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Budget Cap, Debt Limit, and Appropriations Intertwined

Both sides of the political aisle are struggling to find middle ground in budget cap negotiations — a move necessary before they can delve into the serious work of passing Federal appropriations for the coming year.  At present, there’s a $91 billion gap between their respective plans.  Republicans support the sequester-mandated reduced cap of $967 billion in discretionary spending for FY 14.  Democrats, however, want to remove the sequester requirements and elevate the spending cap to $1.058 trillion.  In a related move, Democrats also advocate dispensing with the sequester as part of the larger debt limit negotiations set to happen later this summer.

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is continuing informal discussions with his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray (D-WA), to look for areas of potential compromise and map out a reasonably acceptable path forward on the budget cap issue before the two chambers go to conference.  Establishing a budget framework before the conference is unusual but, according to some budget watchers, for the Senate, it could certainly facilitate the process, including setting reconciliation instructions, which could then allow the legislation to move forward without the threat of filibuster.

In the appropriations arena, while the House could move forward with its approach for FY 14 funding measures without any minority support, the Senate doesn’t have quite the same majority mandate.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) may have to entertain a potentially lower spending cap as a means to get some of the FY 14 appropriations bills moving.  Otherwise, it will be an uphill struggle to engage Republican support.