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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR JUNE 3, 2011:

Appropriations and Policy Update


Overall Budget Process for FY 2012: Debt Ceiling Debate and the Budget

The House and the Senate have started addressing the messy budget issues facing Congress this year.  The House recently voted on a bill to raise the debt ceiling, which the federal government is on track to hit in early August. Republicans in both houses have been calling for massive budget cuts in exchange for their votes on the debt ceiling, despite the fact that failing to raise the ceiling would result in a disastrous government default. However, the House vote was on a so-called 'clean' bill, one without additional spending-related provisions; the legislation failed, 318-97.

In the Senate, debate continues to rage on the budget resolution.   With the Senate Budget Committee waiting for the outcome of the bipartisan negotiations hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, the Senate is left without a budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year.  The Senate voted on four different budgets but all were rejected.

Members of both parties are waiting for some kind of grand bargain to come from the Biden talks.  These discussions, with four Democrats and two Republicans trying to hammer out a long-term budget plan, are many observers' last hope for a timely resolution to current fiscal debates. With Republicans unwilling to vote for a clean debt ceiling bill and Democrats reluctant to vote for any fiscal plan that does not involve at least some tax increases, the Biden talks could provide the compromise needed to raise the debt ceiling and move the FY 2012 budget process forward.

Though no one knows what will come of this year’s budget process, the safe bet is a repeat of last year: upon failing to pass all twelve appropriations bills necessary to fund the federal government at the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress will pass a series of stop-gap 'continuing resolutions,' likely followed by grandstanding for political gain, all to be resolved via a closed-door compromise solution after a series of budget crises like those seen earlier in 2011.

FY 2012 Appropriations Bills Start to Move in the House

In mid-May, the House Budget Resolution which includes the overall ceilings for appropriations was adopted and the House Appropriations Subcommittees were allocated the amount they will have to work with for each of their bills. These allocations,(called “302(b) ceilings) are based on a discretionary spending cap of $1.019 trillion, a figure that is consistent with the ceilings established by the House budget resolution. That amount will force significant reductions in funding below the FY 2011 levels for non-security programs.
The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Harold Rogers, has indicated the intention to markup all 12 of the appropriation bills before the August break and have 9 of those bills passed by the House by then.

On May 13, the House began to mark up the appropriation bills for Fiscal Year 2012 beginning with the Homeland Security and Military Construction/VA bills.  Both of those bills were marked up by the full committee on May 24. 

Below are highlights of all the bills marked up at the subcommittee levels as of the time of this writing.

Homeland Security- The bill totals $40.6 billion in total non-emergency funding which is a decrease of $1.1 billion compared to FY 2011 levels and is $3 billion below the President’s request.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) received $7.8 billion, an increase of $125 million over last year’s level, and $293 million below the President’s request. These funds will be used to sustain the current cap level of 46,000 full time screening personnel, and for explosive detection systems, security enforcement, cargo inspections, Federal Air Marshals, and other TSA activities. The bill also includes an additional $10 million to address air cargo threats. However, the bill does not provide $76 million requested by the President for 275 additional advanced inspection technology (AIT) scanners nor the 535 staff requested to operate them.

Military Construction/Veteran’s Affairs- The bill totals $72.5 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of $615 million from last year’s level and $1.2 billion below the President’s FY 2012 request. 

Agriculture- The bill totals $125.5 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, a reduction of more that $7 billion from the President’s FY 2012 request.  Discretionary funding is reduced by $2.7 billion from FY 2011 level.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received $2.2 billion in discretionary funding or a reduction of $285 million from FY 2011 levels.  Total funding for the FDA, including user fees is $3.7 billion.

Defense- The bill totals $530 billion in non-emergency funding, an increase of $17 billion over FY 2011 levels and a decrease of $9 billion from the President’s request.  The bill contains an additional $119 billion in emergency funding for the Global War on Terror which is $39 billion less than last year due to drawdown of troops overseas.

Energy & Water- The bill totals $30.6 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of $5.9 billion from the President’s request and $1 billion below the FY 2011 level.

The Department of Energy is funded at $24.7 billion, $850 million below FY 2011 and $5.9 billion below the President’s request.  The bill includes $4.8 billion for science research at DOE which is a slight reduction of $43 million from last year’s level.  The bill also contains $1.3 billion to create US jobs and promote energy independence.  This amount is $491 million below FY 2011 levels for energy programs.

The Senate has not yet announced its schedule for markup of the appropriation bills.  The markup process in the Senate is delayed in part by the fact that the Budget Committee and the Senate leadership have not yet agreed on an overall spending ceiling.

Status of FY 2012 Appropriation Bills 

  HOUSE

  Appropriations                      Subcommittee          Full Committee           Floor

  Subcommittee                       Markup                    Markup                      Action

Agriculture

DONE

May 24

DONE

May 31

PASSED

June 16

Commerce, Justice and Science

DONE

July 7

DONE

July 13

Defense

 

DONE

June 1

DONE

June 14

PASSED

July 8

Energy & Water

DONE

June 2

DONE

June 15

PASSED

July 15

Financial Services

 

DONE

June 16

DONE

June 23

Homeland Security

DONE

May 13

DONE

May 24

PASSED

 June 2

Interior & Environment

 

DONE

July 7

DONE

July 12

Labor, Health and Human Services

Legislative Branch

DONE

July 7

DONE

July 13

PASSED

July 22

Military Construction/ Veterans Affairs

DONE

May 13

DONE

May 24

PASSED

June 14

State & Foreign Operations

Transportation/Housing and Urban Development

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