House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee approves fiscal year 2018 bill | TheFencePost.com
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House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee approves fiscal year 2018 bill

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee today approved the fiscal year 2018 Agriculture and related agencies appropriations bill by voice vote after some dissenting statements from Democrats.

House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., told reporters afterward that he is optimistic about getting approval from the full House Appropriations Committee after the July 4 recess, but even he has acknowledged that it will be hard to bring the Ag bill and other appropriations bills individually to the House floor.

On May 25, Politico reported that House leaders are already talking about the need for a continuing resolution when the fiscal year ends on October 30 and the possibility of an omnibus appropriations bill.

For that story, Aderholt told Politico, "We talked about how we might move forward on appropriations at this juncture. … Putting all the appropriations together in one package is one option. I think certainly, when you look at the calendar, you've got to say: It's crunch time, and of course trying to do all these appropriations bills in that short period of time" would be difficult.

The bill totals $144.9 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding.

For the most part, the bill defies President Donald Trump's budget requests for cuts, and allocates $20 billion in discretionary funding – $876 million lower than the FY 2017 enacted level and $4.64 billion above the president's budget request.

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The bill, nevertheless, proposes about $1.1 billion in cuts to the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the three major agencies it covers.

Aderholt stressed the cuts were made responsibly.

"Acknowledging a shared responsibility to find savings, this bill was thoughtfully crafted, providing needed resources that will continue to support rural America," Aderholt said in his opening remarks. "… These cuts have been targeted to prioritize resources and maximize savings."

While Democratic members of the subcommittee said they are happy that the bill breaks from much of Trump's budget requests, several voiced concerns during the markup about some proposals of the bill, as well as concerns with the working environment surrounding the subcommittee's tasks at hand.

Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., the subcommittee ranking member, said he was pleased to see that Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole were funded at $1.4 billion and $185 million, respectively. That is lower than fiscal year 2017, but "far above zero," he said, adding he hopes to work to further increase those funds.

Bishop added, "I am disappointed to point out, although it is the end of June, we still have no budget resolution, no top-line spending number, the debt limit is rapidly approaching, and we have no full list of subcommittee allocations."

"For the sake of our national security … the American people deserve more than this dysfunction," added House Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

In the past, Christopher Giancarlo, acting chairman of the CFTC, has requested a $281.5 million budget, which is $31.5 million higher than the fiscal year 2017 approved budget.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 bill, however, provides only $248 million to CFTC – far less than Giancarlo's request.

"We should not undermine CFTC's ability to oversee risky market behaviors, protect consumers and enforce the law by providing insufficient funding," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. "This will hamper the agency [and] leave it without the tools it needs to properly oversee massive commodities markets."

Following the markup session, both Aderholt and Bishop were confident the two parties could come together and continue to "not abandon rural communities," as Bishop said.