Congress Passes Budget Agreement

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

Both chambers of Congress have now passed a bipartisan budget agreement establishing federal spending levels for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

The U.S. House passed its budget agreement with a vote of 332-94 on Dec. 12, and the U.S. Senate followed suit on Dec. 18 with a vote of 64-36. The legislation will now go to President Obama for his signature.

The agreement sets the limit for discretionary spending in fiscal 2014 at $1.012 trillion, which is about $26 billion more than current spending levels. Congress funds many veterinary and agricultural programs through discretionary spending, so by having the budget in place, Congress can now begin appropriating funds for some of AVMA’s priorities.

Currently, the government has been operating under a continuing resolution (CR, P.L. 113-46), which is set to expire Jan. 15. Federal agencies were expecting to face across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, if the budget agreement did not pass, which would have impacted funding for key veterinary programs.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said that the new legislation will reduce the federal deficit by a total of $23 billion over the next 10 years. Read the CBO’s analysis here.

The House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) first announced the bipartisan agreement at a joint press conference on Dec. 10. Watch their remarks here.

Some Republicans expressed dissatisfaction over the bill because it does not make cuts to Medicare and Social Security, whereas Democrats expressed disappointment because it does not extend expanded unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of this month. The legislation also does not tackle the debt ceiling, which may be addressed in February.

With the budget agreement now passed, House and Senate appropriators can begin finalizing their 12 fiscal 2014 appropriations bills, all of which must be passed by Jan. 15.

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