With Budget Deal in the Books, Work Turns to Finalizing 2016 Spending Bills

Last week was an eventful one in Washington. In just about 72 hours, House and Senate negotiators successfully brokered a two year budget deal with the White House, effectively providing two years of relief from sequestration (i.e. the painful spending caps holding down discretionary spending) and suspending the nation’s debt limit, which would have been breached this week without Congressional action, until early 2017. Last week also ushered in a changing of the guard in the House, with the resignation of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker and as the Representative from the 8th District of Ohio, and election of Paul Ryan (R-WI) as the new Speaker, effective immediately.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provides sequester relief for two years (FY 2016-2017) by temporarily lifting the top-line discretionary budget caps set by a previous budget deal. The deal provides for $80 billion in additional discretionary funding over two years ($50 billion in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017), split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, and an additional $16 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. This means that for FY 2016 (which began on October 1, 2015), non-defense discretionary spending (which includes federal research accounts) will receive an additional $33 billion spread across the government.

Now that a budget deal has been reached and sequestration relief temporarily achieved, Congress will return to its work on enacting final FY 2016 appropriations bills. Appropriations Committee leaders in the House and Senate will provide guidance to their respective subcommittees this week on how much additional funding each will be allocated under the agreement. Once the subcommittees receive their new allocations (known as “302(b) allocations”), the subcommittees will get to work on revising their bills and conferencing with the other chamber to reach a final agreement. Congress has only about four working weeks to complete the FY 2016 appropriations bills before the current stop-gap spending measure expires on December 11. The risk of a government shutdown in December still looms, but the chances have been drastically reduced thanks to the budget agreement passed last week.

For more information on the budget deal, check out the detailed analysis prepared by AAAS.

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Posted in Issue 20 (November 3), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

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