Nine days – that’s it!

Nine days!  Nine days for what you might ask?  The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session for only nine daysbefore the end of the fiscal year.  The Senate is not exactly overlapping the House and they have scheduled 16 days in session scheduled.

As a refresher, by the end of the fiscal year, September 30th, the House and Senate are supposed to have passed their versions of a budget, reconciled the differences, and sent allocations to the Appropriations Committees.  The Appropriations Committees and their subcommittees then drafts bills (12 of them) funding government programs, send them to the House and Senate floors, pass them, reconcile any differences, send those reconciled bills back to the House and Senate floors, pass them, and then hopefully the President signs them.

So, where are we?  The House and Senate never agreed to a budget so while they skipped a few steps early in the process.  The Appropriations Committees in each chamber did mark up some of the 12 appropriations bills; some even made it the floor.  However, the two chambers are working off very different spending limits.  Most bills will not make it to the floor, some cannot even make it out of committee, much less the rest of the process.  So we are heading for a continuing resolution (CR) – legislation to fund the government on a temporary basis (although sometimes that temporary basis turns into an entire year) at the previous year’s level of funding.

The question now is how long the CR will cover or how long the government will be funded on this short-term basis.  The rumblings from the House Republicans seem to lean toward a shorter CR (say, two months), which would push the short-term CR’s deadline close to talks around the debt limit.  Reports are that Senate Democrats seem to favor a longer-term CR.  Somehow we knew they would not agree.  Oh well, they have nine days in September to figure it out…

Senate Advances LHHS Appropriations

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee met on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 to mark up their fiscal year (FY) 2014 legislation (S. 1284). The bill passed by voice vote.

On Thursday, July 11th, the full Senate Appropriations Committee took up the FY 2014 LHHS bill for consideration. S. 1284 passed the full Committee with a vote of 16-14. The bill and accompanying report are included below.

Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Bill by DrinkerBiddle

Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Committe… by DrinkerBiddle

It is unclear what will happen next. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) made it clear that she would like to see this bill, and the others that have been approved by the Committee, considered on the Senate Floor. She stated in her introductory statement:  “I was dismayed to hear comments recently that we should not even consider Appropriation bills on the Senate Floor until there is a Conference Agreement on the Budget Resolution. But at the same time, six Senators have objected to a conference on the budget resolution, where this problem should be resolved.” Her full statement is available on the Appropriations website.

To date, the House has been silent on the LHHS bill. The most likely scenario is a Continuing Resolution (CR) before September 30th.

While the Senate bill may never become law, it will be used to negotiate the CR. The report is also a clear message to agencies and in many cases, agency responses to the report language are included in President’s budget the following year.

Senate Progress on FY 2014 LHHS Appropriations

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee met yesterday, July 9th, to mark-up its version of their fiscal year (FY) 2014 bill. The bill now heads to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for a mark-up on Thursday, July 11th at 10:00 am in Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The complete bill and report will likely be posted to the Senate Appropriations website after the full Committee meets (and likely approves the bill). There is still no word from the House regarding language or a mark-up.

The Senate Committee has posted a summary and chart of their bill on their website.

Red, White, Blue, and LHHS Appropriations

When Congress returns after the July 4th holiday, it is expected that the Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to mark up their bill. It is likely that the bill will pass by a party line vote and then be quickly considered at the Full Committee level.

Rumor has it that the House LHHS Subcommittee is drafting a bill but there is no word if it will ever go to mark up.

It is also unclear how the two sides of the Capitol plan to rectify their dramatically different 302(b) allocations, as discussed in a previous Capitol Health Record post. The Senate LHHS Committee received an allocation of $164.330 while the House cut down their spending cap to $121.797 billion to account for sequestration.

Without an end game in sight the clock seems to be counting down towards an omnibus or continuing resolution before September 30th. Stay tuned!

FY 14 Appropriations Outlook: Stormy Weather Ahead

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.

Upcoming LHHS Appropriations Hearings

The Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. in 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building. On the agenda is the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, will be testifying.

On Thursday, April 25, the House LHHS Appropriations will hold a similar hearing on the HHS FY 2014 Budget Request. The hearing will take place at 10:00 AM in 2358-C Rayburn House Office Building. Secretary Sebelius will testify at this hearing also.

Tavenner Nomination Clears Senate Finance Committee

This morning, by a unanimous voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Marilyn Tavenner to serve as Administrator for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  CMS has been without a permanent administrator since Donald Berwick left the post in December 2011.

On April 9, 2013, the Senate Finance Committee held Ms. Tavenner’s nomination hearing, during which she received praise for her works as Acting CMS Administrator from both Democratic and Republican members of the Committee.  Following the hearing, Members of the Senate Finance Committee submitted written questions to Ms. Tavenner, who submitted a 113-page response to the committee last week.

Ms. Tavenner’s nomination now heads to the full Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has yet to indicate when he plans to bring her nomination up for a vote.

The 113th Congress Kicks Off

Thursday, January 3, 2013 marked the official start of the 113th Congressional Session and swearing in of new Members of Congress. The House of Representatives will have 233 Republicans, 200 Democrats, and 2 vacancies – Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL-2) stepped down after winning reelection and Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1) was appointed to the Senate to fill the seat of Sen. Jim DeMint (R) who recently resigned. The United States Senate will have a Democrat majority with 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 independents that will caucus with the Democrats.

There are 82 new Members of the House of Representatives, including 47 Democrats and 35 Republicans. The United States Senate welcomed 14 new Senators sworn into office: 9 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 1 independent (who will be caucusing with the Democrats). New Senators include Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, who replaces the late Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI).

The 113th Congress will have more women serving as voting members than any other time, including 78 in the House (58 Democrats and 20 Republicans) and 20 in the Senate (16 Democrats and 4 Republicans). Additionally, the United States Senate for the first time will have a majority of Senators (52) who previously served in the House of Representatives.

Important Upcoming Dates

With the fiscal cliff package passing on New Year’s Day, some key deadlines and dates shifted. Below are important dates for the next three months on Capitol Hill. Check back here as these dates get closer for information on the President’s budget, the contuining resolution (CR) expiration and everything in between!

Important Upcoming Dates

  • Inauguration: January 21
  • State of the Union: January 29 (tentative)
  • January 31: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner plans to leave the Administration by end of the month
  • President’s statutory deadline to submit budget to Congress: February 4
  • U.S. defaults on debt obligations: estimated end of February/early March
  • Sequestration takes effect: March 1
  • Current CR expires: March 27