On October 17, President Barack Obama signed a FY 2014 Continuing Resolution / Debt Ceiling stopgap agreement (H.R. 2775 / P.L. 113-46) that funds the federal government at current sequester levels through January 15, 2014 and suspends the nation’s debt limit through February 7, 2014 (although this may be extended for a short period of time through accounting techniques known as “extraordinary measures” implemented by the Treasury Department to extend previous debt ceiling deadlines). As part of the agreement, the House and Senate also appointed a Congressional Budget Conference Committee to reconcile the FY 2014 budget resolutions enacted by each chamber earlier this year (H. Con. Res. 25 / S. Con. Res. 8), with a (non-binding) report deadline of December 13.

Budget Conference Committee To Hold First Meeting

The newly-formed Congressional Budget Conference Committee will hold its first – and possibly only – public meeting this Wednesday, October 30. Expectations for the committee fall well below those of the 2011 Super Committee, which was tasked with developing a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction package. Congressional leaders and committee members are downplaying any idea of a “grand bargain” arising within the next seven weeks.

With the committee viewed as the best chance for a restructuring of sequestration, it appears that will be the primary focus, at least in the initial stage of negotiations. The parties may currently stand only $19 billion apart in their topline FY 2014 discretionary spending caps. Although House Republicans are sticking to the 2014 sequestration funding level of $967 billion included in their FY 2014 budget resolution, Democrats have indicated a willingness to move away from the $1.058 trillion requested in the Senate FY 2014 budget resolution and agree to continued FY 2013 funding levels of $986 billion. The elimination of sequestration seems unlikely, given the lines drawn in the sand by both parties regarding entitlement reform and revenue. Instead, limited relief through re-allocation of discretionary spending cuts and/or agency flexibility is possible.

Debt Limit Disapproval Vote Expected in the House

The House may hold a symbolic vote this week on a disapproval resolution regarding the debt limit extension included in the recent stopgap measure. Based on provision included in the 2011 debt limit increase (P.L. 112-25), the stopgap also included language that allowed the House and Senate to vote to disapprove the debt limit increase within 14 days. The House voted twice to show its disfavor with the 2011 increase.

Other News

Upoming Cardinal Changes in the House Appropriations Committee

The passing of Rep. Bill Young (R-FL) just 10 days after his retirement announcement will create a chairmanship shuffle in the appropriations subcommittees. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who currently serves as the chair of the Energy and Water (E&W) subcommittee, is slated to replace Rep. Young, who was the long-standing chair of the Defense subcommittee. Interior subcommittee chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) is next in line to replace Rep. Frelinghuysen as the leader of the E&W subcommittee.   Rep. Simpson currently chairs the Interior subcommittee, and unless he secures a waiver to bypass his term limit and chair both the E&W and Interior subcommittees, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) will succeed him as chair of the Interior panel.