As engaged members, you’re probably growing impatient for Congress to act on three issues that were front and center during the campaign: healthcare, taxes, and infrastructure. It seemed that the administration and Congress were on the right track for significant action, but now they’re stuck. They’re struggling to find common ground on an increasingly complex political landscape. There’s been no major action since the House vote to repeal Obamacare.

There is work being done behind the scenes, however, to pave the way for a Senate vote on Obamacare, introduction of an infrastructure plan, and action on a tax package before the summer is over. All three are impacted by what happens on the FY18 budget. A budget resolution plus 12 appropriations bills funding the government must be enacted before October 1. The process of passing a budget and accompanying appropriations bills is a long road with many potholes. The last time that all 12 appropriations bills were enacted was 20 years ago, and not a single appropriation bill has been passed on time (by October 1) since 2009. The bar for FY18 is not set very high. 

The Trump budget
The process started when the president submitted his budget framework to Congress in May. The document, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” lays out President Trump’s priorities for a smaller government that’s focused on building the military, strengthening national security, and eradicating terror threats. It was deemed dead on arrival by factions from both parties. It will nevertheless be used by both chambers of Congress as a starting point. 

There are some challenges with the budget that are critical to address during the legislation process. The administration budget calls for a big increase in defense spending plus additional funding for border enforcement, homeland security, and a $200 billion down payment on the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan. That additional spending on defense is paid for partly by reducing and eliminating programs focused on applied energy, environment and climate change, science, STEM education, and manufacturing. That means steep cuts for the National Science Foundation, NASA, Energy’s Office of Science, and NIST, which have jurisdiction over most non-defense manufacturing programs.

Manufacturing programs cut
The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing USA program (formerly the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation) is partially defunded (by 40 percent) in the president’s budget. The current network of institutes consists of eight led by the Defense Department, five led by the Energy Department, and one led by the Department of Commerce. 

Under the president’s budget, the network of 14 institutes is reduced to nine by eliminating all five DoE institutes: semiconductors, advanced composites, clean energy smart manufacturing, emissions reductions, and energy productivity.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which has offices in every state, also faces elimination. AMT was an early supporter of the legislation to establish the MEP program in the late 1980s. Since then the program evolved to focus on helping companies navigate the digital environment. The Association continues to advocate for best-in-class centers that offer low-cost, high-value resources for small and medium-sized manufacturers.

The Advanced Manufacturing R&D Consortia and two advanced technology loan programs are also eliminated. With only two months until the August recess and a government shutdown/debt ceiling showdown looming in the fall, Congress must pull together to tackle some of the tough issues standing in the way of getting things done. Can it happen? Yes. Will it happen? Possibly. But right now, love is not in the air in the nation’s capital.