As ordered reported by the House Committee on the Budget on April 3, 2019
H.R. 2021 would revise the caps on appropriations for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to allow for higher amounts of funding than is permitted under current-law caps and budget enforcement procedures. The bill also would change the amounts by which caps could be increased by limiting adjustments to the discretionary caps for overseas contingency operations (OCO—for military and diplomatic activities in Afghanistan and elsewhere) and adding new adjustments for certain appropriations for tax enforcement and to pay expenses for the 2020 census.
H.R. 2021 also would revise the Congressional budget process concerning the adoption of a fiscal year 2020 budget resolution. This change would not, by itself, have a direct budgetary effect, but it could influence Congressional decisionmaking about budget-related legislation in 2020 and future years.
Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues, and it would not change authorizations of appropriations.
Changes to the Caps on Spending Subject to Appropriation
Most discretionary funding is limited by caps on annual appropriations originally specified in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and modified by subsequent legislation. Under current law, separate caps apply to discretionary defense and nondefense funding through 2021. The revisions proposed under H.R. 2021 would increase the limits in 2020 for each category by $87.8 billion. The next year, limits would increase by $90.0 billion for defense funding and by $91.5 billion for nondefense funding. The bill also would permit limited increases in the caps on funding for the Internal Revenue Service’s tax enforcement efforts and for the cost of conducting the 2020 census.
H.R. 2021 also would limit the cap adjustment for OCO funding to $69.0 billion for defense funding and $8.0 billion for nondefense funding. Current law does not limit such adjustments.
CBO estimates that the net increase in caps on discretionary funding would amount to $360.8 billion: $181.9 billion in 2020 and $178.9 billion in 2021. Assuming appropriations at those increased amounts, outlays would increase by $349.1 billion over the 2020-2024 period.
How the Proposed Caps Compare With Those Under Current Law
The caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, including the subsequent reductions that act required, are projected to total $1,119 billion in 2020 and $1,145 billion in 2021. The caps can be adjusted upward when appropriations are provided for certain purposes, however. Specifically, unlimited adjustments can be made for budget authority for OCO and emergency requirements. Current law also allows for limited adjustments for funding for disaster relief and for certain program integrity initiatives.
CBO estimates that under current law, caps on discretionary funding for defense programs—including the allowable adjustments for OCO funding—will be $646.6 billion in 2020 and $662.1 billion in 2021. Caps on nondefense funding, after accounting for allowable adjustments to the caps, will be $567.2 billion in 2020 and $579.0 billion for 2021.
Although enacting the bill would have no direct budgetary effects, the revised caps would allow appropriators to provide $360.8 billion more in discretionary funding in 2020 and 2021 than they could under current law. Limits on defense funding would increase by $86.4 billion in 2020 and by $87.0 billion in 2021. Limits on nondefense funding would increase by $95.5 billion in 2020 and by $91.9 billion in 2021.