Budget Process Begins to Move Along in Congress

Yesterday, while passing a rule setting debate on a supplemental spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democratic members of the House tacked on a "budget enforcement resolution" that lays out spending priorities for the next fiscal year. Additionally, with several Appropriations subcommittees recently passing FY 2011 spending bills, it seems Congress is beginning to move the ball on the budget process.

The U.S. Capitol Building

The resolution, which House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) calls "the functional equivalent of a traditional budget resolution," sets discretionary spending levels at $1.12 trillion. This is roughly $7 billion less than President Obama requested earlier this year, and almost $3 billion less than the levels recently set by the Senate Budget Committee.

The budget enforcement resolution also calls for revenues to equal all spending, with the exception of interest payments on the debt, by 2015, a goal the president has similarly advocated. The resolution, however, does not explain how Congress should meet that goal in the out-years, as a traditional budget resolution would do. Rather the enforcement resolution leaves those decisions to the president's bipartisan fiscal commission, which is set to release its recommendations in December.

In addition, several subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee have passed spending bills.

The Legislative Branch Subcommittee yesterday approved by voice vote a bill providing $3.6 billion in discretionary funding. The State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee also approved by voice vote a measure making available $52.7 billion in funds, which would be roughly $4 billion more than the subcommittee provided last year. Finally, the Agriculture Subcommittee approved by voice vote a bill granting $23.1 billion in discretionary funding, which would be $26.7 million less than the president requested, and $204 million less than Congress enacted last fiscal year.

Now that the House has a budget document to guide it, look for more Appropriations subcommittees to begin passing spending bills and then the committee as a whole to take them up, really getting the process moving along.

Image by Flickr user Abeeeer used under a Creative Commons license.

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