October 25, 2014

House Moves Forward on Appropriations

On Capitol Hill last week, the House continued to make progress on Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations bills as the full House passed the defense bill with a 326-90 vote, and a subcommittee approved the Labor-HHS-Education bill. 

The defense bill includes almost $606 billion in funding -- $518 billion in non-war funding and $88 billion for overseas contingency operations such as the war in Afghanistan. The White House has threatened to veto the bill because it exceeds spending levels for defense that were included in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA).

The Labor/HHS/Education bill approved by a House subcommittee last week includes a total of $150 billion in discretionary funding and would rescind most funding to implement the 2010 health care law. In a worrisome development, the bill would eliminate two agencies devoted to studying health care effectiveness and would prohibit all economic research at the National Institutes of Health.

Without the information from such research, it would be exceedingly difficult to lower health care costs in the future -- and would thus lead to much higher budgetary costs than would be saved by the bill’s cuts. The next step for the bill will be consideration by the full Appropriations Committee, though no meeting has been scheduled yet.

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has reported several of the bills, though none have been considered on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated that floor consideration of any of the individual bills is unlikely over the next few months due to a disagreement with the House over the budget allocation for the bills.

The President and Senate Democrats support the levels included in last year’s Budget Control Act. House Republicans have proposed further cuts to the overall allocation for appropriations, which would require cuts to domestic spending priorities if the bill exceeding the BCA’s defense spending level is enacted.

Over the next several weeks, attention is likely to turn to the continuing resolution necessary to prevent a government shutdown if -- as expected-- all of the bills are not passed prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year.