Budget Finale, Appropriations Start up as Congress Leaves Town

By: sustainableag , 5:16 PM GMT on April 11, 2014

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Congress has just left town to return home for a two-week recess.  The House and Senate will not be back in session until the week of April 28.

On its way out the door, the House barely managed to pass its budget resolution for 2015.  The vote was 219-205, with a dozen Republican defectors joining all Democrats in voting no.

Having passed a two-year budget deal last year, the Senate has no plans to do a budget resolution this year, nor does the annual appropriations process require a budget resolution this year.  Hence the House budget put together by Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) was largely a symbolic political document to begin with and it has now reached the end of the road.

The House budget resolution nonetheless outlines many Republican priorities, including repeal of much of the Affordable Care Act and, on with respect to the farm bill, major funding cuts to the food stamps and crop insurance programs.  Some of the specific planks of the House GOP budget resolution will no doubt be raised again later this year during House floor consideration of the annual appropriations bills.

In other budget news, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) next week, while Members are away, will issue the annual budget baseline that estimates the cost of government programs out into the future and that becomes the basis for determining the cost of all spending proposals for the rest of this Congress.  The CBO will also put specific numbers to the President’s budget requests for the fiscal year 2015 appropriations process, a necessary step before congressional appropriators can decide whether or not to approve, disapprove, or modify those requests for funding.

Not waiting for the budget resolution to be passed or for the Congressional Budget Office to issue the budget baseline, the House Appropriations Committee this week approved two of the twelve appropriations bills for FY 2015 — the Military Construction and Veteran Affairs bill as well as the Legislative Branch bill that funds Congress itself.

The unusually early start, jumping ahead of even the official budget estimates, is a sign of the commitment of appropriators to trying to get its spending bills finished this year on time, before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.  Whether they can succeed in that effort or not very much remains to be seen.  Some veteran observers of the process think there may be a reasonable chance of passing some but not all of the appropriations bills this summer or early fall before heading out for the campaign trail well in advance of Election Day in November.

When Congress returns from the current recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee intends to take up the Military Construction bill the House Committee just dealt with, while the House Committee intends to next take up the Commerce-Justice-Science bill.

It is not yet clear when the agriculture appropriations bill – the bill that funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration – will come up, though we expect it to be more on the front end than the back end of the twelve appropriations bills.  We will alert readers as soon as more becomes known about timing for the agricultural spending bill.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) has set an aggressive goal of getting all twelve spending bills out of the Committee by the July 4 recess.   Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) intends to keep pace, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has tentatively set aside floor time in June and July to consider whichever appropriations bills are ready for Senate consideration.

You can read more about NSAC’s agriculture appropriations priorities on our website, where you can also find a story on our recent farmer fly-in on the appropriations bill.

 

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We are an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture.

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