April 3, 2014
Budget Resolution Overview
On Tuesday, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the House GOP’s Fiscal Year 2015 House budget Resolution as a symbolic representation of party priorities and fiscal austerity. It is likely to squeak through passage on the House floor, but that is as far as it will go. The Senate is not planning to do a budget resolution this year, having reached a two-year budget deal with the House last year that already covers fiscal year 2015. Nonetheless, the Ryan budget will serve as the House GOP’s counter proposal to President Obama’s budget as appropriations season continues.
Ryan’s budget proposes to make sweeping changes and cuts to several key social safety net programs during the next 10 years. The budget projects a 10 year savings of $5.1 trillion, made possible by cutting $2 trillion by repealing the Affordable Care Act; cutting more than $1 trillion from food stamps, college grants, farm subsidies and federal pensions; cutting $700 billion from Medicaid; and changing Medicare into a voucher program for people now younger than their mid 50’s.
Cuts to Farm Bill Programs
Although the farm bill included $16.5 billion in savings ($23 billion if one includes automatic budget cuts scheduled to occur via sequestration) from reductions to farm, conservation and nutrition programs, the House budget proposes a total of an additional $148 billion in cuts to the farm bill’s farm and nutrition programs.
The budget acknowledges the savings associated with the farm bill’s elimination of direct commodity payments, but claims that this area “remains ripe for reform.” Without providing specific policy recommendations or what legislative vehicle would be used to enact further cuts now that the new five-year farm bill has become law, the budget suggests that an additional $23 billion in savings can be achieved by continuing to reform commodity and crop insurance programs.
Thankfully, the $23 billion in cuts targeted at agricultural spending do not include an assault on mandatory farm bill spending for conservation programs that have been included in previous Ryan budgets.
Not surprisingly, SNAP (food stamps) came under fire in this proposal. The resolution argues that SNAP should be converted to a block-grant program, in which states will receive a specific allotment of funding based on their low-income population and will structure programs that are specifically tailored to their state. The proposed change would not go into effect until 2019, giving states time to adjust.
The Ryan budget would also eliminate categorical eligibility for SNAP, which qualifies an individual to receive SNAP if they are already receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. The SNAP changes in the proposed budget are estimated to cut $125 billion from the program.
Budget Committee Markup
On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee approved the proposed budget resolution on a party-line vote of 22-16 following 10 hours of debate. Among the many amendments proposed by Democrats and defeated on party-line votes were ones by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) to eliminate the proposed SNAP cuts and in their place include reductions to oil company tax subsidies and by Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA) to provide the necessary budget support for immigration reform.
Another round of similarly symbolic votes will likely occur when the resolution moves next to the House floor. With no Democrats likely to vote for the resolution, the major floor dynamic will be whether the House leadership can keep enough of its caucus in line to have the votes to pass the resolution. Most observers expect the resolution to pass, though not without some Republican defections.
While total funding levels for the fiscal year 2015 government spending bills (appropriations) have already agreed to via last year’s two-year budget deal, similar debates over domestic social program spending previewed this week in the House Budget Committee markup will no doubt be played out for real as the House and Senate begin marking up their appropriations bills this spring and summer.