March 20, 2013
The Senate is still struggling to get the FY 2013 continuing resolution (CR) approved, which now looks like it may happen on Thursday. That will leave little time to consider the FY 2014 budget resolution. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he is planning to keep members in session until they complete work on the budget resolution even if it means working through the weekend or into next week. Congress is scheduled to begin a two-week recess period starting this Friday.
Meanwhile, the House is scheduled to take action on their FY 2014 budget resolution today. The two chambers have wildly different budget measures to consider, which will make reconciliation between the two very challenging. The House plan is written to balance the budget in 10 years and cut the deficit by $5.7 trillion between FY 2014 to FY 2023. The Senate plan would cut the deficit by only $1.8 trillion over 10 years. But even if the House completes their work on the budget before Friday, they will need to stick around to take final action on the CR that the Senate is still debating since they can’t go home without also acting on the stopgap measure, which is required to avoid government shutdown before the current CR expires on March 27th.
The CR is critical at this point as federal agencies are looking to that legislation to help them adapt to across-the-board spending cuts required by the sequester. Neither chamber has made attempts to overturn sequestration, but instead the focus has been to update the base from which the cuts are made by providing departments with more detailed full-year appropriations. This will give some agencies some flexibility in implementing cuts.