Budget Brokering Begins
DEBT DEADLINE DEAL DELIVERED. Sixteen days into a government shutdown, and one day before the federal government’s borrowing authority would have ended, Congress passed and the president signed into law the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014. The legislation (PL 113-46) extends the federal government at FY 2013’s sequestration levels until Jan. 15, 2014; suspends the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014, when the debt is expected to be $17.3 trillion; and reauthorizes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits and the Child Care Development Block Grant until Jan. 15. It also includes emergency relief funding for the flooding in Colorado, tightens verification of eligibility for health insurance exchanges, and sets a new budgetary process to avoid defaulting on the debt ceiling. Furthermore, the agreement compensates federal employees furloughed during the lapse in appropriations at the beginning of October, and will reimburse states, with interest, for expenses that would have been paid by the federal government had the shutdown not occurred. However, the bill does not provide repayment for the five states (Ariz., Colo., N.Y., S.D., Utah) who provided advanced funding to reopen their national parks, although legislation in both chambers of Congress has been introduced to reimburse these states. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley
SECOND CHANCE ON BUDGET DEAL. In the deadline-driven world of fiscal policy, the next target date is Dec. 13. Within the next eight weeks, a conference committee with members from both chambers and political parties hope to find agreement on revenue and spending policies for FY 2014 and possibly beyond. Led by the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), respectively, the conference committee must first determine how to bridge the $91 billion budget gap that separates the FY 2014 House and Senate budget resolutions. This difference is due to the reductions from the second year of sequestration, which the House includes and the Senate eliminates. Although both chambers agree on the need to reduce the nation’s debt, their budget plans differ greatly on how to achieve long-term savings. The House advocates reforming entitlements while the Senate pushes for increasing revenues. An initial meeting between Ryan and Murray produced optimism, with both citing the need to find “common ground” for a broad deal. House conference committee members include Representatives Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Tom Price (R-Ga.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Budget Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), while the Senate nominated the entire Budget Committee. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley
HOUSE PASSES WATERWAY BILL. On a 417-3 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3080, the Water Resources and Reform Development Act, on Oct. 23. The bill, which is similar to a version passed in the Senate in May (S. 601), authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water infrastructure projects such as harbor and port maintenance, dredging and levee construction. NCSL sent letters to both the House and the Senate citing our Waterways and Ports Policy Directive and advocating for full expenditure of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. NCSL policy is more closely aligned with the Senate bill, which would gradually increase annual spending to a maximum of 100 percent of the annual funds collected in the trust fund by 2020. The two chambers will now conference to complete a final water resources development authorization. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Melanie Condon
ON THE HORIZON. Farm bill negotiations begin—House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders announced that the first public meeting for the 2013 Farm Bill conference committee will be Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. SNAP changes—On Oct. 31, a temporary across-the-board boost to SNAP (food stamp) benefits, enacted as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will end, affecting the maximum allotments for households of all sizes. This is unrelated to the farm bill negotiations. 50 States Strong—NCSL’s Fall Forum is less than six weeks away. The meeting will include a lobby day on Capitol Hill for legislators and exclusive briefings for legislative staff. Register online or via fax by Nov. 13 to save with early-bird rates.