Congressional Budget Conference Committee Reaches a Deal

CapitolLate yesterday evening, the budget conference committee came to an agreement on the federal budget for the next two years. Co-chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the committee successfully crafted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which amends by way of substitution the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2014 (H.J.Res. 59) the stalled continuing resolution (CR) or short-term spending measure which failed in Congress earlier this fall. As we shared last week, the proposed deal would raise the allowable 2014 spending level to $1.012 trillion— a figure that falls directly between the $967 billion level supported by many Republicans and the $1.058 trillion level supported by many Democrats.

The agreement, which still needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress, replaces $63 billion of sequester cuts over the next two years. The deal provides $45 billion in sequester relief for FY14, split evenly between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. This means that NDD programs will receive $22.5 billion this year above the existing sequester caps mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) accounting for an 87 percent restoration of total spending on domestic discretionary programs including education. In FY15, $9 billion will be allocated to NDD programs in much the same way, although aggregate spending caps for discretionary spending will not rise to the same degree as the previous year.

If passed, it is important to note that this budget deal only sets a top-line spending level known as a 302(a) allocation and would still require additional bicameral negotiations for the 12 necessary individual spending bills— or 302(b) allocations— to fully fund the federal government.  This gives House and Senate Appropriations Committees a little over a month to figure out how to divide up appropriations according to this new total.

While this agreement would provide significant relief from sequestration for FY14, it still does not address these mandated cuts to the same degree for FY15 and beyond. Nonetheless the deal, while far from perfect, is a good initial step from Congress to begin addressing the harmful effects sequestration has had on the CTE community and other NDD programs as a whole. A summary of the proposal can be found here and the full text of the agreement can be found here. Please check our blog for updates as this process continues.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate 

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