“NO” on the BBA-Level Budget

On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee is scheduled to mark up its budget for Fiscal Year 2017, with consideration on the House floor likely the following week. The House’s budget should be an opportunity for House conservatives to lay out their spending agenda for the year. Instead, this budget concedes on the FY17 spending levels laid out in last year’s Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). Conservatives should reject this budget and insist that the House revert back to the previous discretionary spending caps of $1.040 trillion.

The annual budget resolution is an important document for the governing majority in Congress. Budget resolutions, by their very nature, lay out the Conference’s aspirational governing agenda, and include illustrative options on how to massively rearrange the federal government’s taxing and spending priorities.

However, the primary functional purpose of the budget is to set the upcoming fiscal year’s Sec. 302(a) spending levels which the Appropriations Committee then divvies up to write its 12 appropriations bills. This year’s budget sets the discretionary spending levels at $1.070 trillion – the number agreed to by only 79 House Republicans when it passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Instead, the House should revise the budget’s 302(a) numbers down to $1.040 — the level agreed upon in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The budget should take the $30 billion difference from nondefense discretionary spending and begin writing appropriations bills to that level. This is the clearest path forward for the House passing a budget and beginning a robust appropriations process for FY17, and it provides the clearest path forward to avoiding another budget-busting deal at the end of the Fiscal Year.

On January 21, Heritage Action issued a “Congressional Boarding Pass” for members before the annual Republican Retreat laying out four conservative priorities for the budget, including the need to balance at numbers lower than those agreed upon in the BBA. On February 4, Heritage Action reiterated these priorities, and on February 9, it issued a four-page memo calling for a budget at the $1.040 levels, with the $30 billion difference being taken out of domestic discretionary spending. In that memo, Heritage Action argued that this demand should not be conceded in exchange for “unenforceable promises” on sidecar legislation that will never become law. Finally, on March 2, Heritage Action released a statement reiterating the need for conservatives to put forward a budget at the lower numbers, as well as a “Claim and Response” document refuting common arguments against pursuing a budget at the $1.040 trillion numbers.

Aside from the FY17 discretionary spending level, which is the most immediate implication of any budget resolution, Heritage Action put forward additional criteria earlier this year.  While this budget explicitly reaffirms the GOP’s commitment to bold entitlement reform, especially premium support, it also maintains Obamacare-level revenues despite the budget’s promise to repeal the law in its entirety.

Heritage Action opposes the House FY17 budget in its current form and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Related:

Heritage Action Scorecard
Heritage Action’s Congressional Boarding Pass (January 2016)
Heritage Action’s Memo: House Should Pass A Conservative Budget (February 2016)
Heritage Action: Budget Resolution Claims and Responses (March 2016)