April 23, 2014

Committees Move Forward on Budget Legislation

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

On Capitol Hill this week, several House committees are scheduled to begin making some of the policy decisions necessary to comply with the House budget resolution.

To replace savings from the automatic cuts required by last year’s Budget Control Act, the House resolution included reconciliation instructions directing six committees (Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means) to report legislation by April 27 to reduce the deficit by a total of at least $18.4 billion in the first year, $116.3 billion over the first five years, and $261.5 billion over the first ten years.   

Reconciliation is a procedure intended to allow Congress to consider deficit reduction legislation using an expedited process that prevents filibusters and restricts amendments in the Senate.

Several of the House committees are expected to begin reporting the legislation this week.  However, for the House reconciliation bill to be enacted using the expedited procedures, the Senate must also pass both a budget resolution including reconciliation instructions and the reconciliation bill -- a prospect that appears unlikely this year.  

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has announced that the committee will begin considering the Fiscal 2013 budget resolution this Wednesday. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he will not bring a budget resolution to the floor this year and will instead rely on the allocations authorized by the Budget Control Act.

Also this week, House and Senate subcommittees are scheduled to consider the first of the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bills. The Senate is expected to produce appropriations bills that comply with the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending cap in last year’s debt limit law. House committees will be working from the lower $1.028 trillion allocation in the House budget resolution.

The fact that the House and Senate are using different totals for Fiscal 2013 will make it more difficult to pass timely appropriations bills and may increase  the chances of a government shutdown at the end of the year.