OMB to Congress: Fix 2015 budget to avoid return of limited sequester

Wednesday - 8/27/2014, 4:58pm EDT

If Congress doesn't take action in its final fiscal 2015 budget, the departments of Defense and Energy and the FBI could be on the hook to cut millions of dollars more in discretionary spending to meet the current budget cap levels.

Under the Senate's appropriations bills, the three agencies and others — considered under the defense category — would have to find an additional $34 million in non-mandatory spending to cut in order to meet the current budget numbers slated for 2015.

The Office of Management and Budget detailed its estimates in its annual report to Congress on the status of appropriations compared to Budget Control Act cap levels in 2015.

DoD, Energy, FBI and other agencies already face an expected reduction $44.7 billion in discretionary spending compared to the original Budget Control Act caps, while non-defense category agencies would see their budget come in $27.6 billion less than those BBA levels.

"The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) took an important first step towards replacing the damaging Joint Committee reductions with sensible long-term reforms," OMB wrote in the report. "However, the 2015 level set by the BBA and the cap reductions that are scheduled to take place starting in 2016 do not provide sufficient resources for national security, domestic investments, and the core government functions that are required to ensure that the nation is achieving its full potential in a growing economy."

Congress has yet to approve any of the 12 appropriations bills for 2015. The new fiscal year is just over a month away, meaning the first of several continuing resolutions are likely. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member of the Budget Committee, told In-Depth with Francis Rose earlier this month that a continuing resolution will be lawmakers' top priority when they return in early September. There only will be 12 working days before Congress takes another break to campaign before the mid-term elections in November.

Under the appropriations bills going through the process now, the House's versions actually is $11 million under the sequestration cap for the defense category as compared to the Senate's bill.

In all, discretionary spending for non-defense agencies is $4.6 billion under the cap for 2015 under the House bills and $3.7 billion under the cap under the Senate bills.

These numbers could change as Congress continues to work on separate appropriation bills or if they decide to create an omnibus spending legislation for 2015.

For 2014, OMB told agencies in February that no cuts were needed because of sequestration.

OMB determined the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 restored $44.8 billion to defense and non-defense discretionary spending totals for 2014. The discretionary budget allocations in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, signed into law Jan. 17, stayed under the caps and therefore sequestration is a non-factor this year. OMB said this is because the 2014 enacted levels of discretionary funding are the same as the 2013 levels and Congress added no additional funding.

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