Congress

Budget passes Senate

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The Senate voted 64-36 to pass legislation Dec. 18 that sets government spending levels for fiscal 2014 and 2015 and rolls back about two-thirds of planned sequester cuts.

The measure, which the House passed Dec. 12, caps the discretionary budget for 2014 at $1.012 trillion, with $520.5 billion going to defense spending and $491.8 billion for non-defense. It also contains $23 billion in promised deficit reduction through increased federal fees and higher pension contributions from government employees.

Congress was facing a Jan. 15, 2014, deadline to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to avoid a repeat of October's partial government shutdown. Although the bipartisan budget compromise, which amends the Budget Control Act of 2011 and rolls back sequester cuts, might look like a break in the partisan fever that has gripped the divided Congress, there is a lot of heavy lifting left to do. With the budget passed, Congress now has until Jan. 15 to come up with proposed allocations for spending for each of the 12 appropriations buckets.

The budget includes $63 billion in sequester relief spread over two years, and the agreement means that appropriators will get to decide how the remaining cuts are made.

"It makes sense to replace these meat-ax cuts with smarter and more balanced savings," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and an architect of the budget plan along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

But the appropriations process still holds perils for federal managers and employees. There is about $44.8 billion in sequester relief built into the fiscal 2014 budget. Discretionary non-defense spending will be up $21 billion and discretionary defense spending up just $2 billion over 2013 spending. Appropriators will have to determine how those savings are distributed across the various agencies and at the level of programs and accounts.

"There are still cuts that remain, and it's going to be difficult for [lawmakers] to come up with [them]," said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

White House officials have previously indicated that President Barack Obama will sign the measure into law.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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