limit suspension expired, the Treasury has been using "extraordinary" bookkeeping measures to prevent the debt from hitting the limit, and allowing the government to continue to borrow. However, Mnuchin says he will not go so far as to prioritize payments to bond holders and Social Security recipients while delaying other government payments if the debt limit were not raised before the government ran out of funds.

Moderate Republicans Urge House Speaker to Negotiate a Bipartisan Deal to Raise the Budget Caps: Earlier this month, 20 members of the Tuesday Group Caucus, an alliance of moderate and centrist House Republicans, wrote a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) expressing “concerns with the direction of the FY 2018 budget process.” The group stated, “…we believe that it is incumbent on the White House and Congressional leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, to reach an agreement that sets spending levels for, at least, FY 2018” and suggested that a new budget deal could be paired with a vote to increase the debt limit. Signers of the letter also said that “absent such a bipartisan, bicameral agreement, we are reticent to support any budget resolution on the House floor.” This letter seems to confirm earlier rumors that moderate Republicans are supportive of efforts to raise the spending caps, increasing the likelihood that a deal could be reached this fall. Read the full letter here.

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