Legislative Update: Initial Comments on Limited Budget Agreement

— By Brad Penney, General Counsel — 

As many of you have seen reported in the media, the Congressional budget negotiators have reached a limited agreement to partially repeal sequestration and fund the government through FY 2015. While this is the first budget deal in three years, it still must be approved by the full Congress.  Since the limited agreement does not deal with entitlements, many conservative Republicans in the House have indicated opposition to the agreement, which likely will be voted on in the House as early as tomorrow and in the Senate next week.  If the agreement is adopted by both houses of Congress, it will pave the way for regular appropriations bills where the House and Senate committees can reach agreement in conference, with those agencies funded by appropriations bills where there is no agreement between House and Senate continuing to be funded by a Continuing Resolution. In the case of CSBG, it is unlikely that there will be a conference agreement between the House and Senate on the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, so CSBG will continue to be funded by a CR for FY 2014 (and presumably FY 2015), which is good news for CSBG.

In the case of weatherization, there is greater likelihood of a conference agreement between the House and Senate Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittees, so superficially the Budget Agreement would seem to be a good thing for WAP since the deal puts another $40B in spending on the table for FY 2014. However, the deal could also lock us down to the difference between the House passed number for WAP, which is $77M for FY 2014, and the Senate Committee approved number for FY 2014, which is $190M. That number is somewhere in the range of $134M, whereas in the event of another CR, we are fighting hard to secure a “budget anomaly” for WAP at the Senate number of $190M. So, opening what superficially looks like a Christmas present in the form of a budget deal that releases an additional $40B in spending, in fact yields a lump of coal in the Christmas stocking – the Budget deal reached last night, therefore, could be a bad thing for WAP.  We are, of course, working with our allies and meeting tomorrow with Senators Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed to determine next steps, but this is no time to stand down on pressing our Senators and House Members to approve a higher number for WAP in FY 2014 – don’t be fooled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing: the FY 2014 struggle has a long way to go and resting on a House/Senate “split the difference” outcome for WAP is indeed a lump of coal we should try to avoid at all costs, if we can do so. We will update you as soon as the Committees start marking up actual appropriations bills, assuming the agreement does in fact pass Congress.