Fractured Congress Comes Together on Budget

Myrna, Mandlawitz, LDA Policy Director
Myrna, Mandlawitz Esq., LDA Policy Director

Congress finally agreed on a budget deal to take the government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014, ending September 30, 2014) and beyond into FY 2015.  After many advocates and constituents from across the country contacted their senators and representatives regarding the effects of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) brokered a deal that passed both chambers with comfortable margins.

The budget deal provided enough money to restore a large part of the cuts to federal programs for FY 2014 and FY 2015.  Ryan and Murray acknowledged at the outset their negotiations were unlikely to result in a “grand bargain” that would restore all of the sequestration cuts. Sequestration, by current law, continues through FY 2023 with decreasing budget caps each of those years.  Despite the lack of a grand bargain, however, Ryan and Murray were able to compromise on an amount that fell somewhere between the Senate and House FY 2014 numbers.

After the budget deal was concluded, the total spending amount was divided among the twelve appropriations subcommittees, each of which funds different agencies within the federal government.  LDA follows most closely the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee which provides money for all of LDA’s priority programs. Each of the twelve subcommittees received a proportional share of the new pot of money, with about 30 percent of the $22.5 billion designated for non-defense discretionary programs, or about $6.7 billion, going to the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee. This action restored about two-thirds of the sequestration cuts.

The chairmen and ranking members of each appropriations subcommittee then allocated their totals among the programs within their jurisdictions. In other words, for Labor-HHS-Education, in the Senate subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) decided how much to provide for IDEA, vocational rehabilitation, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the National Institutes of Health, and all programs under the subcommittee.  Outstanding issues from the subcommittees were resolved at the full Appropriations Committee level by Appropriations Chairs Representative Rogers (R-KY) and Senator Mikulski (D-MD) and Ranking Members Representative Lowey (D-NY) and Senator Shelby (R-AL).  The twelve subcommittee bills were combined into an omnibus bill which passed both House and Senate the week of January 13 and was signed by the President.

Among the biggest winners in education were the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, each of which had 82.6 percent of the sequestration cuts restored.  The Head Start program, receiving a $1 billion increase over the sequestration funding level, was one of the biggest winners across the government.  Other early childhood initiatives, a major Administration priority, garnered large amounts, including $250 million for a Race to the Top early childhood grant program, $500 million for the new Early Head Start/Child Care partnership grants, as well as the ability to use some charter school funds for preschool aged children.

The National Institutes of Health only had two-thirds of the cuts restored. In addition, the National Science Foundation, another source of major research money, was not fully restored.  The research community has voiced concern about the declining research dollars.

Next up on the budget calendar is the release of the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015.  The budget usually comes out in early February, but will most likely be delayed until the beginning of March to give the White House Office of Management and Budget time to analyze the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill and react accordingly.

You can follow the congressional budget and appropriations process and any actions needed by LDA members through LDA Today and LDA Legislative News.

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