Friday, October 14, 2011

2012 Appropriations Update (with a smattering of Supercommittee thrown in for good measure)

The twelve-member bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a/k/a "supercommittee") has been meeting - apparently.  We don't really know what the meetings' substance has been, if anything, since the supercommittee's meetings have been largely held behind closed doors.  But they seem to be pressing ahead toward a legislatively-imposed November 23 deadline to identify $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction (in the form of either spending cuts or new revenue) over the 2012 to 2021 period and to submit that proposal to Congress for a straight up or down vote (see this overview of the supercommittee and its work).  If the supercommittee falters and comes up with no plan, then the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations battle will become the only budgetary game in Washington through the remainder of 2011.

Meanwhile, both the Senate and House continue to move (not behind closed doors) toward crafting a bill that will fund the Federal government for the remainder of the 2012 Fiscal Year, beyond November 18, when the current Continuing Resolution spending authority ends.  Appropriations Committee chairs in both chambers have been busy lining up supporters to shape the $1 trillion 2012 funding bill and its potential policy riders.  Thus far, the full Senate has passed only one of its dozen regular appropriations bills, while the House has passed six.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed eleven of the twelve spending bills (ten await action by the full Senate).  The only spending bill that has not been passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee is the bill funding the EPA and Interior Department.

The one spending bill passed by the Senate is the USDA/FDA appropriations bill, and it included many of the farm conservation cuts contained in the parallel House bill passed by that chamber in June, including cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (-$350 million), Conservation Stewardship Program (-$35 million), Grassland Reserve Program (cut 160,000 acres),  Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (-$50 million), Wetland Reserve Program (cut 64,000 acres), and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (-$35 million).

Bipartisan support appears to be building in the Senate to move its twelve spending bills in several “minibus” packages, which may be more procedurally manageable than combining all twelve bills into a single “omnibus” measure.  The Senate minibus approach should also be more palatable to House Republican conservatives, who seem set against the omnibus approach.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) now plans to push three minibus spending bills through the Senate (the Agriculture, Transportation-HUD and Commerce-Justice-Science bills) over the next month, packaging them in the first of three minibus bills, and giving the Senate some measure of leverage in appropriations' negotiations with the House (those three bills were chosen by Reid because they were approved in the Appropriations Committee with fairly broad bipartisan support).   Reid has indicated that he won’t allow the Senate to recess in November until the first minibus bill is passed (the Senate recess is scheduled to start November 21).   The other two minibus Senate spending bills will likely each combine a contentious bill with a popular one: (1) the Labor-HHS-Education bill with Homeland Security and (2) the State-Foreign Operations bill with Defense.

No comments:

Post a Comment