This week the House Appropriations Committee will start marking up the first fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill (the Military Construction–Veterans Affairs bill, to be exact). This will formally kick off what will be a rocky appropriations season.
Let’s start with that fact that there is no agreed upon budget resolution, which means no agreed upon overall budget numbers, which for you real budget geeks out there means no 302(b) allocations (the numbers that the each appropriations subcommittee gets that sets the funding level for their bill). Not to worry, Congress will likely find a way around the official requirements of all of this, most likely through “deeming” allocations.
Now add the fact that because there is no agreed upon budget the House and the Senate will work off of different overall funding levels for appropriations to the tune of about $91 billion. This is not chump change in a time of already austere funding levels, which are impacting programs that are already starting to really feel the impact of sequestration.
By all accounts, the House is basing its number on the $967 billion budget cap, which includes the sequester, while the Senate has said it is aiming to use a $1.058 trillion cap, and their budget reverses the sequester, as well as include revenue raisers. This will present a challenge for the relatively non-controversial “Mil-Con” bill, but expect the big fireworks to come when Congress gets to the big bills like Defense and Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (LHHS). That is if any of these bills get past subcommittee – Congress’ recent track record is not so good on that front.
As I said, hold on to your hat – stormy appropriations weather is in the forecast.