House Passes Symbolic Ten-Year Budget Resolution

House Passes Symbolic Ten-Year Budget Resolution

The House passed H. Con. Res. 34 on Friday setting amounts for total government revenues and spending for each of the next 10 fiscal years (FY2012-2021). Overall, it calls for cutting government spending by $6.2 trillion over the next 10 years compared to President Obama’s FY2012 budget request (or $5.8 trillion compared to current spending) and brings non-security discretionary spending to “below FY2008 levels.” NASA and NOAA are included in that category of spending.

The House and Senate are supposed to agree on a budget resolution before determining annual appropriations levels for federal agencies. As explained in a Congressional Research Service report, the budget resolution “represents an agreement between the House and Senate that establishes budget priorities and defines the parameters for all subsequent budgetary actions.” But the House and Senate do not always reach agreement, and sometimes one or both will not pass a budget resolution at all. Last year neither chamber passed a budget resolution. This budget resolution is seen as largely symbolic with no chance of being adopted by the Senate, and President Obama made a speech on April 13 outlining his own fiscal priorities, drawing sharp differences with the House. All House Democrats voted against it, along with four Republicans. The vote was 235-193. The Hill newspaper has an interesting account of the chaotic day on the House floor.

Nevertheless, the House budget resolution will be used to set “302(b)” allocation levels for each of the 12 House appropriations subcommittees establishing the top line amount of money they can spend on the agencies and programs under their jurisdiction. Budget resolutions do not identify funding by agency, but by “Function.” NASA’s space spending is part of Function 250, general science, space and technology, while funding for its aeronautics programs are in Function 400, Transportation. (NOAA is part of function 300, Natural Resources and Environment. DOD is Function 050, Defense.)

The House Budget Committee’s formal report to accompany the resolution (H. Rept. 112-58) notes that about half of the money in Function 250 is for NASA space activities. The rest is for the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, and Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

Regarding NASA, H. Rept. 112-58 states that the budget resolution “recognizes the vital strategic importance of the United States to remain the pre-eminent space-faring Nation.” It adds, however, that the President’s FY2012 budget request for the agency “shifted priorities away” from the 2010 NASA Authorization Act “by allocating $2 billion to commercial cargo and crew and Earth Science climate change initiatives. The budget [resolution] aligns funding in accordance with the NASA authorization and its specified spending limits to support robust space capability.”

Total budget authority (BA) for Function 250 would drop from $29 billion in FY2011 to $27 billion in FY2012 and remain there until FY2017 when it increases to $28 billion for two years, then back to $29 billion in FY2019 and FY2020, and finally $30 billion in FY2021. With NASA’s space activities being about half that total, it is clear the agency would be operating under severe constraints if this approach was adopted.

No NOAA-specific text is included in the committee’s report, but Function 300 would drop from $32 billion in FY2011 and FY2012 to $29 billion in FY2013, then down to $25 billion the next year and vary between $25 billion and $28 billion for the remainder of the 10-year period.

National defense (function 050) would increase from $561 billion in FY2011 to $583 billion in FY2012 and increase steadily to $703 billion by FY2021. Nevertheless, a report issued by the committee, The Path to Prosperity, says that the budget “reflects $178 billion in savings identified” by Secretary of Defense Gates, “reinvesting $100 billion in higher military priorities and dedicating the rest to deficit reduction.”

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