Congress Takes August Break After Passing Two-Year Budget Deal

Both the House and Senate have now adjourned for the August recess and will reconvene on Sept. 9. Before their adjournment, the Senate passed a two-year budget deal by a vote of 67-28 in favor of the budget agreement and debt limit increase that the House had passed the week before. On Friday, Aug. 2, President Trump signed the bill into law.

The agreement suspends the debt ceiling for two years, until July 31, 2021. It also sets new discretionary spending levels for the next two fiscal years, effectively ending the threat of sequester (the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) set discretionary spending limits through FY21).

The most immediate action will now happen in the Senate, where the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin work to draft, mark up and pass all 12 of its FY20 bills. The current plan is for the Senate Appropriations Committee to mark up four bills per week during September. The Committee is expected to follow a Tuesday-Subcommittee / Thursday-Full Committee schedule, starting with the Labor-HHS; Defense; Energy & Water; and State Foreign Operations bills on Sept. 10 and 12. The next four bills are expected be Military Construction & Veterans Affairs; Transportation, Housing & Urban Development; Financial Services & General Government; and Agriculture on Sept. 17 and 19. And the final set of bills would be Legislative Branch; Homeland Security; Interior; and Commerce, Justice, Science on Sept. 24 and 26.

While this is an aggressive schedule for the Senate to undertake, it does not appear to leave time for the House and Senate to conference their competing versions of bills before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2019). Therefore, it is likely that a short-term Continuing Resolution (lasting until mid-November or mid-December) will be required.