March madness has a different feel on Capitol Hill – this year it has been about getting to an agreed budget. Principally at issue was whether or not Congress would adhere to sequestration “caps” required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
In what took shape as a debate between fiscal hawks and defense hawks, the edge appears to have gone to the defense hawks. Both the House and Senate agreed to use Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, far above what the President requested, as a way to relieve some of the pressure of sequestration caps. By the numbers, here’s where we stand on a defense* budget for FY 16:
FY16 Cap required by 2011 BCA – $499B
FY16 President’s Budget request – $523B
FY16 President’s Budget Overseas Contingency Fund Request – $51B
House passed FY16 Budget: Defense – $499B, OCO – $71B; passed 228-199
Senate passed FY16 Budget: Defense – $499B, OCO – $90B; passed 52-446
Both chambers will now conference their respective bills after the Easter break and come to a final budget. The final budget resolution will not fall below the lower of the two budgets passed in either chamber.
Bottom line – an off-budget fix using expanded OCO funds for FY16 will dramaticaly ease what would have been a very painful year of cuts. With a budget in place, authorizers and appropriators will now have a firm starting point from which to “mark” their bills.
* There is some variation in reported numbers which may or may not include nuclear and security accounts. Numbers above do not include nuclear and security accounts.
Upcoming dates of interest:
31 March – Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) or “doc” fix to Medicare expires
House addressed the issue; Senate will take it up after Easter recess – look for a retroactive change in legislation and an end to the need for an annual “fix”
15 April – 2016 Budget Resolution is due (non-binding deadline)
20 April into May – Defense committee/subcommittee markups
31 May – Highway Trust Fund; current extension expires
1 June – USA Patriot Act; multiple provisions expire
30 June – Export-Import Bank authorization expires
30 September – FAA reauthorization expires
30 September – Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expires
30 September – Internet Tax Moratorium expires
1 October – Beginning of Fiscal Year 2016