House-Senate Budget Conference Committee to begin discussions this week >>

October 29th, 2013

House-Senate Budget Conference Committee to begin discussions this week

This week, the bipartisan budget conference committee (conference) will meet for the first time to work on a FY14 budget compromise to avoid another budget stalemate and government shutdown. The conference was established as part of the October 16th deal to reopen the federal government and to address the debt-ceiling. The government is currently operating under a short‐term CR, which is keeping the government running at the FY13 post‐sequestration level until January 15, 2014, and the debt ceiling was extended through February 7, 2014. The conference has until December 13th to develop a plan. After that date, Congress will have until January 15th to approve a deal or face another government shutdown.

The conference is not expected to focus on a broad fiscal compromise but will likely seek a much narrower deal possibly focusing on funding the current fiscal year through September 14, 2014, or a shorter period.

What’s at stake. If the conference fails to reach an agreement, then a second round of sequester cuts (7.2%) will go into effect on January 15, 2014, in order to meet the spending caps mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA). Under the BCA, the defense industry will take the biggest cut with $19 billion slated to come out of the Pentagon’s budget in the second round of cuts. This second round of cuts would likely have a dramatic impact on tribal programs that have already been cut by the full 5% sequester level in FY13. Below are examples of the first round of sequester cuts:

DOI/BIA: $130M in cuts to Indian education, public safety, natural resources, economic development, and other critical programs that help tribal governments meet the needs of Indian Country.

HUD: The FY13 sequester cuts the Native American Housing Block Grants by $33 million.

HHS/IHS: IHS will see 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 840,000 fewer outpatient visits due to FY13 cuts.

Education: Impact Aid lost $60 million and Indian Head Start will lose approximately $12 million in FY13.

Glimmer of hope. The conference reportedly is open to making changes within these mandatory spending caps and possibly restructuring sequestration by replacing some of the $91 billion in automatic sequester cuts to discretionary programs in the 2014 budget.

Next step for Indian country. Indian country should urge the conference, key Members of Congress and Administration to protect funding for tribal programs based on the U.S.’s treaty and trust obligations to Tribes.

Conference allies. Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) are heading up the 29-member conference. Senator Murray is a longtime friend of Indian country and has already stated that she will not support additional cuts to discretionary programs. Recently, she stood next to people who were hit hard by the first round of sequester cuts to domestic programs, such as early education and housing programs, and she committed to “fight to restore the funding.”

Another potential champion includes Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), House Native American Caucus Co‐chair and House Deputy Whip. Rep. Cole recently said that to deal with sequester, “more revenue has to be put on the table,” which is something many of his Republican colleagues have disagreed with. In addition, Rep. Cole is a strong advocate for protecting tribal programs from sequester cuts.

Budget Conference Members. The bipartisan group includes the entire Senate Budget Committee as well as four House Republicans and three House Democrats. Below is a full list:

House Republicans: Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), Rep. Tom Cole (OK), Rep. Tom Price (GA), Rep. Diane Black (TN)

House Democrats: Rep. James Clyburn (SC), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD), Rep. Nita Lowey (NY)

Senate Republicans: Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL), Sen. Charles Grassley (IA), Sen. Mike Enzi (WY), Sen. Mike Crapo (ID), Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), Sen. Rob Portman (OH), Sen. Pat Toomey (PA), Sen. Ron Johnson (WI), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Sen. Roger Wicker (MS)

Senate Democrats: Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), Sen. Bill Nelson (FL), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Sen. Mark Warner (VA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), Sen. Chris Coons (DE), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI), Sen. Tim Kaine (VA), Sen. Angus King (ME)

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