CHN: Budget Passes; Appropriations Process Begins
For the first time in an election year since 2000, Congress passed a budget resolution. The Senate passed the FY 2009 Budget Resolution, S Con Res 70, largely on a party-line vote 48-45 except for Republican Senators Snowe and Collins, both from Maine, voting for the bill and Senator Bayh (D-IN) voting against it. The House adopted the resolution on a 214-210 party-line vote on June 5. The President does not sign the Budget Resolution into law but it provides a blueprint that Congress follows by setting an overall funding level for discretionary programs and providing some guidance for tax legislation.
The overall domestic discretionary funding level for FY ’09 is $1.016 trillion, $24.5 billion more than President Bush requested. Most of the additional money will provide room for additional funding in human needs programs. While the budget does not set funding levels for specific programs, it signals areas where additional spending ought to occur. This year the budget highlights areas like housing, health care, nutrition, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The budget also includes language committing Congress to agree to pay for new tax cuts it may propose (or at least to require at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass tax cuts that deepen the deficit). See May 23 Human Needs Reportfor more details at http://www.chn.org/humanneeds/080523b.html, and CHN’s letter on the resolution athttp://www.chn.org/pdf/2008/budgetlet2009.pdf.
Congress has now begun the appropriations process which divides the discretionary (that is, annually approved) funding total in the budget among the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees,. That process began this week in the House where four of the Subcommittees marked up their bills. The usual process in the House is for the full Appropriations Committee to consider the bills one week after Subcommittee markups. Then the bills move to the House floor for consideration. Through June 12, the Subcommittees on Homeland Security, Interior and the Environment, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Commerce, Justice and Science approved their bills. The Commerce, Justice and Science bill that includes programs in the juvenile justice system contains an increase of $3.1 billion over the President’s request which is expected to leave room for modest increases in the juvenile justice accounts.
The House is scheduled to complete Committee work for all of its 12 appropriations bills by July 23. (See at:http://www.chn.org/pdf/2008/markups.pdf.) The Senate has not yet scheduled markups. It is unclear how many of the bills Congress will pass and send to the President, who has already threatened to veto bills with funding levels beyond his request. It is likely that most of the bills will be completed in Committee and held until next year when a new Administration is in place. If that occurs, temporary funding levels for FY ’09 will need to be enacted when the fiscal year begins on October 1st.