Federal Budget Process & Posturing

As previously reportedby SIECUS, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget on March 4, 2014. Providing funding requests for October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015, the document is largely a symbolic document, demonstrating the administration’s funding priorities to Congress.

In the tradition of regular order, typically the release of the President’s budget kicks off the annual budget process on Capitol Hill. The House and Senate Budget Committees would propose budgets that would proceed through their respective chambers for a floor vote. The House and Senate would then go to conference to emerge with one congressional budget by April 15 to guide the funding levels for appropriators for the fiscal year.

With the days of regular order long gone, the need for an additional budget for FY 2015 beyond the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which passed in December 2013, has been in dispute. The Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Patty Murray (D-WA), did not draft a budget resolution, rather opting to adhere to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013; the two-year budget agreement set funding levels for FY 2014 and FY 2015, restoring some, but not all, of the FY 2013 sequester cuts.[1]

The House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan (R-WI-1st), however, released the House Majority budget resolution,The Path to Prosperity, on April 1, 2014.[2] In addition to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Ryan budget proposed significant cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, such as those within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).[3]

Alternative budgets were also introduced in the House by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). In contrast to the Ryan budget, the CPC’s budget, the Better Off Budget, proposed investments in non-defense discretionary funding.[4] The CBC’s budget proposed similarly strong investment in non-defense discretionary funding, but also explicitly provided funding for sexual health education as part of their $10 billion health funding request. While the CBC budget garnered more votes than either the CPC budget or the President’s budget, none of the three passed the House.[5] The Ryan budget passed solely with Republican support by a vote of 219-205, but is considered dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.[6]        

The House and Senate are now advancing their own funding caps for the twelve appropriations bills as the federal funding process continues. The Senate FY 2015 funding levels for HHS programs are anticipated to be higher than those proposed by the House. While the Senate is expected to release their HHS funding levels—as part of the Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriation bill–in June 2014, timing on the House side is unknown.

[1] “Murray and Ryan Introduce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement,” House of Representatives: Committee on the Budget, December 10, 2013, accessed April 21, 2014 http://budget.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=364030.

[2] The Path to Prosperity Offers a Brighter Future, House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, April 1, 2014, accessed May 5, 2014, http://budget.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=374739.

[3] The Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Resolution, House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, April 1, 2014, accessed May 5, 2014, http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fy15_blueprint.pdf.

[4] Smith, Joshua, “The ‘Better Off Budget’: Analysis of the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget for fiscal year 2015,” Economic Policy Institute, March 13, 2014, accessed April 21, 2014 http://www.epi.org/publication/budget-analysis-congressional-progressive/.

[5] Marcos, Cristina, “House kills Obama budget 2-413,” The Hill, April 9, 2010, accessed April 21, 2014 http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/votes/203134-house-kills-obama-budget-0-xxx.

[6] French, Lauren, House passes Ryan budget, April 10, 2014, accessed May 5, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/house-passes-ryan-budget-105576.html.

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