Congress Completes FY 2019 Appropriations, President Declares Emergency

Congress has passed a bipartisan spending and border security package that includes fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding for the federal agencies that were shuttered during the 35-day partial government shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019.  Included in the spending package was $1.375 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.  President Trump agreed to sign the legislation, but declared a national emergency to transfer funds from other government programs to fund wall construction.

Congress completed its work on FY 2019 appropriations by passing the spending package, which includes seven funding bills for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice and Science; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; Homeland Security; and State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
The spending package provides:

  • $8.1 billion (+$308 million) to the National Science Foundation, with $6.5 billion (+$185 million) for Research and Related Activities.
  • $5.4 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a decrease of $484 million from FY 2018.
  • $21.5 billion to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an increase of $764 million from FY 2018.
  • $985 million (-$213 million) for the National Institute of Science and Technology.
  • $13 billion (-$95 million) to the Interior Department in FY 2019, with $1.3 billion (+$14 million) going to the Bureau of Land Management; $3.2 billion (+$20 million) to the National Park Service; and $1.58 billion (-$17 million) to the Fish and Wildlife Service.  The bill also provides Interior with $14.1 million in new funding for the departmental reorganization initiated by former Secretary Ryan Zinke.
  • $1.18 billion (+$12 million) to the U.S. Geological Survey, with $157 million (-$850,000) for the Ecosystems Mission Area.
  • Level funding of $8.06 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in fiscal year (FY) 2019.  The bill provides an additional $791 million for toxic waste site clean-up and water infrastructure.  Congress rejected the President’s request for a $2 billion budget cut for the agency.  The bill also does not include the funds requested for “workforce reshaping” at EPA.
  • $3.16 billion for agricultural research, including $1.7 billion (+$341 million) for the Agricultural Research Service, $1.47 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (+63 million), and $415 million (+$15 million) for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
  • $1.04 billion (+$150,000) to the Smithsonian Institution.

The border security package provides only a fraction of the $5.7 billion requested by the President for a border wall, and also bars construction of the wall on five border sites in South Texas.  By declaring a national emergency, the Administration plans to tap into military construction funds or even disaster aid to secure the remainder of the funding.
The President’s national emergency plan has raised concerns of executive overreach among lawmakers of both parties.  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed concerns that a future Democratic President could use a similar strategy to declare an emergency over climate change.  “Today's national emergency is border security,” he said.  “But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “We think the president would be on very weak legal ground to proceed on this, and I'm sure that if he chose to do that, that we would test it in the courts.  And you've heard a lot of Republicans express a similar sentiment.”  Democratic lawmakers in the House are considering a resolution of disapproval to block the President’s emergency declaration.  The resolution might pass in the House, but Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he would support the President’s declaration.  If the resolution does pass in Congress, the President can veto it.  Congress would then need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override the veto.
The President’s declaration is now also facing legal challenges from several groups, including Texas landowners.  A coalition of 16 states, led by California, are suing to block the President from reallocating funds to pay for the border wall.  The Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have also filed a suit against the Administration alleging that the declaration is unlawful.

American Institute of Biological Sciences