A budget deal announced by Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday in Congress would do much more than just roll back some automatic budget cuts under sequestration, as the plan also includes cuts in a variety of mandatory spending programs, all part of a bipartisan bid to avoid another government shutdown early in 2014.
What does the plan do? Let’s look at five different questions.
Does it increase or reduce spending?
The answer to that question is simple – it just depends on what you are talking about. When it comes to discretionary spending, which is what the Congress deals with every year in the budget – that would go up, as lawmakers “restore” some of the spending cut by sequestration.
But that extra spending would be more than offset by cuts in mandatory spending programs, allowing for over $20 billion in deficit reduction, according to supporters.
What happens with the discretionary budget?
This is the budget that Congress deals with every year – more easily described as everything outside of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The current spending levels under sequestration allow for $967 billion in spending in Fiscal Year 2014, and then $995 billion in 2015.
This deal would increase the 2014 discretionary budget to $1.012 trillion, and then that would tick up to $1.014 trillion in 2015. That is a total increase of $63 billion in discretionary spending. It isn’t exactly what a lot of Republicans wanted in a budget deal, though it is still a lot less than Democrats had been asking for in an agreement.
What gets cut in mandatory spending as an offset?
A host of different provisions would be cobbled together to reach $85 billion in mandatory savings, which offsets the $63 billion in increased discretionary spending.
The savings include things like not sending government benefit checks to dead people or to prisoners. Ending a research program for private energy companies. Pension reforms both for federal workers and for military retirees to save money.
That’s all? There must be other budget changes
And there are other items – changes to the Mineral Leasing Act, approval of a deal with Mexico to further explore for oil and gas offshore, an increase in aviation security service fees (what you and I might call an airline ticket tax), requiring private companies to pay more to Uncle Sam to guarantee their pension benefits, and changes in how the feds deal with non-profit student-loan servicers.
Can it get through the Congress?
This is a very legitimate question. There are Democrats who think the plan doesn’t do what they want and there are Republicans who are livid with the outlines as well.
Tea Party Republicans would seem more likely to buck their leadership on this plan, as they make the argument that absolutely no increases in spending are needed – even though many in the GOP have been asking for extra money (and an end to the sequester) for the defense budget – this plan in 2014 would increase the defense budget from $498 billion to $520 billion instead of cutting it by almost $20 billion.
The goal is a vote on Thursday or Friday in the House.
The text of the bill was finally posted after midnight on Tuesday night. Here’s a look at the Table of Contents, which gives an even better idea of all the details:
Sec. 111. Fiscal year 2014 budget resolution.
Sec. 112. Limitation on advance appropriations in the Senate.
Sec. 113. Rule of construction in the House of Representatives.
Sec. 114. Additional Senate budget enforcement.
Sec. 115. Authority for fiscal year 2015 budget resolution in the House of Representatives.
Sec. 116. Authority for fiscal year 2015 budget resolution in the Senate.
Sec. 117. Exclusion of savings from PAYGO scorecards.
Sec. 118. Exercise of rulemaking powers.
Sec. 201. Improving the collection of unemployment insurance overpayments.
Sec. 202. Strengthening Medicaid Third-Party Liability.
Sec. 203. Restriction on access to the death master file.
Sec. 204. Identification of inmates requesting or receiving improper payments.
Sec. 301. Ultra-deepwater and unconventional natural gas and other petroleum resources.
Sec. 302. Amendment to the Mineral Leasing Act.
Sec. 303. Approval of agreement with Mexico.
Sec. 304. Amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
Sec. 305. Federal oil and gas royalty prepayment cap.
Sec. 306. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Sec. 401. Increase in contributions to Federal Employees’ Retirement System for new employees.
Sec. 402. Foreign Service Pension System.
Sec. 403. Annual adjustment of retired pay and retainer pay amounts for retired members of the Armed Forces under age 62.
Sec. 701. Extension of customs user fees.
Sec. 702. Limitation on allowable government contractor compensation costs.
Sec. 703. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation premium rate increases.
Sec. 704. Cancellation of Unobligated Balances.
Sec. 705. Conservation planning technical assistance user fees.
Sec. 706. Self plus one coverage.