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Legislative Updates

House, Senate complete work on FY2018 budget resolution

Today, the House of Representatives voted to adopt a budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 71) to set funding levels for the government for Fiscal Year 2018 as well as budget targets for Fiscal Years 2019 through 2027. The plan allows for major tax cuts and calls for massive reductions in Medicare and Medicaid spending.

H. Con. Res. 71, initially passed by the House on Oct. 5, invoked a process called called “budget reconciliation,” a tool that allows for Senate passage with only 50 votes, rather than the 60 votes needed to prevent or overcome a filibuster. Budget reconciliation is a potentially dangerous tool that could lead to major policy changes. In this case, its primary intended purpose was to overhaul the nation’s tax code and to reduce mandatory spending levels on entitlement programs such as Medicare.

To accomplish the spending reductions, the House resolution called for 11 House committees to cut a total of $203 billion in mandatory spending programs over 10 years. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform would have needed to find $32 billion in cuts, placing federal employee health and retirement benefits in jeopardy.

Luckily, the Senate developed its own version of a budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 25) that did not call for using reconciliation to reduce mandatory spending. Instead, it focused almost entirely on tax-related reconciliation instructions to pave the way for tax reform.

Last week, the Senate passed its version and sent it back to the House in the form of H. Con. Res. 71. Today, the House passed the Senate’s version of H. Con. Res. 71 without amendment.

For NALC members, this is a significant victory in protecting active and retired letter carriers against the numerous proposals we have been hearing about in House and White House budget proposals.

“Without reconciliation, major cuts to federal employee benefits will be much harder to enact—a major victory for all federal employees,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “But we are not entirely in the clear. The attack on Medicare will not spare retired letter carriers, and tax cuts that explode the deficit will expose our benefits to future cuts.

“Meanwhile, proposals to slash our benefits will continue to be talked about in Congress,” Rolando said, “so letter carriers should remain diligent in educating members of Congress on the dangers of such proposals.”

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