The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved by voice vote a $165 billion draft FY15 Military Construction-VA spending measure. The panel also approved by voice vote a $71.5 billion discretionary allocation, commonly known as a 302(b) allocation, for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The discretionary total is $1.8 billion less than the FY14 enacted amount.
The House Appropriations Committee also advanced a $3.3 billion FY15 spending bill for the legislative branch by voice vote, which includes the House of Representatives and the various agencies that serve the Capitol at the current enacted spending levels.
The draft bill does not include funding for Senate operations and would provide $122.5 million less than what was requested by the White House. The bill would fund House operations, including member offices and committees, at roughly $1.2 billion. Despite concerns raised last month by Democrats in the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee over the lack of post-sequester relief for House office salaries, the bill would not increase members’ representational allowances past FY14 levels.
The House Appropriations Committee plans to mark up the Commerce-Justice-Science measure after the two-week recess.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) is continuing his aggressive schedule on spending bills, hoping to complete consideration of all 12 annual appropriations bills before the end of June and passing all spending measures before the August recess.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will move to take up its first bill, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, in late May.
The House on Thursday voted 219-205 in support of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) spending proposal (H Con Res 96) calling for a balanced budget by fiscal 2024. Twelve Republicans voted with Democrats against the budget plan.
The blueprint proposes to achieve a $5 billion surplus over the next 10 years by reducing spending by $5.1 trillion. The reduction in spending is achieved by repealing the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) and reducing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs.
Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) has no plans to write a budget, and is sure to ignore the House version.
Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced Thursday that they have agreed on an outline for a six-year bipartisan highway bill. Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and ranking Republican David Vitter (R-LA) said they expect to mark up the surface transportation bill that would authorize highway, bridge and transit programs at current funding levels after the upcoming two-week recess.
The senators said their plan does not include a funding mechanism, which Boxer and Vitter said would be left up to the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees. For a six-year bill, the tax writers would need to find about $16 billion per year, or $96 total, to address the shortage in the Highway Trust Fund, which is currently funded by declining motor fuels tax receipts. The Transportation Department projects the fund will be depleted by this summer.
Some of the ideas that have been floated to address the revenue gap are funds from a corporate tax overhaul, which House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) proposed in a broader tax code rewrite and was also endorsed by Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray as well as the White House. Boxer had previously proposed replacing the federal gas tax with a wholesale oil tax, which didn’t pick up much support.
Additionally, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced legislation that would increase the gas tax to 33.4 cents per gallon, nearly double the current rate of 18.4 cents, over the next few years, but the GOP strongly opposes this proposal.
The House and Senate have adjourned for two weeks for their spring recess. The next Weekly Legislative Update will cover the week of April 28-May 2.