June 21, 2013
On Thursday, June 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 12 subcommittee appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 by a party line vote of 15-14. The allocations are known as a 302(b). The Senate total number is $1.058 trillion for discretionary spending based on the Senate budget that passed in March of this year and is the amount that was divided among the 12 appropriation subcommittees. In contrast, the House total 302(b) allocation is $967 billion for discretionary spending, $91 billion below the Senate total amount. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, submitted an amendment for the Senate to base its total discretionary spending on the House's $967 billion level; the amendment was defeated 14-15.
The Senate's 302(b) total of $1.058 trillion assumes that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect on March 1, will be replaced or repealed. The House 302(b) total amount assumes sequestration remains in place. However, the House total ignores the Budget Control Act (BCA) provision that each year's total sequester be split 50/50 between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending and assumes all the cuts on the NDD side, leaving defense funding intact. Both the House and Senate allocations are contrary to current BCA rules.
The Labor, Health, Education and Related Agencies bill (Labor-H), where most of the domestic HIV discretionary funding resides, was allocated $164.3 billion, which is close to $43 billion more than was allocated in the House 302(b) of $121.8 billion. The Senate allocation is $1.253 billion more than was appropriated in FY 2013 prior to the cuts that were taken due to sequestration. The House Labor-H 302(b) is $34.7 billion below FY 2013 allocation prior to sequestration. The Senate is expected to debate the Labor-H appropriations bill in subcommittee and full committee in July. The House will have more difficulty debating its bill at the committee level since the spending cuts are so deep. Neither body has a clear path to floor consideration since any Senator or Representative could raise a Point of Order, citing a violation of the terms of the BCA.
According to Congressional Quarterly, Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, (D-MD) said the increased spending would promote "a thriving economy, provide for our national security, educate our children, train a competitive workforce, make important investments in physical infrastructure, medical breakthroughs, energy independence and really keep America moving." But Richard C. Shelby (R-AL)., the ranking member of the panel, countered, "I recognize that we have tough choices to make but our decisions I think must be guided by the law as it currently stands" which includes sequestration.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted 20-9 to urge the Senate to immediately request a Budget Conference with the House, appoint Senate conferees, and convene the conference committee to complete the work on the budget resolution. Many Republican House Members do not want a Budget Conference Committee to meet because they know that any resolution of the differences between the House and Senate budgets likely would mean a discussion of eliminating sequestration by reaching a grand bargain on deficit reduction. Such a bargain can only be reached with a balanced approach toward deficit reduction that includes increased revenue.