Congressional Budget Justification

What it means:  Each year the President prepares and submits to Congress a budget, outlining his spending and policy priorities for the coming federal fiscal year.  Accompanying his budget are narrative explanations from each federal agency which present to Congress, specifically the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the rationale behind the proposed increases or decreases in spending and/or any suggested changes in policy.  These “budget justifications” or “Congressional Justifications” – CJs – also include information about spending for the current federal fiscal year, the prior federal fiscal year, and the upcoming “request” year.  The CJs typically provide updates regarding agency programs, initiatives, projects, and activities and report on the status of requests that Congress has made of the agencies in the previous year’s appropriations measure.

Used in a sentence:  ( http://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/br.html)

“The NIH Congressional Justification (“CJ”) provides the Senate and House Appropriations Committees detailed estimates and justifications for research and research support activities (infrastructure, administrative, etc.) that NIH would anticipate funding at the President’s Budget Request level.”

Excerpted Example from HHS CJ from FY 2014 Administration on Children, and Families: (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/olab/fy_2014_cj_final_web_4_25_13.pdf)

“Head Start (+$1.65 billion) – The FY 2014 request for the Head Start program is $9.6 billion, an increase of $1.65 billion from the FY 2012 enacted level. These funds will allow Head Start programs to serve approximately 1,053,000 children by providing new opportunities for working parents to enroll their infants and toddlers in high quality early learning and development programs through the Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership proposal. The Budget supports implementation of new regulations that require low-performing grantees to compete for continued funding. Funding is requested to minimize the disruption of services to Head Start children and families during the transition period to new Head Start provider. The FY 2014 request focuses on improving program quality and ensuring that funds are directed towards the organizations most capable of providing high quality early education that can put children on a path to school success and opportunity.”

Member Submission Deadlines for FY 2015 Appropriations Posted

Several subcommittees of the House of Representatives have posted their deadlines for receiving Members’ programmatic and language submissions for consideration in the FY 2015 Appropriations bill. Submissions are to be delivered electronically at http://appropriationssubmissions.house.gov beginning on February 26, 2014. Most subcommittees have posted deadlines in late March – early April. If a subcommittee has not yet indicated a deadline, Dear Colleague letters with Member Submission instructions will be posted as soon as they have been circulated. To view the entire list, please click here.

An Update from Washington – Debt Ceiling, Taxes, and Health Care – Oh My!

Election year politics already have arrived at the Capitol.  Members of the House and Senate in both parties have their eyes on November 4th and are putting forward agendas and proposals to position themselves favorably in the eyes of the electorate.  Look and listen for a lot of rhetoric—and possibly some action—on jobs and the economy.  With a significant number of Democratic Senate retirements and numerous competitive races, conventional wisdom is that control of the Senate is in play and that Republicans have a solid chance of taking the chamber in the November election.  Pundits agree that the House remains solidly in Republican control and the Democrats will remain in the minority for the next two years.

With the budget deal struck by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) late last fall, much of the Congressional work on the budget and federal appropriations already has been predetermined for the year.  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced the nation will hit its debt ceiling on February 27th; so before the deadline, the Congress is expected to enact a measure to increase the nation’s borrowing authority without the previous political jockeying and drama.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to China late last week—causing a Senatorial game of musical chairs with respect to the chairmanship of numerous committees.  The Senate Finance Committee, which has tax policy writing authority, will soon be led by Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has expressed an interest in rewriting the tax code.  Changes he wishes to make include increasing the standard deduction, using the tax code to incentivize businesses to invest overseas earnings in domestic infrastructure, and bringing closer in line the taxation of investment income and ordinary income.

The latest in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:  on Monday, February 10th the White House announced it again was modifying the requirement for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees—they now have until 2016 to provide health insurance to full-time workers (those working at least 30 hours a week) or pay a penalty.  This requirement already had been delayed a year; such businesses have one more year without being subject to the mandate.  Beginning this year, businesses with more than 100 full-time workers are required to offer coverage to at least 70 percent of their full-time workers or face a penalty; starting next year they must offer health care to 95 percent of their full-time workforce.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives are seeking to change the Affordable Care Act definition of full-time workers from 30 hours a week to 40; earlier this week, the proposal gained some momentum with three Democrats signing on as cosponsors of the measure.  However, with the Democrats still in control of the Senate, at least through this calendar year, it is highly unlikely such a measure would be brought up for a vote in that chamber.  Should the Republicans sweep in November, it is likely that starting in 2015, the President will be sent numerous measures related to repealing or replacing provisions of the Affordable Care Act; if such legislation is attached to other proposals, President Obama will be put in a difficult position of deciding whether or not to enact or veto them.  Only time and the election will tell what the future holds with respect to the long term viability of health care reform.

Budget deal reached

Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement yesterday, December 10, 2013, on top line numbers for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and FY 2015 spending and partial replacement of the sequester cuts.

It is being reported that the “bipartisan package includes $63 billion of ‘sequester relief,’ $85 billion of total savings, and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. The agreement would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.”  Click here to view the Politico article.

A summary, section by section, and legislative text of the budget deal can be found here.

The House is expected to consider the proposal as early as tomorrow, Thursday December 12th.  While there are rumblings in the press that some conservatives and some Democrats are not happy with the deal it is too soon to know if that is the sign of a true compromise or trouble brewing in the wings.

