Lawmakers Brace for Delayed Appropriations and Must-Pass Bills Due to Coronavirus
Congressional appropriators are bracing for delay as the coronavirus crisis keeps them from holding hearings on the President’s Budget Request and their own spending priorities. These hearings, which usually take place in the Spring, are crucial in the appropriations process and help legislators determine which programs will receive funding in the coming fiscal year, which is set to begin October 1. Additionally, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) have indicated that the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets funding limits and priorities for the Department of Defense, will likely be delayed passed October as well.
Under normal order, Spring is key in the budget process timeline as the House and Senate Budget Committees determine how much money will be spent this budget year. Once agreed upon, the Appropriations Committees will work to determine how funds are allocated. However, Congress is currently functioning under a two-year budget deal that was in place last year, covering fiscal years 2020 and 2021. However, while the Budget Committees do not have to form a new budget resolution for FY 2021, Appropriations still must make allocations that will govern spending in the new fiscal year beginning on October 1.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees were set to hold markups of the NDAA this month and next. The House is now looking to have a bill ready by May, but without knowing when Congress will be back in session to take care of normal business, it is hard to say when the bills will move forward. As of now, Congress is scheduled to come back to session on April 20, but there is much uncertainty around this date as the pandemic continues.
ASME will continue to monitor the situation and report on any developments.