As anticipated by many Washington insiders the House and Senate Budget Conference Committee leaders are narrowing the scope of their budget negotiations. While no deal has been reached yet, plans are shifting to: 1. provide some relief from the pending $20 billion discretionary budget sequestration set to take effect in mid-January 2014, and 2. Provide top-line budget numbers for discretionary spending for both the current fiscal year (2014) and 2015.
Softening Sequestration 2014
Under current law (Budget Control Act (BCA)of 2011) the total FY 2014 discretionary spending level would be reduced from the FY 2013 level of $986 billion to $967 billion. However, budget negotiators including House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) may soon propose reducing sequestration cuts by $65 billion over the two fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The increased (from BCA level) spending will be offset by reductions in mandatory spending (federal retirement system, Medicare payments to hospitals), increasing user fees (aviation) and the sale of federal assets. Fundamental changes to entitlement programs (that Republicans want) and additional revenue through tax increases (that Democrats want) are off the table.
The House and Senate are currently in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday. The House returns on December 2 and Senate returns on December 9. Both Budget Committee Chairs Murray and Ryan are continuing to talk during the recess with the hope of striking a deal and issuing a report to Congress on, or before their legislated deadline of December 13. If they do reach an agreement both legislative chambers will have up to 6 weeks to review and adopt their proposal before the current continuing resolution (P.L. 113-46) expires on January 15.
According to the U.S. House calendar there are only 15 legislative days before the January 15 expiration of the current continuing resolution.