we approach Memorial Day weekend a number of important developments in
this year’s budget negotiations have already occurred. Several more
developments are expected when Congress comes back into session after
the holiday, while others are looming farther in the distance and may
not be resolved until after the November elections. Once again there
are several different moving pieces to the budget discussions, including
the 2013 budget and appropriations process and the sequestration cuts
scheduled to go into effect in January, 2013.
Thus far the majority of the action has been on the House side. In March, the House passed its budget resolution
which made steep cuts to discretionary spending, called on House
committees to replace scheduled defense cuts with cuts to non-defense
programs, and converted Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) to block grants. Then earlier this month,
following up on instructions from the budget resolution, the House
passed reconciliation legislation replacing
the defense cuts with cuts to a number of human service programs
including repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, a critical funding
stream for child welfare systems around the country, and cuts to
Medicaid and SNAP. Finally, the House also passed its version of the
2013 appropriations bill funding the Department of Justice which again cut funding to juvenile justice programs.
in the Senate, while no appropriations bills have been brought to the
Floor yet, six have passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Last week the Senate also held votes on several budget resolutions,
including the one passed by the House, all of which were rejected.
Senate leaders have maintained that it is not necessary to pass a
budget resolution this year since discretionary spending levels for this
fiscal year were set by the spending caps in the Budget Control Act.
Lastly, the Senate has thus far refused to take up legislation
we look ahead to the coming months, the next major development is
likely to be a markup in the Senate Appropriations Committee of the
Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, the bill that funds the
majority of child welfare and related programs (action is expected in
the Senate in early June). It is not yet known when the House will take
up its version, though the House will probably continue to move through
its appropriations work when it comes back into session as well.
Though the House and Senate will both be moving appropriations legislation throughout the summer, it is unlikely thatmany
or perhaps any of the appropriations bills will be signed into law
before the elections since the two chambers continue to disagree about
the level of discretionary spending for the coming fiscal year. The
Senate supports the Budget Control Act spending cap, set at $1.047
trillion for fiscal year 2013, while the House wants to cut even
deeper. This disagreement on the overall discretionary spending level
makes it exceedingly difficult to translate funding levels to individual
appropriations bills. Most likely, the appropriations process won’t be
finished until after the elections and will be completed in the form of
either an omnibus bill or a continuing resolution, with the latter
seeming to gain more traction lately.
fate of the sequestration cuts scheduled to go into effect in January
will also likely not be settled until after the elections. Much is at
stake in that battle. CWLA has detailed the impact
that sequestration would have in each state on several important
programs serving vulnerable children and families. As bad as those cuts
would be, they could be made even worse if the scheduled defense
sequester is replaced with additional cuts to non-defense programs, as
the House has advocated. This week Senate leaders spoke out strongly
against such a change, and President Obama has also threatened to repeal
the House proposal. Still, neither side is willing to give in easily
and it should make for a very busy end of the year.