House and Senate budget negotiators have yet to reach a final deal on FY14 spending levels, but reportedly have the outline for a two year budget agreement.
The potential framework would likely include some sequester relief, and would slightly raise spending for the remainder of FY14 in exchange for other deficit reduction measures. Under the potential deal being discussed, the $967 billion overall discretionary spending level for FY14 under the sequester would be raised to about $1 trillion evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending. Discussions have also included talk of extending the general framework to cover FY15 spending, as well as reduce the sequester in FY14 and FY15.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) will continue to work through the weekend with their staff in order to come up with a budget report by the set deadline on December 13.
If a deal is reached, the House Rules Committee could post the legislation on their web site Monday, pass a rule for the bill on Tuesday, and pave the way for a House vote on the plan on Wednesday. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said he is hopeful that a deal could come by next Tuesday, so that both parties will have time to study its components.
According to a recent report from the National Education Association (NEA), replacing discretionary spending cuts created by the sequester would restore $5.6 billion in federal funding for education programs in FY14.
The NEA based its calculations on the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed discretionary spending allocation of $1.058 trillion, which assumes total sequester replacement. House and Senate budget conferees are working on a deal that would place discretionary spending somewhere between the sequester level and the Senate-approved level.
The report states that if Congress replaces the sequester in its entirety, the biggest beneficiary in the area of education would be the Head Start preschool program for children from poor families, which is run through the Health and Human Services Department. The $2 billion refund would allow the restoration or new enrollment of 153,193 children in Head Start. The NEA also found that replacing the sequester would restore services and staff for 6.5 million students with special needs; add $140 million for federal work-study grants, returning some or all financial aid for up to 758,000 college students; and restore $1 billion in Title I grants to school districts to help students from low-income families.
Whatever the amount of sequestration relief Congress ultimately agrees to, most education programs would not see an immediate impact because they receive funding for the entire school year before it begins. Only Impact Aid payments, which are made to schools that lose property tax revenue because of the presence of military bases or land owned by Native American tribes within their districts, would see an immediate funding boost in the short-term because they are not forward-funded like other education programs.
The director of government affairs at the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, Jocelyn Bissonnette, said that if an appropriations measure at sequester-replaced levels is signed into law, it would take about two weeks for the money to get to Impact Aid schools. She also added that the Office of Management and Budget “has to kind of go through its process of getting the money transferred, and the Department of Education has to determine what the payment rate will be and the priority of school districts.”
Nearly $63 million would be returned to Impact Aid schools, according to the NEA report, which is attached to this e-mail.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee backed by voice vote a bill that would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prioritize its weather forecasting, including research on more accurate and timely forecasts of extreme weather. Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) introduced the bill (H.R. 2413) in June, after a severe outbreak of tornados struck Oklahoma in May. Bridenstine’s proposal would authorize nearly $400 million to create programs to develop better tornado and hurricane forecasting, as well as require NOAA to produce annual plans for using high-performance computing technology to support its weather prediction efforts.
Some committee members voiced concerns that the bill as introduced would have undercut climate and ocean research, so before approving the measure, the panel adopted by voice vote a substitute amendment authored by Reps. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the panel’s Environment Subcommittee leaders. The substitute amendment would establish an advisory panel to offer advice on prioritizing weather research initiatives at NOAA and to identify emerging technologies. It also would create a program for post-doctoral fellows and academic researchers at NOAA’s nine national centers for environmental prediction.
The panel also backed by voice vote a nearly $70 million reauthorization (H.R. 2431) of NOAA’s system for monitoring and forecasting droughts nationwide. Panel Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) said the measure could be reconciled with a Senate version (S. 376) and sent to President Barack Obama early next year. The panel rejected another amendment by Bonamici to increase the House authorization of $13.5 million over five years to match the Senate’s $14.5 million figure. The panel adopted by voice vote an Eric Swalwell (D-CA) amendment incorporating Senate language calling for research on the role of extreme weather and climate variability in drought.
The committee also approved by voice vote a bill (H.R. 2981) to establish a grant program to promote greater commercialization of technology developed at universities, research institutions and federal laboratories.
Next week in Congress, the Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of the FY14 defense authorization bill (S. 1197), and the nomination of Patricia Ann Millett to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
After that, members could revisit the nomination of Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and two other nominees to the D.C. Circuit, Cornelia “Nina” Pillard and Robert Wilkins.
In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that the chamber could hold a vote pertaining to Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR), and may consider legislation related to Medicare’s flawed physician payment formula next week, although it is unclear whether the chamber will weigh a permanent or short-term “doc fix.”
House and Senate negotiators will also attempt to reconcile each chamber’s versions of a farm bill next week, and are confident they can resolve key sticking points in the coming days and draft the final bill over the Christmas recess so it will be ready for floor action in January.
That scenario would likely require a short-term extension of the 2008 farm law (P.L. 110-246) to prevent a 1948 law from taking effect and triggering spikes in dairy subsidies and, eventually, higher retail milk prices. Agriculture groups used the threat of a “dairy cliff” last year to push Congress to extend the 2008 law. Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and her House counterpart, Frank Lucas (R-OK) reported “great progress” after meeting face to face on Wednesday but declined to say how they would resolve major differences in the bills. The House measure (H.R. 2642) would cut nutrition aid by about $39 billion over 10 years through major changes in eligibility standards, utility deductions, work requirements for unemployed adults, and state authority to extend food benefits. The Senate bill (S. 954) calls for about $4 billion in cuts over the same period.
Also coming up next week is the big deadline for a budget report from House and Senate conference negotiators.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) are nearing a limited deal that could replace $34 million of sequestration cuts with savings and revenue to bring the $967 billion overall discretionary spending level to $1.001 trillion. The draft legislation could go before Congress early next week.