Congress Passes FY 2010 Budget Resolution

On April 29, exactly 100 days into the Obama administration, the House and Senate each passed a final version of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget resolution. The final resolution outlines $3.56 trillion in spending and tracks closely with President Obama's major proposals, including key investments in health care, education, and energy.

The final resolution includes a total of $1.086 trillion in discretionary spending for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to divide up within 12 appropriations bills. This is $10 billion less than President Obama had originally requested, which Congress plans to cut from non-defense discretionary programs. The president’s request for $556.1 billion for defense programs was included in the resolution.

The resolution includes $529.8 billion for discretionary programs outside of defense. Although Congress cut $10 billion from Obama's request for these programs, the level in the budget resolution represents a $29.8 billion increase (six percent) over the FY 2009 funding level after adjusting for inflation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

On the tax side, the final budget assumes the extension of a large portion of the Bush tax cuts that benefit the middle class, including extending the patch to protect certain taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In all, the resolution assumes tax revenues will be $764 billion below levels under current law. These tax cuts primarily impact those making less than $250,000.

Congressional leaders also decided against including language from a Senate amendment that would make further cuts to the estate tax. Offered by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) during debate on the Senate version of the resolution, the amendment would have cut the estate tax for America's wealthiest heirs by increasing the size of estates that can be passed on tax-free to $10 million for a couple and $5 million for an individual (from $7 million for a couple and $3.5 million for an individual) and reducing the estate tax rate to 35 percent (from 45 percent).

The House and Senate also agreed to include the option of using the reconciliation process later in 2009 to move health care reform legislation through Congress. Budget reconciliation is a fast-track procedure that limits the time for debate and amendment process for future legislation and also protects bills from filibuster in the Senate.

The House passed the resolution by a 233-193 margin. No Republicans supported the resolution, and 17 Democrats voted against it, all but four of whom represent districts that supported Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2008 presidential election, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly. The Senate passed the measure 53-43. As in the House, no Senate Republicans voted for the budget, while Democrats Evan Bayh (IN), Ben Nelson (NE), and Robert Byrd (WV) voted against the budget. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who recently switched his party affiliation, also voted against the budget.

The budget resolution is not signed by the president; it simply serves as a blueprint for Congress. However, the Obama administration is preparing to release more details about its FY 2010 budget request, which are expected May 7.

The aforementioned appropriations bills, which implement the budget resolution, will need to be signed by the president. According to The Hill, legislators are optimistic that all appropriations bills can be completed by Oct. 1, the start of the next fiscal year. If this occurs, it will mark the first instance since 1996 that all appropriations bills have been completed on time.

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