This week the House and Senate Budget Committees continued to narrow their differences on the Budget Resolution.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the overall 302(a) allocation, House appropriators adopted a set of 302(b) spending allocations for the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees. They are said to provide small funding increases for science programs, veterans’ health care, and the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments, while trimming funding for the IRS, EPA and the Department of Education.
Criticisms of the allocation plan voiced during the markup, however, highlighted the reductions in funding for NIH research and efforts to combat climate change. Overall, the new allocations are within this year’s sequestration spending cap of $1.017 trillion.
This week’s action on the budget resolution, the allocations, and the initial action on the appropriation bill for energy and water has again brought into focus the larger issues looming in the background—that the sequestration caps will dramatically affect both defense and non-defense programs, but there will still be little progress on entitlement reform and taxes. Thus, a growing number of members have called for another higher level bipartisan agreement such as the Ryan-Murray budget blueprint of two years ago.
The House is planning to bring a conferenced budget resolution to the floor next week. Despite conservatives’ misgivings that the recently passed sustainable growth rate formula (SGR) legislation was only partially offset, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) indicated that the issue likely would not be included in reconciliation language that is expected to focus largely on the repeal or modification of the 2010 health care law.
Beyond the “doc fix” offset, Enzi said he was still trying to resolve with House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) a number of other issues. Enzi has said he is optimistic a deal would be completed in coming days.
This week, the GOP version of the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806) advanced through full committee markup in the House. America Competes reauthorizes federal research programs at the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and other agencies.
The Committee on Science received over 30 letters from science organizations expressing concern about funding levels and various policy provisions. During consideration of the bill, a Democratic alternative intended to fix many of the problems articulated by outside letters, H.R. 1898, was offered, but it was then rejected on party line vote.
Chairman John Thune (R-SD) of the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has stated his intent to work with the House in passing a bill this year.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 25-13 to approve a Trade Promotion Authority bill (H.R. 1890) after adding two provisions from a Senate Finance bill (S. 995).
Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) added a provision on human rights as well as a provision to discourage Europe from taking what it called politically motivated anti-trade actions against Israel to bring the two chambers’ bills closer into line.
Ryan also engineered a voice vote to move a bill (H.R. 1892) on the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program out of committee without a recommendation after Democrats threatened to vote against the legislation. The program aids workers and businesses hurt by trade, but Democrats opposed the bill’s proposal to fund that aid with a sequester cut to Medicare. The legislation, if enacted, would renew the program until June 30, 2021, authorize funding at $450 million and make service industry workers eligible for the program.
The Senate Finance Committee approved its trade adjustment and trade promotion bills on Wednesday. Finance Democrats also raised concerns about a $700 million sequester cut to Medicare in 2024, but Sens. Ron Wyden (R-OR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are exploring alternatives.
Leader McConnell (R-KY) said Thursday he hoped the Senate could pass its package before Memorial Day.
Next week in Congress, the Senate will continue with consideration of legislation that is likely to be the vehicle for a compromise measure to force congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 17-9 on Thursday to keep the markup of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a closed session. The panel will likely roll out its version of NDAA within the next three weeks.
In the House, the full House Armed Services Committee will mark up its FY16 defense policy bill, starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The legislative session is likely to go well into the evening, as lawmakers push through dozens of amendments.
At least one of the FY16 spending bills that passed the House Appropriations Committee this week – Energy and Water and Military Construction-VA – can be expected on the House floor. There will likely be numerous proposals and at least one late-night vote series.
The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will address a joint meeting of Congress midday Wednesday. The speech comes at a key moment, as the U.S. and Japan revise their defense cooperation agreement.