June 7, 2013
This week the full House of Representatives passed the first two appropriations bills -- HR 2216 Military Construction -- VA by a vote of 421 - 4 and HR 2217 Homeland Security Appropriations Act by a vote of 245 - 182. In approval of the rule to debate the Military Construction -- VA appropriation bill the House "deemed" (accepted) the House budget amount of $967 billion as the total amount they would spend on appropriations for this year. The budget had to be deemed since the House and Senate have not held a conference committee meeting to reconcile their two different budget amounts. The Senate is expected to deem $1.058 billion as their funding amount later this month when they announce their Appropriations subcommittee amounts and begin their markup process.
The passage of these two appropriations bills is important to the HIV community because they set in place the subcommittee allocations, known as 302(b) allocations, for the rest of the Appropriations Committees. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) subcommittee allocation for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) is estimated to be 18.6% below FY13 after sequestration. AIDS United staff does not believe the Labor-H bill at this low allocation will be debated in House subcommittee, full Appropriations committee, or on the House floor. The amount of cuts to the important programs that encompass the bill necessary to achieve an 18% reduction would not be something any Member would want to support. We believe we will have a repeat of years past when we are unable to see the details of the bill since the Chair would not be able to get it out of the full committee.
House leadership continues to say that all appropriations bills will be processed through regular order, meaning markups at the subcommittee and committee level and open floor debate. However, the above numbers do not bode well for such a process.
This year the Senate Appropriations committee has new leadership: Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who has publically stated she wants to proceed with regular order. Her top line amount does not include sequestration, but does include the caps set by the Budget and Control Act in 2011. We understand the Senate process of markup in subcommittee and full committee will start the week of June 17. Since the House and Senate have not yet reached a "grand bargain" on how to turn off sequestration, and given the $91 billion difference between the two budgets, it looks like Fiscal Year 2014 will again be based on a Continuing Resolution. There is also a real possibility of a government shutdown on October 1 since sequestration has not been turned off and the grand bargain has not given the Congress the funding it needs to allocate sensible government spending.