Federal Relations

July 19, 2012

Congress Talks CR, Appropriations, and Sequester

FY 2013 Continuing Resolution:  Several Republican lawmakers are advocating for an early vote on a stopgap spending bill for FY 2013 that would keep the government running into early next year, leaving contentious funding decisions for the next Congress. Most believe they are betting that they’ll have more power next year – possible control of the Senate and the White House – and will be in a better position to force deeper spending cuts. In a letter circulated by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), and signed by 20 members of the House and Senate, lawmakers said they would try before the August recess to clear a continuing resolution (CR) at a “fiscally responsible” level that would avert a new standoff over a potential government shutdown in the fall. Conservatives may support at CR at roughly the current annual spending level of $1.043 trillion if it extended into the next session of Congress, offering a temporary cease fire in the House GOP’s current efforts to cut $15 billion from discretionary spending through the FY 2013 appropriations process.  Regardless of this new effort, no decisions are likely before September. Few Democrats are likely to back a CR that extends beyond December. You can read the Republicans letter here.

L-HHS-ED Appropriations:  On Wednesday, the House L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee approved their FY 2013 draft spending bill mostly along party lines 8-6. The bill would provide a total of $150 billion in discretionary funding, which is $6.3 billion below FY 2012 levels and $8.8 billion less the President’s request. Much of the House panel’s debate centered on the bill’s health provisions and primarily on GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but Democrat’s efforts to restore that funding fell short. Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA) also offered an amendment that would have removed GOP-supported language that would rescind funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio.   

Sequester:  Also on Wednesday, House lawmakers approved legislation that would force the Administration to detail how automatic budget cuts due early next year would be implemented. The bill (HR 5872) would require the White House to produce a report within 30 days explaining how the $109 billion in cuts scheduled to take effect January 2, 2013 would affect both domestic and defense programs. The Senate passed similar legislation in June, but that plan calls for more detailed reports from the Defense Department, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House on the cuts. It’s unclear how the issue will be resolved between the House and Senate bills.  The Senate could back the House bill, but it’s unclear if Democrats leaders, who pushed for the version that requires more detail about the impact on domestic cuts, will allow it to come up. Lawmakers would prefer to have a deal in place before the August recess, so they can have the information when they return in September to argue for averting the sequester.