Republican Appropriators sound off.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have begun holding hearings as a prelude to drafting the fiscal year 2014 funding bills. The Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., was quoted in early May saying that that his party’s lawmakers will face tough choices given that they are now planning to produce bills with an overall cap of $91 billion less than this year under sequestration.
The recent budget-control laws would cap the federal government’s regular discretionary operating expenses at about $967 billion. The current level of $984 billion has led to furloughs of workers and other cutbacks throughout government programs. At NIH, for example, the agency expects to lose $1.6 billion or 5.5 percent this year under sequestration. NIH expects to fund more than 1,300 fewer grants this year, including 703 fewer new grants.
Chairman Rogers, who opposes the sequester, said that he expects the cuts in spending to be replaced in a broader fiscal deal sometime later this year. Rogers speculated that his committee may have to work on two sets of bills for Fiscal 2014, one group reflecting the $967 billion cap and the other set at a different spending level determined by a future agreement between Democratic and Republican leadership.
The Senate-adopted budget level was higher than that of the House because it assumed sequestration would be canceled. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikukski, D-Md., is trying to get Republican support to draft bills in her committee and chamber at the pre-sequester level of $1.058 trillion. Senate Republicans, who did not vote for the Senate-passed budget, are still pushing back.
Policy differences between the two parties remain as strong as ever. A conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate budgets remains unlikely. A failure to resolve differences in spending in the next few months could mean very different sets of spending bills emerging from the House and Senate, which would each still require negotiation later in the session. So if negotiation doesn’t take place over the budget levels, it will still be required for Congress to adopt spending legislation.