Congress spends a good chunk of its year on Capitol Hill slogging through the 9-month process of creating and passing a budget. The president usually kicks off the marathon with a budget proposal in early February and - on the rarest of years - a final budget is passed by October 1 when the next fiscal year begins (more often, the process gets dragged out to December - or Congress gives up on the effort entirely).
For 2009's budget, Hill watchers predicted early on that we wouldn't see a budget until January, when the Democratic leadership in Congress hoped to have a president in office who'd sign off on its spending ideas. Their ability to wait until '09 meant they had just about zero incentive to negotiate with President Bush on budget priorities. For that reason, this year citizenJoe didn't even bother parsing out the president's proposed budget (but you can read up on the dailies' reporting).
The House and Senate passed a joint budget draft - the "budget resolution" - in June. The budget resolution is used as a blue print for both chambers before they give their subcommittees marching orders to write up detailed spending bills.
Only three of '09s twelve budget bills were passed before the end of '08, with Congress punting the passage of the rest of the budget until '09 by passing a "continuing resolution" that would keep government funding rolling at '08 levels through March 6th.
The new Congress wrapped up the nine remaining bills into an into a $410 billion "omnibus" package that the House passed in late February and the Senate hopes to pass the week of March 9 (WP).
Congress' budget resolution
Before a final resolution was passed in June, each chamber passed their own - slightly differing - versions.
The Senate's version of the budget resolution would have (WP):
- cost about $18 billion more than the president's proposed budget;
- started with a $350 billion deficit in '09, but work down to a surplus in '13 - but at the same time the budget assumes that the Bush tax cuts would end in '10 (which is very unlikely) and that we'd only spend $70 billion more on the Iraq war (a snowball's chance)
- added an extra $35 billion for a second stimulus plan, extending unemployment benefits and expanding food stamps
- added $13 billion in tax cuts and $3 billion in funding for alternative energy
- added $13 billion in education tax cuts - and $4 billion on education spending
- added $50 billion for the State Children's Health Insurance Program
- nixed the Alternative Minimum Tax for middle income families for one year (without any offsets to make up the $70 billion cost)
- lined up with the president's request for defense spending
The House version's is similar to the Senate's, though it's $4 billion more expensive, doesn't include a $35 billion stimulus package and - although it also includes getting rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax and extending middle class tax cuts - it would pay for them by raising funds through the budget "reconciliation" process. (WP)
The final resolution had few surprises. It:
- topped the president's budget request by $21 billion, adding $24 billion on to domestic programs and $36 billion for the military (Bush's full request) from last year's budget. The Washington Post says most of that $21 extra billion would go to education, infrastructure, renewable energy and vets.
- predicts a $340 billion deficit next year, with dwindling deficits until there is a small surplus in 2012. By all accounts, that's an overly rosy (or even disingenuous) prediction as it assumes that only $70 billion will be needed for Iraq in the next five years and that Alternative Minimum Tax will hit middle class Americans (even though every year Congress votes to exempt middle income families). To the dismay of anti-taxists, the budget also assumes that many of the Bush tax cuts would expire in 2010, although tax cuts aimed at lower and middle income families would remain.
The nitty gritty
With a budget resolution and each of their own budget allocations, subcommittees in the House and Senate get to work over the summer writing the detailed spending bills. Below you'll see how much each committee is allocated (compared to how much was budgeted last year) as well as other tidbits cJ picks up along the way.
|The House||The Senate|
|Agriculture||$20.6 billion allocated. 11%||$20.4 billion allocated. 10%|
|Commerce, Justice & Science||$56.8 billion allocated. 9%||
$57.9 billion 11%
Includes $26b for the Justice Dept., $9b for the Commerce Dept., $18b for NASA.
|Defense||$488 billion allocated. 6%||$488 billion allocated. 6%|
|Energy & Water||
$33 billion allocated. 8%
Includes $27b for the energy department, $2.5b going to efficiency and green energy programs.
|$33 billion allocated. 8%|
|Financial Services||$22.4 billion allocated. 8%||$22.9 billion allocated. 8%|
$40 billion allocated. 12% (with an additional $2.2b for a BioShield program)
The bill includes $950m for state grants, $800m for firefighters, $400m for ports, $400m for transit security grants, $800m to deport illegal immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would bet $4.8b total.
$40 billion 12% (with an additional $2.2b for a BioShield program)
|Interior, Environment||$28 billion allocated. 5%||
$28 billion allocated. 5%
Some senators will try to use the Interior bill to open up drilling offshore and in ANWR, but it doesn't seem like they'll have a good shot.
|Labor, Health & Education||$153 billion allocated. 6%||
$154 billion allocated. 6%
Includes $14.5b for Title I education (high poverty schools) and $11.4b for IDEA (kids with disabilities). National Institutes for Health would get $30b, $1b more than last year.
|Legislative Branch||$4 billion allocated. 10%||$4 billion allocated. 10%|
|Military Construction & Veterans||
$73 billion bill passed. 14%
see HR 6599
$48b of that goes to veterans
|$73 billion allocated. 14%|
|State & Foreign Operations||$37 billion allocated. 12%||$37 billion allocated. 12%|
|Transportation & Housing||
$55 billion allocated. 13%
We think the $55b is discretionary, with the total bill being $108b. At $10b, public transportation would be getting a $1b boost. Section 8 housing would also get $1b more for $7b in total funding. With smaller increases, Community Development Block Grants would get a total of $4b, airport improvements $3.5b, airplane safety $1b, Amtrak $589m, other intercity rail projects $1.5b. Highways get the biggest chunk at $40b.
|$53.3 billion allocated. 9%|
Updated March 8, 2009