Funding Options Still in Flux

Despite new requirements calling for budget plans to be in place by April 15 or have Congress face pay withholdings, Members are complaining that they can’t devise spending plans until they know more about what will happen with the March 1 sequester and the March 27 expiration of the existing Concurrent Resolution for FY 13.  Their position is that without a solution for the sequester cuts, baseline budgets for Federal agencies and departments becomes a moving target.  Some pundits, however, are seeing this as yet another Congressional delaying tactic in making tough spending decisions.

Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is collaborating with her Republican counterpart Richard Shelby (AL) to develop alternatives to sequester spending cuts that would reconfigure some of the more onerous provisions.  However, even this bipartisan attempt is not without issue.  Democrats want new revenue increases – possibly through new taxes on corporations.  Republicans disagree, saying that the focus needs to be on curtailing spending rather than adding to the burden.

In a separate but related arena, Congress has not completed its annual appropriations process without relying on an omnibus appropriation or continuing resolution since 2005.  This means that nearly half of the sitting members in both the House and Senate have never voted on all 12 appropriations measures.  The President’s FY 14 budget proposal, which should have come out this week, is being delayed by at least a month because the Administration devoted so much time to fiscal cliff issues.  Even when the agency and department funding requests are released, there’s likely to be little political will to take them on.  The Republicans in both chambers have made it clear that they want to see significant spending cuts across all Federal programs and little if any new spending that cannot be offset by cuts in other areas.  Any introduced individual spending bill would quickly become a target for amendments calling for further cuts.