April 2, 2012
The House and Senate began their two-week spring recess last Friday after passing the House budget resolution for FY 2013. This plan would cut $19 billion from the FY 2013 spending level outlined in the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25) approved by Congress last August. Most of those cuts would come from non-defense discretionary spending (which supports most research agencies), while defense discretionary spending would be increased. The House voted along party lines to approve the budget resolution, while also voting down a number of alternative symbolic proposals.
Even though the House approved budget resolution isn’t likely to receive any consideration in the Senate, its effects will be felt throughout the coming year in the appropriations process as well as in the ongoing debate about how Congress will deal with automatic cuts set to go into effect in January under sequestration. Appropriators in both chambers say they will start marking up their FY 2013 spending bills when they return April 16th from the two-week recess. The House will be working from the $1.028 trillion overall discretionary spending level for FY 2013 set out in the Republican budget resolution while the Senate is determined to move forward with marking up bills at the $1.047 trillion level set in the Budget Control Act. The differing top-line figures may make it difficult to clear any annual appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, and it seems likely Congress won’t finish its appropriations work until after the November elections.
The House approved budget resolution also requires six House Committees to identify spending cuts to meet the top line number identified in that measure. These committees must report to the Budget Committee by April 27th. The budget resolution outlines a specific savings target for each committee, including the amount of cuts that should go into effect this year and next, over the next five fiscal years, and over 10 years. Specifically, the Agriculture Committee must find $33.2 billion over 10 years, Energy and Commerce must find $96.8 billion, Financial Services must find $29.8 billion, Judiciary must find $39.7 billion, Oversight and Government Reform must find $78.9 billion, and Ways and Means must find $53 billion.
Although the Senate Majority Leader has said that chamber won’t take up a budget resolution this year, senators in both parties are still working on long-term budget proposals. Bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both chambers say they are continuing to work behind the scenes to craft a deficit reduction package based on the fiscal commission’s framework and the work of other bipartisan groups.
The Office of Federal Relations is monitoring these budget negotiations closely and will report new information as it becomes available.