Legislative Activity

Appropriations Process All But Over, CR Likely

The appropriations process is almost certainly over and when Congress returns from the August recess there will be just ten legislative days before federal funding runs out, hardly enough time to negotiate a budget deal or an omnibus spending bill. As anticipated, Congress will likely pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) before funding runs out. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) admitted as much to reporters, but said no decisions have been made as to what it will look like.

This year, the House passed six appropriations bills, half of the total, before a controversial confederate flag amendment stalled the process. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed all twelve appropriations bills out of the Committee this year, for the first time since 2009. Despite that milestone, Senate Democrats have held to their strategy to block any appropriations bills from coming to the floor, effectively dooming the appropriations process from the start. It is unclear if the Senate Democrats’ strategy will ultimately culminate in a spot at the budget negotiations table, as they had hoped.

Budget Negotiations Possible, But Who and When is Unclear

President Obama and Congressional Democrats have been pushing Republicans to negotiate a budget deal for months, and it seems Congress may be headed in that direction, but it is unclear what a budget deal would look like, or who would lead the negotiations.

The Murray-Ryan 2013 budget deal, which relaxed the sequester’s spending limits for two years, could be a blueprint for a 2015 budget deal. However, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) are unlikely to lead current negotiations, as neither Chair their respective House and Senate Budget Committees as they did in 2013 and Rep. Ryan, as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is currently focused on the heavy lift of international tax reform.

While it is unclear how a budget deal will come together, it is likely that Democrats will fight for equal spending increases for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Republicans will push for fully offsetting any increase in spending, and probably resist Democratic efforts to include closing tax loopholes alongside reduced spending to pay for the increases. While the details are yet to be determined, the pressure to enter budget deal negotiations will certainly increase in the coming weeks and months.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, July 28: The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing titled “First Principles of Congressional Budgeting.”