Four, Maybe Seven, Budget Resolutions in Play
While Senate, House Appropriators Stick to December’s Budget Deal
The budget resolutions for FY 2015 reflect the conflicting ideas Congress has struggled with over the past year. The House Republican Budget Committee resolution (HCR 96) is very austere, the House Progressive Caucus resolution is very generous, and the President’s budget, by default perhaps, comes up somewhere in the middle. While HCR 96, designed by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), passed the House, many of its provisions have already been rejected in the Senate over time last year, the stalemate resulting in a government shutdown and the December budget agreement (HJR 59) crafted by Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). That agreement was written to last through FY 2015 and was intended, Murray said in February on Politico.com and Ryan commented recently, to guide Congress beyond October, the beginning of the fiscal year, when the budgeted funds run out. According to Murray in February there is little interest among Democratic Senators to reopen the partisan bickering over budget and policy provisions this year’s Ryan budget reintroduces. The House refused to go to a House / Senate Conference to iron out budget differences last year although that option was essentially met by Ryan and Murray meeting minus other appointees from both bodies.
While the House Budget Committee resolution (HCR 96) has made it to legislative text and a floor vote, the National Review reported recently that House appropriators are working from the Ryan-Murray budget deal numbers. That bill, HJR 59, set overall discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion and provided $63 billion in sequester relief over two years split evenly between defense and non-defense programs, and extended the sequester on mandatory spending to offset some costs. Other sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. Ryan-Murray aimed to reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion, does not raise taxes, makes no amendments to the Internal Revenue Code, and there are no increases in statutory or effective tax rates.
The field of resolutions this fiscal year very nearly replicate the FY 2014 resolutions minus one from the Senate. This year, however, brings three other budget proposals as amendments to HCR 96 all of which failed on floor vote. Those amendments included the Progressive Caucus proposal and adds substituting the President’s budget (Mulvaney-SC) and the Congressional Black Caucus proposal that parallels the President’s proposal, provides $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, and reduces the annual budget deficit to 2.5% of GDP by FY 2024.(Fudge-OH, Scott-VA, Moore-WI, and Lee-CA). Two other amendment proposals are the Republican Study Committee proposal that balances the budget in four years and cuts discretionary spending to FY2008 levels. (Woodall-GA, Scalise-LA) and the Democratic Caucus substitute that ” investments in job creation and education, tax reform that promotes the growth of American businesses and tax fairness, and policies that support access to health care, retirement security, and a safe and secure nation.” (VanHollen-MD).
CBO Reports Further Drop in Deficit
The federal government ran a budget deficit of $413 billion for the first six months of fiscal year 2014, CBO estimates—$187 billion less than the shortfall recorded in the same span last year. Revenues were about 10 percent higher; and outlays, about 4 percent lower.
House agreed to three other budget-related bills…
HR 1871 Baseline Calculations
HR 1871 is a brief and to the point bill that requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to change its procedures when calculating its baseline, an accounting procedure from which future costs of legislation are calculated. Under current procedures CBO establishes its baseline beginning with current spending amounts and then adjusts for inflation and population growth.
Under the bill CBO would be prohibited from adding inflationary and population figures to the final baseline amount. The provision, however,would not be applied to appropriation bills.
HR 1871 Bill Report and Vote.
HR 1872 Transparency
The bill’s stated purpose is to measure more accurately the costs of Federal credit programs by accounting for them on a fair value basis, place the cost of credit programs on a budgetary basis equivalent to other Federal spending, encourage the delivery of benefits in the form most appropriate to the needs of beneficiaries, and improve the allocation of resources among Federal programs. `Cost’ is defined as the sum of the Treasury discounting component (the estimated long-term cost to the Government of a direct loan or loan guarantee) and the risk component of a direct loan or loan guarantee, or a modification thereof.
HR 1872 Bill Report and Vote.
HR 1874 Macroeconomics
The bill, HR 1874, passed the House last week would require CBO to provide—”to the extent practicable—an analysis of the impact on the economy of any bill that would have an estimated budgetary effect of greater than 0.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in any fiscal year. (Currently, that threshold would be about $40 billion, based on GDP of about $16 trillion.) The macroeconomic analysis would include the estimated effect on revenues and outlays of a change in GDP resulting from the legislation being evaluated. The bill also would require CBO to publicly provide the assumptions and models underlying those analyses.
HR 1874 Bill Report, Amendments, and Votes.
“H.R. 1874 would require CBO to prepare, to the extent practicable, a macroeconomic impact analysis of the budgetary effects of major legislation—defined by the bill as legislation with expected budgetary effects greater than one-quarter of one percent of the currently projected gross domestic product of the United States in any fiscal year for the period covered by cost estimate s prepared by the agency…For a number of reasons CBO would not be able to perform the analyses envisioned by that set of amendments: We do not have the analytical capabilities or the level of staffing that would be needed to undertake and complete the tasks…”
Senate Sends Uno Bill to House, Fate Uncertain
The Senate Agreed by a vote of 59-38 to an extension of emergency unemployment benefits and other related programs, sending the bill to the House. The House is likely to delay consideration until after the Easter break.
Some UN Personnel Prohibited from Entering the US
Under the bill any representative to the United Nations who has been found to have been engaged in espionage activities or a terrorist activity against the United States and poses a threat to United States national security interests will be denied admission to the US.
S 2195 Bill report and vote.
Equal Pay Bill Fails to Proceed in the Senate
Senators failed to invoke cloture on S 2199, the bill establishing legal definitions, defenses and training programs regarding pay disparity between men and women.
S 2199 Bill Report and Vote.
Other House Action…
Transfer of US military and related vessels to a foreign country generally takes an act of Congress to accomplish. This bill does transfer or sells 8 vessels to Taiwan, Mexico, and Thailand but goes a bit further to revise some standards governing such transfers.
HR 3470 Bill Report and Vote.
DNA Backlog Eased
Section 2 of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 is amended by extending the program and its funding from 2014 through 2019 as are sections of the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2004 to include Sexual Assault Forensic Exam grants.
HR 4323 Bill Report and Vote.
The Secretary of Agriculture is prohibited, under the bill, from moving A lookout from its location in a National Park unless it is necessary to preserve the historic lookout and protect the safety of individuals on or around Green Mountain recreational area.
S 404 Bill Report and Vote
Expats and the ACA
The House rejected a bill clarifying expatriate coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The bill aimed to clarify the requirements for minimal coverage under the law and prohibits such coverage for individuals who are not expatriates as defined in the bill.
HR 4414 Bill Report and Vote.