Appropriations Update: Lawmakers Moving 2011 Spending Bills

Signaling their desire to be more austere, House and Senate appropriators continued pushing their Fiscal 2011 spending bills through the system this week, as the first measures went to the House Floor. The House passed its Transportation-HUD spending bill. It contains $67 billion in discretionary funding, which is $800 million below this year and $1.6 billion below President Obama's budget. House Republicans opposed the bill, saying the funding levels still were too high. The House also passed its version of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill; its $76 billion in discretionary spending amounts to a 1 percent cut below the current fiscal year and is equal to President Obama's request.

Even the popular Labor-Health and Human Services and Education spending bill is more austere than in many years. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its bill containing $169 billion in discretionary spending; a $5.9 billion boost from last year, but $986 million below the President's request.

Since there was no agreement on a Fiscal 2011 budget resolution, each committee is working from its own bottom-line discretionary spending total. The House Appropriations Committee's allocations total $1.121 trillion; the Senate's allocations total $1.114 trillion. In many past years, the Senate has proposed spending more on discretionary programs than the House proposed. This year, many allocations also are set below last year's funding level and below President Obama's budget request. The President requested a discretionary spending level of $1.128 trillion. Last year, Congress and the President agreed to spend almost $1.090 trillion. 

While the House and Senate committees appear to be slogging through the bills, the process is likely to grind to a halt sometime this fall. At that point, Congress may well pass a Continuing Resolution funding most programs at current levels until sometime after the election. The House and Senate are likely to make most critical funding decisions during a lame duck session.