Budget Conferees Appointed

House and Senate leadership made their appointments to the conference committee on the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget resolution last week. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed five members of the Budget Committee to the conference, including House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), and Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) alongside Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.). Senate leadership appointed the entire membership of their Budget Committee to the conference. This includes 12 Republicans headed by Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), eight Democrats, and two Independents, including Ranking Member of the Budget Committee Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.). The conference committee is charged with reconciling the two chambers’ FY 2016 budget resolutions. Negotiations on a final budget blueprint began between Rep. Price and Sen. Enzi over the Congressional recess. One focus on the conference committee will be to determine the extent to which reconciliation will be used. Reconciliation would allow the Senate to pass legislation by a simple majority rather than the typical 60-vote threshold required to overcome a filibuster, as long as the two chambers can agree upon a budget resolution. Republicans in the House support the use of reconciliation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in addition to furthering other priorities, such as tax reform and entitlement reform. Senate Republicans would rather limit the use of reconciliation to ACA repeal. The Senate’s budget agreement granted reconciliation instructions only to the two committees with ACA jurisdiction: Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has expressed opposition to using reconciliation to pass tax reform along party lines. Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) bipartisan addition to the Senate budget resolution providing a two-year sequester replacement deal will also be a major subject of debate in the conference. The provision calls for $148 billion in sequester replacement in FY 2016 and FY 2017, with unspecified offsets and tax hikes over the next decade. House Republicans will likely push for leaving the measure out of the conference report. The conference committee is expected to come to an agreement within the next two weeks.

Appropriations Panels Begin Work on Spending Bills

House Appropriations subcommittees having begun writing FY 2016 spending bills under the constraints of sequestration limited budget caps. The first two subcommittee mark ups took place in the House Appropriations’ Energy and Water Subcommittee and the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, in an attempt to move the most popular funding bills early and quickly through the appropriations process. Other Appropriations subcommittees continue to hold hearings on budget requests. Last week, the Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee convened a FY 2016 budget hearing with Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Public Health Service, to discuss funding for Ebola. The Appropriations Defense Subcommittee also held a FY 2016 budget hearing with witnesses testifying on the defense health program. Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) has said that his goal is to move all 12 spending bills through the House by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

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