March 11, 2013

Big Budget Week Ahead

By Christy Gullion

The Senate will take action on a continuing resolution (CR) this week to fund federal government through the end of FY 2013. The current CR expires on March 27th. The Senate bill expands on the House version that was approved in that chamber last week, which combines new Defense and Military Construction-VA bills with a stopgap CR for the rest of the federal agencies. The Senate version will contain three additional spending bills — Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Homeland Security. House Republicans have signaled that they are not opposed to an expanded package of bills provided it does not exceed $984 billion in discretionary spending, a figure matching the cap set under previous budget laws minus the automatic sequester cuts. The text of the Senate bill is expected to be released today.

Both chambers will also focus on their respective budget proposals this week. The House Budget Committee marks up its budget resolution Wednesday, while the Senate Budget panel will consider its plan Thursday. Both 10-year budget plans are expected to be on the floor the week of March 18 and are on course to be adopted well in advance of the April 15 deadline imposed by Congress earlier this year. Both budgets are viewed as vehicles to promote partisan agendas, and almost no one believes that the two sides will be able (or willing) to reconcile the different assumptions made in each budget on how to increase revenues and how to invest those new revenues.

And as reported late last week, the White House is now not expected to send its budget to Congress until April 8th, more than two months late. By law, the president is required to deliver his budget proposal to Capitol Hill no later than the first Monday in February, but there is no penalty for being late. The Administration blames the delay on last year’s fiscal uncertainties, including the fiscal cliff deliberations, sequestration, and the CR.

And finally, a sequester update. As a reminder, the $85 billion cut from federal spending this fiscal year is only the first installment of nine years of sequester. Even as Congress and the White House negotiate how to mitigate the impacts of the sequester, it is good to know that they are only discussing relief for FY 2013, which would represent a down payment on the more difficult spending questions that will arise as more than $700 billion in additional reductions mount in the ensuing nine years. It will become harder and harder for Congress to mitigate the impacts of sequestration as the largest share of the spending cuts will fall on discretionary programs – like research and education assistance – the portion of federal operating expenses that now make up just a third of the federal budget today and would, under sequester, fall to about a quarter of spending by the end of the decade.

The Office of Federal Relations is actively collecting information from campus on direct and indirect impacts of the sequester to use for our advocacy efforts. It is important that the UW community have a unified voice and message on these impacts. Please contact us if you are experiencing any changes in commitment on your grants or contracts.

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