On Tuesday June 10 Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his primary to Tea Party candidate, David Brat in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Since the House Majority Leader and Minority Leader were created in 1899 during the 56th Congress, no Majority Leader has lost a primary election.
House leadership positions are voted in by rank-and-file party members in the House and they facilitate party coordination in scheduling and passing legislation. Additionally, they act as representatives of party message during floor proceedings and oversee committee Chairmen/women in the House.
Following his primary loss, Representative Cantor decided to step down as Majority Leader effective July 31, 2014. Thus far Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Majority Whip of the House and close friend and ally of both Representative Cantor and the office of Majority Leader is seen as the likely next Majority Leader. This shuffle creates the potential for an opening for the position of Majority Whip. A recent National Journal article indicates that Representatives Roskam (IL), Scalise (LA), and Stutzman (IN) will be seeking the Whip’s position. These internal races will be taking place with the backdrop of the midterm elections in all 535 House Members’ districts taking place in November.
Additionally, these internal elections create the possibility for delayed floor action on important legislation including appropriations which could result in passage of a short-term CR or a large omnibus appropriations package.
Definition: Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees receive an overall funding allocation for the coming federal fiscal year. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees then, respectively, decide on how to apportion the overall amount to each of their corresponding 12 subcommittees. The amount assigned to each of the 12 subcommittees is known as a 302(b) allocation and taken together the 12 assigned amounts are known as 302(b) allocations. From this funding allocation starting point, the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees distribute federal spending authority throughout the specific departments, agencies, and programs under their jurisdiction.
Used in a sentence:“[Senator] Mikulski said that she and [Congressman] Rogers have discussed allotments, which appropriators call ‘302(b) allocations,’ for their section in the 1974 budget act. ‘I know what his are, but ours will be different,’ she said.”
History: The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 is a law that modifies Congress’ role with respect to the federal budgeting process. (Government Printing Office Public Law 93-344) The main provisions of the law created a process whereby both chambers of Congress agree on a single concurrent budget resolution. which is not signed by the President. Additionally, during budget debates members may raise budget points of order to have specific language removed from underlying legislation. (Senate Budget Committee) The final agreed upon Concurrent resolution passed in both chambers sets an overall top level spending figure (302(a) allocation) to guide appropriators as they craft the 12 individual appropriations bills. The chairs of the Appropriations Committees of the House and Senate then each release a document setting their respective top line numbers for each of the 12 appropriations bills, known as 302(b) allocations, named after section 302(b) of the Congressional Budget Control Act. The 302(b) allocations outline the maximum spending levels for each of the 12 individual spending measures. It is not uncommon for the House and Senate to apportion funding differently and for the 302(b) allocations between the chambers to diverge. These differences usually get resolved during either a formal or informal conference committee between House and Senate Appropriators.
The House and Senate are back from recess and the appropriations season is moving forward in full swing. The House passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill and the Legislative Branch bill with overwhelming majorities.
On Wednesday, the House passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill (H.R. 4486) which provides funds for the troops, their families, and veterans’ programs. The bill passed with a vote of 416-1 (Representative Labrador (R-ID-1st) voted against the bill). The total cost of the bill is significantly less ($1.8 billion) than FY 2014.
The Legislative Branch bill (H.R. 4487) includes funding for House Member offices, security, and Capitol operations and maintenance. The bill passed the House with a vote of 402-14. The bill is the same funding level as it was in FY 2014.
The House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee released their bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Census Bureau, and other programs. The bill is $398 million below the FY 2014 enacted level. The bill passed out of the Subcommittee and now moves to the full committee.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is also working through their process and held their first full Committee hearing of the year on innovation. As previously noted, the Chairwoman wanted to use the opportunity to make the case for federal investment in research.
It is expected that the Senate subcommittees will soon turn to markups of individual bills. Note that Mikulski stated in this hearing that she intends to “finish our bills by October 1 and show that the Appropriations Committee gets its work done on behalf of the American people.”
One hearing to watch when the Senate returns next week is the Full Appropriations Committee hearing on “Driving Innovation Through Federal Investments,” which will be held on April 29th, 2014 at 2:30 pm in Room SD-G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
“Chairwoman Mikulski is trying to drive home the point that the federal government generates a ton of innovation each year by funding smart people with big goals. Those innovations create jobs, patents, technologies, medicines, treatments — you name it,” Appropriations panel spokesman Vincent Morris said in a statement. Morris said the hearing won’t take the place of the regular yearly oversight hearings on the president’s budget, but instead “will open a new door. And to really reach out far and wide for opinions and insight, we decided to use Twitter to engage with organizations, universities and individuals.”
After demonstrating hope, resolve, and bipartisanship with the passage of a 12 bill omnibus for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers have set a positive tone for the FY 2015 process. As the budget deal decided upon in December set an allocation level for FY 2015 ($1.014 trillion), there is momentum for action.
Deadlines for programmatic and report language requests have come and gone for the most part and the parade of interest groups making the rounds for staff meetings are filling security lines. While it remains too soon to tell how it will all play out, bipartisan hope that bills will move forward is appreciated by most of those who frequent the halls of Congress to lobby.
The House Full Appropriations Committee took a significant step forward in the Fiscal Year 2015 process by passing both the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Legislative Branch bills on Wednesday, April 9th.
What We Are Hearing:
The House is expected to keep moving through Subcommittee and full Committee markups and Senate should get started soon. The House and Senate both head out for two weeks of recess over Easter/Passover and then will be back for a month before the Memorial Day break.
It is rumored that there is a lot of support for Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (retiring) to be able to take the Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) bill to the floor for a vote. Given that this bill is notoriously controversial, it remains to be seen if that will actually happen.
