Lawmakers are already looking for a procedural path that will ease passage of a $1.012 trillion spending bill early next month. CQ Roll Call (sub. req’d) reports the “Closed-door negotiations on the fiscal 2014 omnibus over the next two weeks will be the best chance for lawmakers and lobbyists to secure funding or favored provisions since few if any amendments are expected when the legislation moves to the floor in January.”
After the massive omnibus is unveiled in early January, there will be little if any opportunity for lawmakers to amend the bill:
House leaders could find another bill that previously passed both chambers but has yet to be conferenced, strike the text and replace it with that of the omnibus. The House Rules Committee could pass such a measure under a closed rule, allowing for no amendments and quicker consideration in the chamber. That measure would then be sent to the Senate as a so-called “message,” and that designation would allow for only one procedural vote — and subsequently limit the opportunity for opponents to filibuster the measure — ahead of final passage.
Today, as part of the Ryan-Murray budget deal, the House will be voting on the “Pathway to SGR Reform Act of 2013,” which extends a number of expiring Medicare provisions, but its main purpose is to prevent the 24% reimbursement cut for physicians serving Medicare patients scheduled to occur next year.
These so-called “doc fixes” have been commonplace in Congress since 2003, when the provider cuts from the Balanced Budget Act of1997 first prompted Congress to act to prevent payment cuts for doctors (for more on the Sustainable Growth Rate, aka the SGR, see this Backgrounder from the Heritage Foundation). However, these temporary measures are usually fully paid for using legitimate savings elsewhere in the Medicare program.
Unfortunately, today’s doc fix bill does not continue the trend of fully offset SGR patches.
Increases spending in the short term
The deal increases spending in the next two years by $63 billion above current law. Current law allows for discretionary spending to be $967 billion in FY14 and $995 billion in FY15. This bill raises that by $45 billion in FY14 (to $1.012 trillion) and $18 billion in FY15 ($1.014 trillion).
Increases deficits in the short term
While the agreement increases spending $45 billion in the first year and $18 billion in the second year, it only contains $6.5 billion worth of deficit-reducing offsets during those two years ($3.1 billion in FY14 and $3.4 billion in FY15). Because the policies on the front end are the most predictable and least likely to be overturned, these are the years that really matter. Unfortunately, only 10% of the new spending in these early years is offset in real time.
The savings are severely back loaded
While the agreement purports to produce $23 billion in deficit reduction in the first ten years, it does so by relying heavily on savings in 2022 and 2023, a full 9 and 10 years into the budget window. In fact, the bill’s savings do not fully catch up with its front loaded spending increases until 2023. During this time, we will have had one, possibly two more presidents, and we will have had four different elected congresses with little-to-no ownership of this current deal. The cuts in this bill are so back loaded that a full 55 percent of the cuts ($47 billion out of $85 billion) occur in just the last two years.
The back loaded savings are highly dubious
President Obama made remarks on the economy Wednesday, lamenting inequality in America. Of course, he blames everyone but himself and the big government he promotes for the state of things.