March 6, 2013
Federal government is closed today due to an approaching snow storm in the Washington, DC area. It is currently snowing heavily and sideways outside my window, but it is wet snow and doesn’t appear to be sticking much yet. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning through 3:00am Thursday morning, and the local ABC affiliate reports the metro region could get between 5 and 10 inches of snow with heavier snowfall in the suburbs.
All of this activity won’t keep the House from considering their legislative proposal to fund government for the remainder of FY 2013 (the current continuing resolution expires on March 27th). This morning the House will consider both the rule for and passage of the CR to fund the government, with votes wrapping up between 1:00pm and 1:30pm, which should give most members time to get out of town before the bulk of the snow hits the ground. Of course, this probably won’t help members like ours on the west coast as airports in the area have already started cancelling outbound flights.
The House is expected to pass the $984 billion CR today but it does not include much language to soften the blow of the sequester that went into effect last Friday. While it will give the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments more flexibility in implementing cuts, in addition to providing a few extra dollars for each, the proposal will do little to blunt the impact of sequestration on education and research programs.
The House bill would effectively cap regular FY 2013 discretionary spending at about $984 billion, with the sequester triggered on March 1st automatically slicing about $59 billion from the bill’s starting level of $1.043 trillion. That’s somewhat more spending than the $974 billion estimate offered by House Republicans before March 1st when the Office of Management and Budget released its final call on the sequester’s effects. The numbers changed after OMB removed the expenses of programs exempt from sequester, such as military pay, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Pell grants, and added in other money that had not been included in the original assessment of federal spending, such as some unobligated balances.
The Senate may try to move stand alone bills to fund some areas of government rather than just approving another CR. So far they have made some progress on bills to fund Agriculture, Commerce-Science-Justice, and Homeland Security. With only two more working weeks before the two-week Easter recess it is hard to imagine that they will be able to accomplish this and also get the House to agree to that process.