Budget Resolutions May Confuse More Than Clarify

The House is expected to use a different ceiling when allocating funds across the various appropriations committee for this fiscal year. The House Budget Resolution (a nonbinding guide for appropriators) calls for a $1.028 trillion limit. This is lower than the $1.047 trillion discretionary limit specified in the August debt limit law (PL 112-25) and is intended to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion more than the Administration’s plan. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has signaled that he will work to meet the lower spending limit across all Appropriations categories.

The Senate, not surprisingly, is determined to work within the higher debt limit structure level and may decide to proceed without a Resolution this year, deeming it unnecessary because of the debt limit provisions.

The House and Senate have disagreed on discretionary spending limits in the past, but the difficulties are magnified this year by automatic spending cuts provided for in the debt limit law. According to an article in Congressional Quarterly Daily, “…unless Congress takes action to repeal the spending “sequester,” $109 billion in automatic cuts will take effect in January [2013], pruning about $55 billion out of defense, about $43 billion out of domestic discretionary programs and the balance out of mandatory programs. The GOP budget calls for replacing the sequester for fiscal 2013 with a combination of alternative savings. About $19 billion in savings would come from reducing the discretionary appropriations cap, and an additional $261 billion would be achieved through a handful of changes to entitlement and other mandatory spending programs. Most Democrats also oppose the automatic spending cuts, but have yet to advance a plan to replace them. In general, however, they favor using a combination of tax increases and spending reductions.”