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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR AUGUST 9, 2013:

Appropriations and Budget Update


FY 2014 Appropriations Process
Congress has recessed for the August break with the House completing work on four of the twelve annual appropriations bills and the Senate not passing any FY 2014 appropriation bills. The government runs out of funding on September 30, 2013 and when Congress comes back in September there will be only nine legislative days remaining to hammer out a deal before the Fiscal Year ends.


The House has passed FY 2014 appropriations bills for Defense; Energy & Water; Homeland Security; and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs.  On July 1, the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers cancelled the markup of  the FY 2014 Interior & Environment bill after 4 and a half hours of debate due to lack of consensus and the large number of remaining amendments. The Interior & Environment bill would have cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget to $5.5 billion from $8.3 billion, slashed clean-water grants by 83 percent, and cut the national endowments for the arts and humanities by 49 percent.   Chairman Rodgers stated he only intended to recess the markup until September but many doubt there will be time or an interest to continue the mark up at that time.  On August 1, the House began debate of a fifth appropriations bill -- the FY 2014 Transportation/HUD bill ---which was eventually pulled from  floor  consideration after it became apparent that a growing majority of members could not live with the $4.4 billion of cuts in the bill and many of the more conservative Republican members wanted more cuts.  Deep cuts in the bill are needed to meet the spending ceilings in the House-approved budget resolution. 


The House Labor-HHS subcommittee had scheduled a markup for July 30 but it was cancelled. While subcommittee chairman Jack Kingston referred to “scheduling problems” many Members and staff believed that with a House Labor-HHS spending ceiling $42.5 billion less than the Senate ceiling there is reluctance to showcase all the draconian cuts made necessary by the House budget resolution.

While a majority of House members voted for the Budget Resolution--- which includes deep cuts but only displayed by broad budget categories---the same Members find it difficult to vote for the actual programmatic cuts that are detailed in the appropriations bills.


 The last time the House considered all 12 annual appropriations bills as stand-alone measures was in 2009.  During the past three years under the leadership of the current House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) four bills have not seen floor action in the House – Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education and State-Foreign Operations.


The Senate Appropriations Committee has marked up eleven of the twelve bills.  Chairwoman Mikulski has stated her intention to mark up the 12th bill-- Interior-Environment—in September and the draft bill and report have been posted on line to facilitate the mark up process in September.  While there has been progress in the Committee none of the FY 2014 bills have been passed on the Senate floor prior to the August recess.   While the Senate did get the 60 votes late in July to begin debate of the Transportation/HUD bill a vote on final passage failed on July 31 as the body was unable to break the Republican filibuster.  Republicans voted against final passage after they were unable to cut the bill to the levels they argued was necessary to meet the spending levels in the Budget Control Act.

FY 2014 Budget Levels/Sequestration
The single most contentious issue surrounding the appropriations process this cycle is the overall budget levels outlined in the House and Senate Budget Resolutions.  Senate Democrats have established an overall ceiling of $1.058 trillion which reverses the sequester, while House Republicans have established a $967 billion overall ceiling which fully reflects the FY 2014 sequester impact.  This $91 billion difference between the two overall spending ceilings has put the Congress at a near dead end, unable to pass spending bills at the levels mandated by the across-the-board spending cuts, but unwilling to retreat to higher numbers set by the 2011 Budget Control Act before those cuts went into force.  House Leadership claim they have no intention of retreating from the spending levels set by the sequester and refuse to go to conference with the Senate on the Budget Resolution where the differences could be worked out under normal order. 

Continuing Resolution
In September when the Congress reconvenes attention will need to focus on a Continuing Resolution.  House leaders have suggested a Continuing Resolution (CR) covering a short period of time could be moved in September to permit more time to develop the spending plan for FY 2014. Many Republicans are calling for the CR level be set at the sequester cap of $967 billion reconfigured to make more funds available for Pentagon spending.  Further complicating negotiation’s is the insistence of some Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act.  Senate Democrats are interested in a CR similar to the six month measure enacted last year. 


With a very short window of getting the budget issues resolved in September Congressional leaders are hoping to avoid the worst case scenario that would be a government shutdown on October 1.

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