FY 2016 Budget Controversy
The FY 2016 Budget continues to be a contentious issue here in Washington. Senate Republicans, lead by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would like to approve HR 2685, the House-passed Defense Appropriations bill, as early as this week. This bill includes language that would protect defense spending from budget sequestration. Senate Republicans want the bill to be approved first among the 12 Appropriations bills for the same reason, so that it is not subject to sequestration cuts. They would prefer that non-defense discretionary programs such as WIC, which will be negotiated later in the process, be exposed to deep cuts.
President Obama and Democrats in both chambers want the caps lifted for both domestic and military programs.
Majority Leader McConnell has said he has no interest in starting discussions with the White House, while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said talks on a budget agreement should begin soon.
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who serves on the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, said last week that members of the Appropriations committee need time to discuss a plan that deals with easing the caps on discretionary spending. “…the automatic cuts need to be rolled back evenly across defense and non-defense investments,” said Senator Murray at a legislative seminar last Wednesday. “This is non-negotiable.”
Senator Murray also made clear last Wednesday that negotiating now, while there are still several months before the end of FY 2015, is much more advisable than waiting until the last minute and potentially facing another government shutdown. “…Republicans have a choice, and it’s the same choice they faced in 2013,” said the Senator. “They can either work with us early on a bipartisan budget deal that will set the topline budget levels and allow the Appropriations Committee to work on bills that can be signed into law. Or, they can wait until we reach a crisis, until we approach or hit another completely unnecessary government shutdown—and work with us then,” she said. Senator Murray was the co-architect of an agreement reached with Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in December 2013 that eased sequestration spending caps for two years. That deal expires at the end of September.
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ranking Member of the full Appropriations Committee, agrees with Senator Murray: “We need a new budget deal, a sequel to Murray-Ryan, and we need it sooner rather than later,” Mikulski said during a Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee markup.
The House passed its Defense Appropriations bill (HR 2685) last Thursday by a vote of 278-149. This was the sixth Appropriations bill passed by the House.
Agriculture Appropriations Markups
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies plans a markup of its FY 2016 Appropriations bill this Thursday, June 18.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies is expected to mark up its Appropriations bill on Tuesday, July 7. The bill is then expected to undergo a markup by the Full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, July 9.
The final Appropriations bill, agreed upon by the House and Senate, will set funding levels for the WIC Program for 2016.
Child Nutrition Hearing this Tuesday in the House
On Tuesday, June 16 at 10:00 a.m., the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?” The hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine rules and regulations governing child nutrition policies, as well as discuss possible reforms to improve federal child nutrition programs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is scheduled to testify.