Director’s Desk

Kenneth Gold | February 8, 2016

Will 2016 be more like 1994, or 2014?

The Bipartisan Budget Agreement (PL 114-74) signed in November would seem to pave the way for relatively easy passage of at least some, if not all of the 12 individual FY17 appropriations bills.  Under the two-year deal, top line discretionary spending levels (302a) are in place for both FY16 and FY17, which would seem to remove the biggest obstacle between the parties to reaching agreement on funding the federal departments and agencies.

Having the spending number this early in the year also gives appropriators a head start on beginning the process.  The regular budget process sets April 15 as the deadline for agreeing on a discretionary spending number, and that date is rarely met even when Congress is able to pass a congressional budget resolution.  In recent years, it’s often failed to pass one at all, which more or less dooms the prospect of passing individual bills.

But the last time Congress passed all the individual appropriations bills was more than two decades ago, in 1994. In 2014, with a similar two-year budget agreement in place (PL 113-67), many of us were optimistic that Congress would pass at least some, if not all of the spending bills; in the end, they passed none.  Remember that 167 House Republicans voted against the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, and some members of the Freedom Caucus have already indicated that they oppose the agreed-to spending levels. Former Speaker Boehner, who engineered the deal, is currently playing golf in Florida.

Ken Gold is director of the Government Affairs Institute

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