Last Thursday, the House Budget Committee re-started the FY 2011 budget process by releasing its spending caps for appropriations bills. The overall discretionary appropriations level was set at $1.055 trillion, which is $74 billion less than President Obama had initially requested for FY11. However, the cap is “only” $35 billion less than the FY10 enacted level, much less extreme than the $100 billion cuts proposed by Republicans in their September “Pledge to America.” In response, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., claims to have essentially pro-rated the cuts, given the fact that the proposal is being submitted more than four months into FY11, and promised to “continue to tackle the country’s fiscal problems by advancing spending cuts and spending reforms, and by charting a new course with a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year.”
Based on the cap set by Chairman Ryan, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., then dictated allocations to each of the twelve Appropriations subcommittees that reflected the decreased spending. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education subcommittee, which funds the National Institutes of Health, was allocated $157 billion, a 4 percent decrease from FY10. Much more severe was the cut to the Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation, which received a 16 percent overall decrease in allocations, relative to FY10. By contrast, Defense spending will actually rise from FY10, though only by 2 percent. It will now fall to the individual subcommittees to determine which specific agencies and departments will see their budgets cut.
Moving forward, it is expected the Appropriations subcommittees will report back to the full committee with their bills sometime this week. From there, the individual bills would be combined into a single omnibus appropriations bill that would be debated on the House floor before being taken up for a vote, likely during the week of February 14. The process would then fall to the Senate to complete before the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires on March 4.