Congress Postpones Tough Decisions on Federal Budget While Sequestration Looms
September 28, 2012
by Paula Skedsvold
Trying to avert a government shutdown before the elections, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government operating through March 27, 2013. The CR funds government agencies and programs at a 0.6 percent increase over current funding levels. The funding level for federal programs in the final 6 months of FY 2013 is uncertain, but the balance of power following the elections will undoubtedly influence the direction and whether significant cuts will be required or funding remains at levels set in the Budget Control Act.
There is also question about when final action on the FY 2013 budget will occur. As in prior years, Congress could roll the spending bills into an omnibus bill during the lame-duck session. However, if power shifts in the Senate or White House, conservatives will likely push for deep cuts to federal spending and resist addressing FY 2013 spending bills until the new Congress convenes in the new year.
Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its report on the impact of sequestration. An 8.2% cut to non-defense discretionary accounts will result in a cut of $2.5 billion to NIH, $463 million to the research accounts at NSF (with an additional $68 million cut to Education and Human Resources), and $49 million to the Institute of Education Sciences at the Department of Education, all beginning in January 2, 2013. The defense discretionary accounts will be cut by 9.4% resulting in reductions of $2 billion in an R&D defense-wide account, plus additional reductions for R&D in specific branches of the military.
OMB notes: “The report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.”