The congressional budget resolution is a nonbinding spending blueprint that sets monetary limits for the spending and tax legislation that the U.S. Congress will consider for the rest of the year. It does not require presidential approval and only the grand total of the discretionary spending laid out in the final budget resolution is binding on the appropriations committees. Nonetheless, the congressional budget resolution is an important step in the budgeting process because it provides guidance to the chairmen of the appropriations committees on how to divide resources among various federal departments and agencies, and sets the stage for the twelve annual appropriations bills that must be passed by Congress and signed by the president.
Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed separate congressional budget resolutions that could hardly be more different. The House version, sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), would reduce spending by $4.6 trillion by cutting domestic programs, repealing “Obamacare,” overhauling the tax code, and balancing the budget by 2023. It would limit domestic discretionary spending to $414 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014—a cut of $50 billion more than the amount established by the sequester. And by setting defense discretionary spending at $552 billion in FY 2014, it would transfer the sequester’s impact on military spending to domestic spending.
“We are offering a responsible, balanced budget,” Ryan said. “It recognizes that if we can’t get a handle on our out-of-control debt, we will lose control of our future. We cut wasteful spending and balance the budget. This plan recognizes that concern for the poor is not measured by how much money we spend in Washington, but instead how many people we help get out of poverty. We reform antipoverty programs so they work. We help strengthen communities and families.”
The Senate version, sponsored by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), would replace the sequester with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts while increasing spending on infrastructure and worker-training programs by $100 billion over ten years. To pay for these increases, the Senate version directs the Senate Finance Committee to write legislation increasing tax revenue by $975 billion over the next ten years.
“The Senate budget takes the balanced and responsible approach to tackling our fiscal and economic challenges that the vast majority of families across the country support,” Murray said. “This budget replaces sequestration in a balanced way to protect jobs and the economy. It invests in broad-based economic growth and job-creation. It tackles our deficit and debt responsibly through an equal mix of spending cuts and new revenue raised by closing tax loopholes and ending wasteful deductions that benefit the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. And it keeps the promises we’ve made to our seniors, families, and communities.”
It is unlikely that the House and Senate will come to an agreement on these two very different budget blueprints, setting up a continued battle regarding taxes and spending over the coming year and previewing what could be difficult negotiations over final appropriations bills, including funding for the U.S. Department of Education.
On Wednesday, April 10, President Obama will put forth his budget for FY 2014. Originally expected in February, Obama’s budget was delayed as the president and Congress worked through the sequester and delayed appropriations for FY 2013.