House Democrats’ budget plan boosts spending caps by more than $350 billion over two years

April 2, 2019

House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a proposal that would boost discretionary spending caps by more than $350 billion over the next two years, offering an opening ante as 2020 spending talks get underway.

For 2020, the deal calls for a $664 billion cap level for base defense spending. That’s $17 billion, or about 2.6 percent, above the 2019 cap level.

It also allows for up to $69 billion in special war funding, which could bring the total for defense to $733 billion next year - less than the $750 billion President Trump calls for in his 2020 budget request.

For non-defense discretionary spending, the 2020 spending cap would increase to $631 billion. That’s a $34 billion increase, or 5.7 percent, compared to the 2019 cap level.

For 2021, the defense spending cap would increase to $680 billion, and the non-defense cap would increase to $646 billion.

All told, the discretionary spending caps would get a collective boost of more than $350 billion for 2020 and 2021 compared to the existing levels for those years, as mandated by a 2011 budget deal.

The dollar increases for defense and domestic spending would be roughly equal for 2020 and 2021 compared to the existing cap levels - a notion of “parity” that both sides have aimed for in recent budget deals.

The White House says Congress should have to abide by the 2020 and 2021 caps.

Most government spending, like on mandatory programs such as Medicare, is on autopilot and generally falls outside the annual appropriations process.

But the administration says reining in discretionary spending is also necessary in order to start getting a handle on a $22 trillion-plus national debt.

The president’s budget includes about a $34 billion boost for defense compared to 2019 by more than doubling the amount included in the special war fund, which is exempt from the limits.

The Senate Budget Committee advanced a 2020 budget plan last week that also abides by the lower spending levels in the current caps.

It rejects the White House plan’s reliance on the special war funding, but allows for a deal to boost defense spending to $750 billion as long as Congress strikes another deal to increase the caps.