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Senate Passes First Budget Resolution Since 2009

For the first time in six years, the Senate passed a resolution in support of the FY 16 budget ($523 billion for defense and $493.5 for non-defense discretionary spending).  The House passed the same budget resolution last week.  This jointly passed resolution is a nonbinding measure that generally provides a framework from which the Appropriations Committees can begin to think about how to divide up the FY 16 funding “pie” among the 12 agency and issue specific Subcommittees.  While the Senate’s action may sound like progress, it’s not quite the ‘good news’ story that the headlines seem to portray.
The budget resolution is based on the premise that Congress will follow through on called-for spending cuts of about $5 trillion over the next 8 or 9 years to achieve a budget surplus by 2014.  The reality is that both Chambers would have to pass fairly severe, austerity-driven funding measures for each of those years for both discretionary and defense spending.  Yet, both Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate continue to look for ways to raise the statutory caps on discretionary spending – actions that would require changes to the sequester agreements made just a couple of years ago.
Just FYI – when the Senate last passed a budget resolution in 2009, the Democrats held the majority in both Chambers; in 2015, the Republicans are in charge of both Chambers…not exactly a strong example of the collaborative, collegial approach to Federal funding that we might hope.
In a related development, on May 1, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a letter to all Federal Agency Heads directing them to reduce their FY 17 budget request levels by 5% from what they have asked for in FY 16.  The reductions are to be taken from areas of “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.”  However, OMB also asks that Agency Heads identify priority programs that could benefit from funding “add backs” in critical areas.