Obama threatens appropriations vetoes

Obama hopes enforcing caps will encourage comprehensive budget deal.

Last week the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) saying that the president’s advisors would recommend vetoes of the House Military Construction-VA (H.R. 2216) and Homeland Security (H.R. 2217) appropriations bills unless Congress changes the overall funding allocations for fiscal year 2014 because the House’s spending levels shortchange domestic spending needs. And while the SAP addressed the House’s first two bills, the White House notes that its veto threat will also be applied to “any other legislation that implements the House Republican budget framework.”

The logic here is that the president wants to repeal sequestration, not mess around with it. President Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to revise the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) to overturn sequestration and allow the cap on regular discretionary spending to rise from about $967 billion to $1.058 trillion.

The House appropriations bills are being written to the specs of the House-passed (Ryan) budget, which as you may recall favored defense spending at the expense of non-defense discretionary accounts. As the House Appropriations Committee is now proceeding, defense funding would exceed its BCA spending cap by as much as $45 billion (essentially, as if sequestration never hit defense at all). Non-defense discretionary accounts would fall below their BCA cap by the same amount and, as a result, most areas outside defense would face deep cuts.

Unless Congress rewrites the Budget Control Act, federal operating expenses in FY 2014 will be reduced by about $21 billion from $988 billion in FY 2013, a level that takes into account the sequester that already has triggered furloughs and reduced many services.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., will use $1.058 trillion as the cap in her chamber’s spending bills, as that was the cap in the Senate-passed budget. Senate versions of the bills will be marked up the week of June 17, beginning with the Military Construction-VA bill.

The president issued similar veto threats last year when the House considered FY 2013 spending bills with a cap below the level set under the 2011 deficit reduction agreement. The House passed seven of the FY 2013 bills on the floor, but the Senate took up none of the measures, so no stand-alone bills reached the White House desk.

Note: The APA website is undergoing some infrastructure improvements, so the Federal Budget Blog will be on hiatus until mid-July. We apologize for the interruption, but we’ll be back as soon as possible!