The White House and congressional leaders are expected to resume negotiations over the size of the FY11 funding bill during the week of March 14 after test votes in the Senate demonstrated that neither the House Republican plan to deeply cut spending (H.R. 1) nor a Senate Democratic alternative had enough support to become law.
Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., said the two votes were necessary to move the negotiations over FY11 spending ahead. However, no one expects a final agreement to be reached before the current short-term funding bill expires on March 18. In its series of votes, the Senate first rejected H.R. 1, which would reduce FY11 non-defense discretionary spending in FY11 by about $64.0 billion compared to FY10.
A Democratic alternative developed by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Inouye, D-Hawaii, would provide about $51 billion more than the House bill. Congress and the White House have to make a decision on what action to take in the short-term to keep the federal government open because the current short-term funding measure expires on March 18.
Reportedly, House Republican appropriators are moving ahead with another short-term continuing resolution (CR). The new bill is expected to be made public on March 11 and is expected to cover three weeks of government operations. The House is expected to take it up and pass it on March 15. The measure would cut about $2 billion a week from current spending levels in accordance with the Republican insistence that even short-term bills include spending cuts.
Hope for progress on a broad spending agreement now rests firmly on White House-led negotiations with congressional leaders. While the debate over a short-term FY11 spending bill continues, House Republicans expect to begin work on the congressional budget outline for FY12 in April.
“It is our intent to advance a budget in April,” said Conor Sweeney, a spokesman for Rep. Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Floor action by mid-April appears to be a likely target.
Sen. Conrad, D-N.D., the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has yet to announce a time line for a budget resolution. Under the Congressional Budget Act, the Senate is to adopt its resolution by April 1, and the House and the Senate are to have resolved their differences and agreed on a conference report on the budget resolution by April 15. However, the timeframe rarely has been met and there are no penalties for missing it. A more significant deadline is May 15, the date after which appropriations bills can be considered on the House floor even without a budget resolution and the annual spending caps that are usually contained in it.