In general, President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget proposal adheres to the statutory discretionary spending caps agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2015 (P.L. 114-74). But a series of proposals to create new mandatory programs has Republicans ready for a fight over spending.
In its budget documents, the administration notes the BBA “provides a critical increase in discretionary funding for 2016 and 2017,” including nearly two-thirds of the sequestration relief for 2017 that the president proposed in the 2016 Budget. But the White House cautions, “Still, not fully replacing sequestration in 2017 has consequences, including hindering the ability to make needed investments that are critical to building durable economic growth in the future and maintaining America’s edge as the leader in innovation and cutting-edge science.”
As a result, the administration’s budget “includes a series of investments using mandatory funding that will help maintain preeminence in science and engineering, support jobs and economic growth, expand opportunity, and ensure that we continue to demonstrate economic leadership for decades to come.” These include $1.8 billion in mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health, and $ 1 billion over two years initiative to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
Meanwhile, Republicans responded quickly and negatively to the administration's proposals for mandatory funding.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said the committee will remain focused on fiscal discipline. “President Obama’s final budget proposal contains all manner of new spending and tax increases, and a troubling reliance on mandatory spending to skirt spending limits,” Cochran said, adding, “There will be little appetite in Congress for mandatory spending that diminishes fiscal discipline and congressional oversight.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, agreed, “Finally, while the proposals for curing cancer and combating opioid abuse are worthy goals, the president’s proposed methods are simply unacceptable budget gimmicks that irresponsibly rely on mandatory spending. Certainly, when lawmakers work together to confront these and other health concerns, we will do so within the constraints of the budget caps previously agreed to by Congress and the president.”