....the question is: when?
You've probably seen the Greenwire story covering the budget cuts at EPA announced by the White House today. But while the White House wants to significantly cut EPA, there are a number of procedural obstacles in their way that would delay those cuts, hopefully into the next fiscal year. Here's why.....
The federal government is largely operating under the terms of a "continuing resolution," that has been extended a few times, as Congress was unable to agree on a budget resolution. A continuing resolution is passed "to provide stopgap funding for affected agencies and discretionary programs" when Congress does not agree on an actual federal budget, according to an excellent budget primer by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The current continuing resolution, or "CR," expires April 28, 2017. According to the previously-mentioned budget primer, Congress should normally have a budget resolution prepared by April 1.
Despite what may seem like endless debate in Congress, there's actually fairly limited time, based upon the House and Senate calendars. The House, for example, only has 105 days of scheduled time when they'll be in session and working before the end of the fiscal year (September 30). The Senate, has only 109 left. Some of these scheduled days are only half days. In the remaining time they need to hold hearings and vote on at least 20 political appointees awaiting confirmation, and up to 515 that have not yet been nominated. They also need to consider the President's fiscal year 2018 proposed budget, mark it up to make it their own, debate it, and pass it.
It is, therefore, unlikely that Congress will waste limited and valuable floor time for the remaining fiscal year debating cuts this year, cuts that would be very controversial. It is more likely that they will use their floor time considering political appointees and next year's budget, rather than fighting about this year's budget. It is likely that the continuing resolution will be extended, and if there are cuts through the CR, they are likely to be small cuts.
So the guillotine is unlikely to fall until the next fiscal year, which starts on October 1. Until then, our jobs are hopefully safe.