Definition: Outlays refers to the actual disbursement of funds by the U.S. Treasury to meet obligations incurred by the federal government. They are typically referred to as spending or expenditures.
Used in a sentence: “The U.S. government posted the widest monthly budget surplus in more than five years in June, as spending plunged 47 percent and a stronger economy lifted tax receipts, the Treasury Department said.
Receipts exceeded outlays by $116.5 billion last month, the biggest surplus since April 2008, compared with a $59.7 billion deficit in June 2012, the Treasury said today in Washington. The result exceeded the $115 billion median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 21 economists.” -Bloomberg
History: Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution states:
“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”
In a textbook budget process, the President proposes a budget to Congress on a yearly basis in the beginning February. Subsequently, both the House and Senate propose and pass their own budgets and reconcile them to set “top-line” numbers for the relevant accounts within the federal government. These “budgets resolutions,” are not signed by the President, and do not carry the force of law. From these numbers, the House and Senate appropriations committees divide the allocations among the 12 subcommittees, thus determining the actual funding levels for each agency and program. These bills are signed by the President and carry the force of law. From this process the federal government is authorized to produce expenditures or outlaysto pay for the programs necessary to continue government operations.
Several subcommittees of the House of Representatives have posted their deadlines for receiving Members’ programmatic and language submissions for consideration in the FY 2015 Appropriations bill. Submissions are to be delivered electronically at http://appropriationssubmissions.house.gov beginning on February 26, 2014. Most subcommittees have posted deadlines in late March – early April. If a subcommittee has not yet indicated a deadline, Dear Colleague letters with Member Submission instructions will be posted as soon as they have been circulated. To view the entire list, please click here.
Election year politics already have arrived at the Capitol. Members of the House and Senate in both parties have their eyes on November 4th and are putting forward agendas and proposals to position themselves favorably in the eyes of the electorate. Look and listen for a lot of rhetoric—and possibly some action—on jobs and the economy. With a significant number of Democratic Senate retirements and numerous competitive races, conventional wisdom is that control of the Senate is in play and that Republicans have a solid chance of taking the chamber in the November election. Pundits agree that the House remains solidly in Republican control and the Democrats will remain in the minority for the next two years.
With the budget deal struck by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) late last fall, much of the Congressional work on the budget and federal appropriations already has been predetermined for the year. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced the nation will hit its debt ceiling on February 27th; so before the deadline, the Congress is expected to enact a measure to increase the nation’s borrowing authority without the previous political jockeying and drama.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to China late last week—causing a Senatorial game of musical chairs with respect to the chairmanship of numerous committees. The Senate Finance Committee, which has tax policy writing authority, will soon be led by Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has expressed an interest in rewriting the tax code. Changes he wishes to make include increasing the standard deduction, using the tax code to incentivize businesses to invest overseas earnings in domestic infrastructure, and bringing closer in line the taxation of investment income and ordinary income.
The latest in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act: on Monday, February 10th the White House announced it again was modifying the requirement for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees—they now have until 2016 to provide health insurance to full-time workers (those working at least 30 hours a week) or pay a penalty. This requirement already had been delayed a year; such businesses have one more year without being subject to the mandate. Beginning this year, businesses with more than 100 full-time workers are required to offer coverage to at least 70 percent of their full-time workers or face a penalty; starting next year they must offer health care to 95 percent of their full-time workforce.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives are seeking to change the Affordable Care Act definition of full-time workers from 30 hours a week to 40; earlier this week, the proposal gained some momentum with three Democrats signing on as cosponsors of the measure. However, with the Democrats still in control of the Senate, at least through this calendar year, it is highly unlikely such a measure would be brought up for a vote in that chamber. Should the Republicans sweep in November, it is likely that starting in 2015, the President will be sent numerous measures related to repealing or replacing provisions of the Affordable Care Act; if such legislation is attached to other proposals, President Obama will be put in a difficult position of deciding whether or not to enact or veto them. Only time and the election will tell what the future holds with respect to the long term viability of health care reform.
Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement yesterday, December 10, 2013, on top line numbers for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and FY 2015 spending and partial replacement of the sequester cuts.
It is being reported that the “bipartisan package includes $63 billion of ‘sequester relief,’ $85 billion of total savings, and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. The agreement would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.” Click here to view the Politico article.
A summary, section by section, and legislative text of the budget deal can be found here.
The House is expected to consider the proposal as early as tomorrow, Thursday December 12th. While there are rumblings in the press that some conservatives and some Democrats are not happy with the deal it is too soon to know if that is the sign of a true compromise or trouble brewing in the wings.
Last night the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, legislation to both fund the government and raise the federal debt limit – the shutdown has ended.
The deal contained a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through January 15, 2014 and a debt limit extension to February 7, 2014. The bill also contained language requiring verification of income for those eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies.
Another provision in the CR/debt ceiling legislation is a bicameral, bipartisan budget conference. This conference is to meet to discuss discretionary spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and develop a report, due December 13, 2013. The conference committee is chaired by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI). House conferees include Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), Tom Cole (R-OK), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Tom Price (R-GA), and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). All Senate Budget Committee members were named as conferees.
The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 81-18 and the House then followed with a vote of 285-144. The bill passed the House with 87 Republicans and 198 Democrats.
Following the vote, the Senate adjourned until Monday, October 28th. The House is scheduled to be in session today, but no schedule has been announced.
While the deal is good news – federal employees can go back to work and will get paid, federal programs can continue, and national parks and monuments are reopened – with the short-term CR, we could be facing this all again in 90 days.