Recess ends, supercommittee organizes and congress carries on with appropriations

First an earthquake, then a hurricane, now the Supercommittee: summer is OVER.

Welcome back to the grind! Congress is back in town, and given the torrential rains in Washington, DC, since Labor Day, there is nothing to do but work. The Supercommittee, authorized in the Budget Control Act, held its first formal meeting today. The Supercommittee heard opening statements, approved rules for its deliberations, and adjourned in under an hour. Here is a copy of the Supercommittee’s calendar, from Congressional Quarterly:

  • Sept. 8: Organizational meeting of joint committee.
  • Sept. 13: First hearing of joint committee.
  • Oct. 14: Deadline for standing committees to forward their recommendations to joint committee.
  • Nov. 23: Deadline for joint committee to vote on legislative proposals, with a 10-year deficit reduction goal of $1.5 trillion.
  • Dec. 2: Deadline for joint committee to formally report proposals.
  • Dec. 23: Deadline for House and Senate to vote on proposals, without amendment.
  • Jan. 15, 2012: Deadline for enactment of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, or across-the-board spending cuts will be triggered.
  • Jan. 15, 2013: If triggered, across-the-board cuts will take effect (True, the ax falls after the 2012 elections, not before: Congress has a year to figure out where to cut if the Supercommittee fails).

Even with the knowledge that $1.2 trillion in cuts are coming, one way or another, members of Congress are still moving through the regular process of approving appropriations bills. Lawmakers have fewer than a dozen working days before Fiscal Year 2012 begins (October 1). Appropriations bills should theoretically be passed by October 1, but for many years it’s been more common for Congress to approve a Continuing Resolution (CR), rolling together any unpassed appropriations bills so they can be approved in one conference committee with one vote.

None of the 12 spending bills for the coming fiscal year has been enacted into law, although versions of H.R. 2055, the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill have passed both chambers. That bill is likely to be the vehicle for the Fiscal Year 2012 CR.

Discussions about a CR have already begun, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced he expects the House to approve a CR the week of September 19 that will fund the government through the late fall. Still, House and Senate appropriators are working on legislation. Appropriations Committees in both chambers hope to at least report all twelve bills, in order to set the parameters for conference committee deliberation.