On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted subcommittee allocations, informally known as 302(b)s, by a party-line vote of 16-14. The figures would lock in sequester-level spending caps for FY16, but the blueprint would allow for an additional $86.87 billion in war-related Overseas Contingency Operations funding for the Pentagon and $9.26 billion for the State Department.
The adopted allocations would boost funding for the bills to finance the departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs above current enacted levels, while trimming the allocations for the measures to fund the EPA and the departments of Labor and Education. For LHHS, the Senate allocation is $153.188 billion, marginally better than the House’s $153.05 billion allocation. The numbers, however, are unlikely to hold in the months ahead since Democrats and the White House have vowed to kill anything that moves once appropriations measures advance beyond the committee level.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved by voice vote the FY16 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill which funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and related agencies.
The legislation provides $51.4 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over FY15 and $661 million below the President’s request for these programs. For more details on the bill click here.
The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee approved their draft FY16 spending bill Wednesday, which seems to defer the most contentious issues to the full committee markup and the House floor.
The legislation was advanced by voice vote during a closed session and would allocate $578.6 billion in discretionary spending, which is $24.4 billion above the current level and $800 million more than the president requested. The legislation also would bar the transfer of funds to the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, contradicting the House Armed Services Committee, which endorsed the account to fund the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine in its FY16 defense authorization bill (H.R. 1735).
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved, 26-4, a $35.4 billion FY16 Energy-Water spending bill that would direct $1.2 billion more than current levels to programs at the Energy Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation, and other agencies, even as it proposes cuts to wind power research.
The total spending matches that of the House-passed bill. Both versions would fund programs at a level $668 million less than proposed by the White House in its annual budget request. For more details on the measure, click here.
The full House on Tuesday voted 357-67 to advance the FY16 Legislative Branch spending bill (H.R. 2250) that funds the House of Representatives and Capitol agencies. The bill would provide $3.3 billion for the Legislative Branch, not including Senate operations, which is the same as current levels.
In funding House operations at $1.2 billion, the measure continues a downward trend in Legislative Branch spending that began in fiscal 2010. It would provide no added funding to member offices’ budgets, which have been cut by 14 percent since FY10, and would maintain a member’s pay freeze instilled that same year. No pay raise for House members is included in the legislation.
Military Construction/Veterans Affairs
Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY16 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) spending bill, which provides resources for veterans’ benefits and programs and makes funding available to equip and house military personnel.
The bill totals $77.6 billion in discretionary funding, $5.5 billion above the FY15 level and $1.2 billion below the President’s budget request. Military construction is funded at more than $8.0 billion and contains $163.8 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For more details on the measure, click here.
Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee completed work on S.1376, the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA. The bill will likely be taken up by the full Senate in June.
On Thursday, the Senate voted 62 – 38 to invoke cloture on the trade package (H.R. 1314). As of press time, the Senate has not taken a final vote on the package, but is expected to begin voting on amendments and final passage at around 5pm ET today.
The package contains an extension of the Medicare sequester provider cut into the second half of 2024. Rep. Tiberi (R-OH), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Trade Subcommittee told reporters, “I don’t like the pay-for, to be honest with you, but it’s the one that was agreed to by both parties that negotiated TAA and it was bipartisan, it was bicameral.” Tiberi added, “That Medicare pay-for is not for several years, so we could ultimately pass these bills and have the president sign them and still replace that pay-for before it goes into effect.”
The House on Tuesday voted 387-35 to float the Highway Trust Fund an additional two months in an attempt to prevent an interruption in the nation’s infrastructure funding at month’s end.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said that, although they preferred a long-term extension, but reluctantly supported the short term patch in order to prevent the possibility of more than 4,000 Department of Transportation employees being furloughed if Congress failed to Act by May 31.
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, White House officials said President Obama is willing to sign the temporary transportation funding extension if it is passes the Senate, even though he would also prefer a longer-term solution.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said he hoped to tie a long-term Highway Trust Fund renewal to tax reform. Negotiators will work to find funding sources to sustain an extension lasting beyond more than just a few months at a time.
The House on Tuesday passed Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 1561) on a motion to suspend the rules by voice vote. The measure would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to launch a research program focused on improving forecasting, including earlier severe weather warnings. For more details on the bill, see here.
The House and Senate will be in recess next week for the Memorial Day holiday. The next Weekly Legislative Update will cover the week of June 1 – 6 when Congress returns to session. As always, we will keep you apprised of relevant events.