Congress is getting serious about 2016 budget

Negotiations between the House and Senate will begin this week on competing proposals for the 2016 federal budget. Although differences between the two outlines for next year’s spending plan are well within each chamber’s bounds, and both are controlled by the same party, conservatives on the Hill still must be willing to yield to liberal Democrats in order for any proposal to survive a presidential veto. Such a successful budget proposal will likely have to include some small increases in domestic program spending in order to get President Obama to agree to forgo ‘sequestration’ laws and increase Pentagon funding by $38 million, as hawkish House members are calling for.

On the other hand, both the House and Senate want to “fast track” a non-binding resolution which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Department of Transportation funding. Additional cuts to Postal Service funding (ending Saturday delivery), the food stamp program, and student loan subsidies are still on the table in the House, but the Senate is less willing to concede to these proposals and is focused on drafting budget legislation which would stipulate major reforms to ACA.

Of course, non-binding legislation is merely the framework for what will later become an official budget proposal, and any plan which calls for the repeal of ACA will be considered dead on arrival at the president’s desk. Even a budget which increases Pentagon spending, something that Obama has publicly called for, will be vetoed if it doesn’t also include increased funding for some domestic programs.

Most savvy members on Capitol Hill agree that a compromise between Democrats and Republicans must be reached in order for budget legislation to signed into law by the October 1st deadline. Some, such as House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers, are hinting that this year’s budget compromise will look a lot like it did in 2013, when the Democratic Senate negotiated a successful budget deal with the Republican House. Although Mr. Rodgers said that they will try to propose a budget which conforms with the Budget Control Act of 2011’s sequestration requirements, as they get closer to the fiscal year deadline, “pressure is going to build…to (make a deal with Democrats)”. The Bipartisan Budget Act (AKA the Ryan-Murray budget) that year was dubbed a “grand bargain”, as it effectively thwarted the ‘sequestration’ set in 2011 by raising spending caps on both domestic and defense programs, in exchange for extending the limits on spending into the early 2020’s.


[AP] [Politico]