April 5, 2011
Despite meetings at the White House this morning and back on Capitol Hill this afternoon, the principals in the negotiations over the Continuing Resolution to fund the government for the last 6 months of fiscal year (FY) 2011 remain stalled. By all accounts, a meeting at the White House this morning with Hill leaders made little or no progress.
In the latest plot twist, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced today that instead of the $33 billion in cuts below FY 2010 levels that according to Vice President Joe Biden had been agreed upon last week, the House majority will now require $40 billion in cuts to reach a deal. In January, the House passed a bill with $61 billion in cuts below FY 2010. Some $10 billion has already been cut via a series of short term Continuing Resolutions.
In another new development, late yesterday House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) unveiled a new one week Continuing Resolution that would extend the deadline for reaching a full-year deal from this Friday to next Friday. It would also decrease government social spending by another $12 billion while increasing Pentagon spending by $7.6 billion. The Defense appropriations would be extended for the full six months remaining in the fiscal year while all other government functions would receive only the one week extension.
In response to that proposal and the general breakdown in constructive talks, President Obama was quoted as saying “This is not a way to run a government… We don’t have time for games.”
In the House Republican one-week extension bill USDA continues to get hit hard, as it did in the two previous short term extensions. Agriculture would account for $1.4 billion or about 11 percent of the total $12 billion in new proposed cuts, very disproportional to its four percent share of non-defense discretionary government spending. Agricultural research, rural development, conservation, and humanitarian food aid would all see reductions.
Of particular concern to NSAC is the proposal in the new one-week bill to eliminate all funding for the Organic Transitions Research program, the Regional Rural Development Centers, and the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative.
Another major story line from the continuing negotiations on the FY 2011 appropriations measure is the attempt by Senate Democrats to get about $8 billion in mandatory spending cuts into the final package, in that manner reducing the total discretionary cuts required to meet the target.
Included in that $8 billion proposed package are cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs, though the exact programs that would be affected and the size of the cuts remains closely guarded. As we have pointed out previously, any cuts to conservation programs for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 could have a very major negative impact on prospects for a new farm bill in 2012 or 2013.
Also rumored to be on the list of mandatory spending changes are Pell Grants, new non-profit health cooperatives, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Also still at issue are the many policy or legislative “riders” approved by the House dealing with topics ranging from the health care law to abortion to environmental regulation.
With the clock ticking and Friday’s deadline approaching, where this story ends is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, planning for a government shutdown is accelerating.