Shutdown Day 16 Recap

Last night the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, legislation to both fund the government and raise the federal debt limit – the shutdown has ended.

The deal contained a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through January 15, 2014 and a debt limit extension to February 7, 2014. The bill also contained language requiring verification of income for those eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies.

Another provision in the CR/debt ceiling legislation is a bicameral, bipartisan budget conference. This conference is to meet to discuss discretionary spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and develop a report, due December 13, 2013. The conference committee is chaired by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI). House conferees include Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), Tom Cole (R-OK), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Tom Price (R-GA), and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). All Senate Budget Committee members were named as conferees.

The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 81-18 and the House then followed with a vote of 285-144. The bill passed the House with 87 Republicans and 198 Democrats.

Following the vote, the Senate adjourned until Monday, October 28th. The House is scheduled to be in session today, but no schedule has been announced.

While the deal is good news – federal employees can go back to work and will get paid, federal programs can continue, and national parks and monuments are reopened – with the short-term CR, we could be facing this all again in 90 days.

Shutdown Day 14 Recap

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met and subsequently announced that they were working toward a deal. The deal is reported to involve a continuing resolution through January 15, 2014, a debt ceiling hike through February 7, 2014 and a deadline of December 13, 2013 for holding a bicameral budget conference to discuss alternatives to sequestration. The deal does not include a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate (or completely defunding the ACA), but including income verification requirements for the ACA’s insurance subsidies is still on the table. The plan funds the government at $986 billion until January 15th, when a $21 billion cut pursuant to sequestration would go into effect.

A White House meeting with Congressional leadership scheduled for yesterday afternoon was postponed to allow Senate leadership more time to work out a deal.

The House passed one additional limited continuing resolution (CR) yesterday, to fund the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service. H.J.Res. 80 passed by a vote of 233-38.

Also yesterday the Department of Energy released guidance for furloughed workers regarding temporary employment. Under the guidance, retail and food service positions are okayed, but consulting is not.

Shutdown Days 11, 12, and 13 Recap

The last few days have been characterized by talks and negotiations rather than votes on specific proposals to end the government shutdown and/or raise the debt ceiling before the October 17th deadline. Over the weekend, the House was in session on Saturday and the Senate was in session on Sunday.

Senate Republicans met with President Obama at the White House on Friday. Like the meeting with House Republicans, the meeting was considered cordial and productive, but without a resolution. It was also reported that President Obama seemed willing to negotiate, including on the medical device tax.

It was reported Sunday that the Senate remains at an impasse over funding levels and the duration of a debt ceiling increase. Despite seeming to have made some progress with Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) proposal late last week, the proposal now appears to be off the table due to disagreement over some of the details in the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke on Sunday but did not reach an agreement.

A few votes were recorded – on Friday the House passed a funding bill for the National Nuclear Security Administration (H.J. Res 76, vote of 248-176). On Saturday the Senate voted 53-45 against cloture on S. 1569, the Default Prevention Act of 2013, which would raise the debt limit through 2014 without any spending cuts.

Additionally, on Saturday morning, a number of House Members lined up to sign a discharge petition that would bring a “clean” continuing resolution to the floor for a vote.

On Saturday, New York reopened the Statue of Liberty, which is operated by the National Park Service, despite the shutdown.

Shutdown Day 10 Recap

President Obama hosted a number of high-ranking House Republicans at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss the debt ceiling and an end to the shutdown. Reports were that the meeting was friendly but inconclusive.  Speaker Boehner floated a proposal to extend the debt ceiling until November 22, which was rejected by President Obama, but it was a change in discussions and congressional staff continue to work on possible proposals. A group of Senate Republicans also have been working on a shutdown-debt ceiling package based on a proposal from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

The Senate acted on the House’s military survivor benefits continuing resolution (CR) and the President signed the legislation. This is the only “mini CR” to pass both chambers thus far. Yesterday the House passed another limited CR, for funding for border security (H.J.Res 79, passed 249-175).

The Senate will be in session on Saturday and will be holding a procedural vote to proceed on a clean debt limit increase. The House announced it will be in session and voting on Monday – Columbus Day.

At 12:14 p.m. yesterday, the Senate’s iconic Ohio Clock stopped running. The workers who would normally wind the clock have been furloughed, adding the clock to the list of shutdown casualties.

Shutdown Day 9 Recap

On Wednesday the House passed two additional limited funding bills – the 11th and 12th such piecemeal funding bills. H.J.Res 90 provides continued funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill passed with a vote of 252-172. H.J.Res 91, which passed unanimously (425-0, with 6 Members not voting), provides continued funding for military survivor benefits.

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee Chair, announced a plan yesterday for raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government. The plan provides a six-week, $118 billion debt limit increase accompanied by cuts. A stipulation to the plan is that both the House and Senate must agree to tax reform and entitlement reform during the six week period. A number of reports have noted that the plan neglects to address the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been a sticking point for House Republicans.

Additionally, the House announced on Wednesday that it would be in session and voting on Saturday, October 12th.

Shutdown Day 8 Recap

The government shutdown status quo continued on Tuesday.

The House voted to fund the Head Start program (H.J.Res 84, passed 248-168) and to pay federal employees working during the shutdown on time (H.J.Res. 89, passed 420-0).

The House also passed H.R. 3273, which would establish a bipartisan, bicameral deficit reduction working group. As with the mini-CR strategy, the Senate and President Obama have expressed disinterest in this approach.