FY 2013 Spending Bills: House, Senate Taking Different Approaches

by Carolyn Coleman

As expected, the House and Senate are, so far, taking different paths to the FY 2013 spending bills, with the House already drawing talk of veto threats that could likely set up another high-stakes showdown over spending cuts just before the 2012 election. Last week, in a positive sign, Senate leaders in both parties were united in approving an overall spending level of $1.047 trillion for FY 2013, representing the total amount available under the 2011 debt limit agreement.

On Wednesday, House Appropriators went a different direction and voted along party lines to adopt lower spending limits as outlined in the Ryan Budget at $1.028 trillion. The House, unlike the Senate, also chose to spare the defense budget of any cuts, which means non-defense spending (which includes federal programs that are local priorities) would bear the brunt of the cuts.

In a call with NLC last week, the White House indicated the President would veto any spending bill that contained cuts below the amounts agreed to in the debt limit agreement.

The looming battle over budget sequestration is also making it difficult for Congress to bargain over FY 2013 spending. Although both sides want to avoid the automatic cuts called for in the debt agreement of $50 billion in non-defense spending and $50 billion in defense spending over the next 10 years, which is automatically set to begin in January 2013, there is little common ground on how to get there.

As appropriations sub-committee hearings get underway on the individual appropriations bills, NLC will continue to advocate for local priorities.