Last Friday, the Senate passed H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. H.R. 1314 suspends the U.S. debt limit through March 2017 and increases federal spending for domestic and defense programs by more than $80 billion over the next two years. This measure effectively prevents the U.S. from defaulting on our federal loans and significantly lowers the risk of a government shutdown in December. The Act also gives Treasury the authority to shift accounts, essentially deferring a potential default until near fiscal year 2018.
The Senate vote was 64 to 35. Votes to pass the measure came from all 44 Senate Democrats, 2 Independents, and 18 Republicans. The bill, already cleared by the House, is now on President Barack Obama’s desk. The president is expected to sign the bill into law later today.
Although the bill garnered enough votes to pass, many Senate Republicans complained the deal contained too much spending. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) forced a rare overnight Senate session last Thursday when he filibustered the bill. The concerns raised by Senate Republicans echoed those of House Republicans, most of whom voted against the bill last Wednesday when it passed the House. Democrats, on the other hand, have applauded the measure for easing discretionary spending caps on domestic programs. Without an easing of the discretionary spending caps, safety net programs like the WIC Program would have undoubtedly faced funding challenges for fiscal year 2016 and 2017.
The National WIC Association is pleased with the outcome of budget negotiations and that sequestration caps on discretionary funding have been eased, and that increases in defense spending will be matched by spending increases on domestic discretionary programs. This budget agreement means WIC funding should be safe for the coming year. As we learn more about specific 2016 budget levels for WIC, we will keep you updated.