Policy Priorities

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BUDGET WATCH: THIS WEEK...

November 18, 2011

Deadline Looms for Supercommitee

As the countdown to November 23rd inches closer, the Supercommitee is struggling to strike a deal. Much like last week, negotiations this week were reported to have started and stalled over and over again, and Democrats and Republicans continue to be very divided over what kind of balance of spending cuts and revenue increases would be acceptable. While last week, many Supercommittee members reported they were still hopeful a deal would be reached in time, but with each day that passes that result seems less and less likely. If the committee cannot come up with a way to cut $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years by next Wednesday, across-the-board cuts totalling $1.2 trillion over 10 years would begin in January 2013 unless some sort of postponement is worked out.

Some argue that it is important for the Supercommittee to reach an agreement on new deficit-reduction measures in order to avoid automatic cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. This is the part of the budget that includes many programs of critical importance to children and families, including education and training, research and development, transportation, public health, veterans’ health care, and the administration of justice, among other things. According to our good friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this part of the budget will face about $300 billion in automatic, across-the-board cuts over the 2013-2021 period. That’s in addition to the large cuts that the Budget Control Act already put in place. So we continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal, given so much is at stake for children and families. We will continue to monitor the Supercommittee’s progress. And as the clock ticks down to November 23rd, we urge you to keep asking how these proposals will impact the programs that children and families need to survive and thrive.

Meanwhile, Congress has been busy this week on the appropriations front. Yesterday, President Obama signed into law a fiscal 2012 spending package (HR 2112) that had been passed by the Congress and contained three of the 12 annual appropriations bills: Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD. This "mini-bus" was the first yearlong spending measure enacted this fiscal year, and it included a continuing resolution that would keep the remaining programs funded by the other nine appropriations bills operating through December 16 at their current levels.

Finally, as agreed to in the debt ceiling deal passed in August, both chambers of Congress are required to vote before year’s end on a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution. The House voted today 261-165 to reject a BBA, as the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. While fortunately the House majority brought a less extreme version of the BBA up for a vote (HJ Res 2), it is still a dangerous piece of legislation. HJ Res 2 does not include a spending cap or a supermajority for raising taxes, but still would require a supermajority to waive or to raise the debt ceiling. The Senate is now expected to vote on two BBA proposals (a Republican one and a Democratic alternative) though we don’t expect any Senate floor action until after Thanksgiving.

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