Agriculture and Energy Committee

FY 2011 Federal Budget and Appropriations Update on Select Agriculture, Energy and Environment Programs

July 21, 2010

As Congress continues to attempt to address important issues this year, including immigration, energy policy and the oil spill in the Gulf, lawmakers are working closely on the Fiscal 2011 appropriations process. The House has been waiting on the President’s Fiscal Commission’s recommendations before passing a five year budget. Specifically, the Commission was charged with proposing recommendations to Congress designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015. Also, the Commission was tasked with proposing recommendations that aim to improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government.

As the Fiscal Commission’s recommendation are not due to Congress until December 1, the House, on July 1, adopted a one-year spending plan that Democrats proposed instead of the traditional five-year budget resolution, which had stalled due to intraparty differences over concerns of deficits it would generate. The one year plan, H.R. 1493, passed the chamber by a vote of 215-210. The measure would limit discretionary funding to $1.121 trillion, which Democrats said would be $7 billion less than President Obama requested.

For the first time since the modern budget process began in 1976, the House has not voted on a concurrent budget resolution with the Senate. Instead, the July 1 measure does not include a detailed plan and does not project federal spending, deficits and revenue over five years. The legislation, which was “deemed as passed ,” allows the chamber to appropriate money without having a detailed budget.

The Senate Budget Committee approved a detailed Fiscal 2011 budget resolution April 22 that called for $4 billion less in discretionary spending than the president requested. But the full Senate has not addressed this measure as the House is not expected to pass a similar plan.

Amid much criticism, House Budget Committee Chairman, John Spratt (D), has defended the one-year resolution passed by the House. He said that congressional Democrats are waiting on the findings of the President’s Fiscal Commission, which was saddled with the task of creating recommendations for reducing the federal debt and deficit. Fourteen of the eighteen commission members would have to agree on proposed policies for them to be recommended. Democrat leaders in the House have pledged to put these recommendations to a vote, but only if they are able to pass the Senate beforehand.

Congress failed to adopt a full budget resolution four times when Republicans controlled the House, but on each of those occasions, the House approved its version of the budget resolution.

Despite scheduling individual appropriations bills at the sub-committee and committee levels in both the House and Senate, it is unlikely that the majority of the legislation will receive action on the floor of either chamber. Currently, it is not clear if Congress will choose to act on the measures individually or if it will roll them all together into an omnibus bill. Given the talk of an active lame-duck session of Congress in November, it is possible that the final action on FY 2011 funding levels could be delayed well past the October 1st start of the federal fiscal year.

-"deem and pass", is procedural measure used by the House of Representatives to approve legislation. If the full House votes to approve a legislative rule that contains such a provision, the House then deems a second bill as also approved without requiring a separate vote, as long as that second bill is specified in the rule. That is, if the vote on the rule passes, then the second bill is passed as part of the rule vote.