by Tom Branen, Executive Director, America’s Service Commissions
After nearly three weeks of a federal government shutdown last evening Congress was able to reach a deal to open the government today and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. The Senate voted 81-18 and the House voted 285-144. President Obama signed the Bill shortly after midnight. With the passing of the measure hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors went back to work ,including the staff at the Corporation for National and Community Service. All federal facilities were reopened including the National Parks and Monuments. The resolution funds the federal government at the FY 2013 sequestered funding levels through January 17, 2014 and increases the debt ceiling through February , 7 2014.
Congressional leaders in both the Senate and the House are stating that they to negotiate a budget deal for the rest of the year and possibly beyond. Many in Congress and President Obama have stated that they are open to negotiating a “Grand Bargain” that would possibly reform earned entitlement programs such as Social Security along with possible increased tax revenues to address the federal debt. There has also been discussion of removing or focusing sequestration as part of these negotiations. If the current CR for discretionary funding was extended for the rest of the Fiscal Year it would be $986 billion. The House’s 2014 Budget was approved at $967 and Senate approved $1,058 billion. Congressional budget conferees have been appointed and will hopefully work to approve a funding plan for the rest of the fiscal year. In the event that they approve a full CR and do not remove the sequester, the House budget number would be the more realistic number as sequestration would take effect in January. Thereby reducing CNCS programs across the board by another 5%-8% starting in January.
Keep in mind that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved FY 2014 national service funding in July that would be included in the Senate’s FY 2014 $1,058 Billion budget.
Senate Appropriations Committee approved $1.061 Billion for CNCS. Here are the approved funding levels for the CNCS programs:
$345.8 Million – AmeriCorps S/N
$94.8 Million – VISTA
$207.5 Million– Senior Corps
$30 Million- NCCC
$5 Million Volunteer Generation Fund
$46.7 Million – Social Innovation Fund
$14.8 Million – State Service Commissions (Restores the small state minimum back to Serve America Act Authorized level of $250, 000)
$209.8 Million – National Service Trust
The House Appropriations Committee did not mark up the appropriations bill with the CNCS funding included in it, however, the House Budget Report language recommended defunding CNCS.
Obviously, the Senate budget funding levels would be better for the national service sector.
At least the after this three week shutdown the various parties look as though they are ready to negotiate which is constructive.
From The Hill: The House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he expects the two sides will be able to find a deal on 2014 spending levels, and is hoping for entitlement and tax reform. “I’m optimistic that once this resolution has passed, the House and the Senate will come together in a budget conference to work out our broad fiscal and budgetary challenges,” he said in comments on the floor.
One immediate test for negotiators is finding a way to reconcile Democratic demands for new tax revenue and GOP opposition to any new taxes. For several months, House Republicans have refused to meet with Democrats on the budget because of these Democratic demands.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a glimpse into this upcoming fight late Wednesday, saying on the House floor that Democrats will fight to increase spending above the 2013 sequester levels.
“As we know, this number is too low,” she said. “As even the chairman of the committee has said, it’s an unrealistic and ill-conceived number, and must be brought to an end.”
Thank you and stay tuned.