March 21, 2012

International Affairs Budget Update, 3-20-12

1.    Chairman Ryan Releases FY13 House Budget Resolution; International Affairs Funding Details Still Pending

On the eve of the House Budget Committee’s markup on the FY13 House Budget Resolution, House and Senate budget leaders set the stage today for what is expected to be a year-long and highly partisan budget and appropriations process.

Today House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed what he will present tomorrow to the full Committee.  His plan sets the FY13 discretionary spending limit (302a) at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion less than $1.047 trillion level enacted in the Budget Control Act last year and the same level as House Republican’s FY12 budget resolution.  This level represents a compromise among House Republicans, including Republican appropriators who sought to adhere to the agreed upon $1.047 cap and fiscal hawks in the caucus who were advocating far deeper cuts to the top-line discretionary number.

Like last year, Chairman Ryan’s budget fully funds the Administration’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq at $8.2 billion. Because actual funding levels for discretionary accounts have not been released by the Budget Committee, funding levels for the base International Affairs Budget are not yet available.  However, it does appear that the funding allocation will be a noticeable improvement from last year’s $32 billion base level – while still far below the President’s $48 billion request.

We will provide additional details on Chairman Ryan’s FY13 budget resolution and the International Affairs as soon as they become available.

2.    Chairman Conrad Sets Senate FY13 Budget Level

Today in the Senate, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), by way of filing a “deeming” resolution, set discretionary spending limits for FY13, essentially fulfilling the purpose of a budget resolution and allowing Senate appropriations to soon begin their work on FY13 bills.  Chairman Conrad’s deeming resolution adheres to the discretionary spending cap of $1.047 trillion established in last summer’s Budget Control Act and sets a firewall between defense and non-defense spending (which includes the International Affairs Budget).

In a preview of the difficult budget road ahead and the divergent paths of each chamber, Chairman Conrad and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) sent a letter yesterday to the House Republican leadership opposing an FY13 discretionary spending cap lower than $1.047 trillion, cautioning that such action would slow down the appropriations process and threaten a government shutdown later this year.

3.    Next Steps in Budget and Appropriations Process

The House will consider the FY13 Budget Resolution on the House floor next week.  Alternative budget proposals are expected, including a House Democrats’ proposal spearheaded by Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), which is anticipated to – like last year — fully fund the President’s FY13 request for International Affairs.  Other alternative proposals are likely to come from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus.  It remains unclear if the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) will offer an alternative budget this year.  If so, it would contain even deeper cuts to discretionary spending than those in Chairman Ryan’s proposal.

The Senate will not being taking up a budget resolution, so the appropriations process will shift into high gear once Congress returns from the April recess.  The all-important 302(b) appropriations allocations will be made by the House and Senate in the next few weeks and officially announced in mid-April.  The results of these binding allocations may be the most important decision that is made all year for the International Affairs Budget.  Once the 302(b) allocations are released, appropriators will quickly move to markup their spending bills.  House leaders have indicated their intention to move all twelve appropriations bills through the House by late July.  However, it remains to be seen how many bills will make it to the floor for consideration, particularly in the Senate.

Congress is likely to adopt an FY13 Continuing Resolution in September that would last until after the November election, thus delaying any major decisions on FY13 appropriations until the post-election lame duck session or the new 113th Congress in January.