Submitted by Russell Orban

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, Public Law No. 113-76 (Jan. 17, 2014) funds the federal government until September 30, 2014. This legislation followed the groundbreaking Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, Public Law No. 113-67 (Dec. 26, 2013). Together, these laws reflect a significant departure from the recent past. Normally, the budget agreement sets the boundaries for federal government spending in the upcoming fiscal year and the details are then supplied by the Appropriations Committees. The Bipartisan Budget Act set levels for both FY2014 and FY2015—the period from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2015. This gives Congress a head start on its spending process for FY2015 and will postpone budget-deficit skirmishes until after the next election. Many important things remain undecided, but it is encouraging that Congress has found some common ground.

During the budget process, the House and Senate decide how much the federal government will spend in an upcoming year. Targets are based on Presidential requests and Congressional committees’ advice about agency needs. Allocations are made to each appropriation subcommittee, and Congress has four or five months to agree on how to spend the allotted money. The President’s role in the process comes from his power to veto appropriations bills.

Without a budget, no appropriations guidelines were set and gridlock ensued. Disagreements over spending cuts, raising revenues and allocating money resulted in stalemate, automatic sequestration cuts, and a government shutdown.

Since that time, both sides have worked out a compromise that spends less than the President requested but more than what originally passed. Here are some thoughts on what the two laws do and what they don’t do:

What the Budget Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act do—

  • Prevent another government shutdown. By passing a bill that prescribes spending amounts for the rest of the fiscal year, Congress avoided another shutdown in January.
  • Meet budget targets. The Bipartisan Budget Act set a discretionary spending ceiling of $1. 012 trillion for 2014, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act met that goal. This is $191 billion less that the President requested, but it marks the fourth straight year of reduced government spending. That has not happened for over 60 years.
  • Set spending levels for two years. The Budget Agreement makes it possible for the Appropriations Committees to get an early start on 2015 spending priorities and (hopefully) work out differences ahead of time. Setting budget targets moves the endless budget deficit debate off center stage.
  • Reduce the impact of “sequestration.” Republicans and Democrats agree that sequestration is arbitrary and wasteful. The Budget Agreement reduces sequestration in 2014 and 2015 by $63 billion, postpones portions of those cuts, and finds ways to “pay for” any increased spending. The legislation reflects agencies’ latest priorities with flexibility to make intelligent reductions instead of blind, across-the-board cuts.

Continue Reading The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014: what they do and what they don’t do

Contributed by Ike Skelton and Russell Orban of Husch Blackwell’s Government Affairs Practice Group

The United States Department of Defense is the world’s biggest purchaser of goods and services, spending some $381 billion on contracts in FY 2011. But serious changes are on the way. The Iraq war is over and the Obama Administration is planning to withdraw from Afghanistan in the near future. Last summer’s hard-fought budget agreement requires $487 billion in cuts to the defense budget over the next 10 years. The President will soon recommend a defense budget that shaves $51 billion from its previous 2013 projections.Continue Reading The impact of mandatory budget cuts on contracting at DoD

Contributed by Kyle J. Gilster, Esq. of Husch Blackwell’s Governmental Affairs Practice Group

The government contracting community is concerned about the repercussions of the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (aka “the Super Committee”) to reach an agreement before the November 23rd deadline. In light of this failure, the question of the day is what happens now on deficit reduction and what impact this will have on government contractors.Continue Reading Automatic budget cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011