Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Federal Update for January 6, 2011

After the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives were sworn in and a new Speaker (John Boehner, R-OH) was elected earlier in the day, the House took up and passed its package of rules for the 112th Congress. The resolution includes a number of changes to the budget process.

For example, language in the rules package would have the effect of allowing the new Chairman of the Budget Committee (Paul Ryan, R-WI) to set the budget allocation levels for the remainder of FY2011, and these allocation levels would be deemed as the levels that were included in a budget resolution. No budget resolution was adopted for FY2011. The language would also attempt to impose a five-year cap on the overall budget through FY2015.

The exact language regarding this issue appears below:

(1) The chair of the Committee on the Budget (when elected) shall include in the Congressional Record budget aggregates and allocations contemplated by section 301 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and allocations contemplated by section 302(a) of that Act for each of the fiscal years 2011 through 2015.

(2) The aggregates and allocations specified in subsection (1) shall be considered as contained in a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011 and the submission thereof into the Congressional Record shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011[.]

The package would also allow the Budget Committee chair to provide “authoritative guidance” on the potential impact of a legislative proposal on “new budget authority, outlays, direct spending, new entitlement authority and revenues."

The newly adopted rules would prevent the House from taking up any piece of legislation that would increase mandatory spending within a ten-year window. Cuts would need to accompany proposed spending increases. The new rules would also prevent a budget reconciliation package from being used to increase net spending but would still allow the process to be used as a vehicle for tax cuts.

The new rules that were approved put Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan in the driver’s seat. This gives Budget Chairman Paul Ryan extraordinary power to dictate the House’s spending target for the remaining three-fifths of the year.

In the U.S. Senate, 13 Senators were sworn in and no legislative action is expected in the chamber until after the Martin Luther King holiday (January 17) in order to provide the two parties with additional time to consider possible changes to Senate operating rules. However, the changes adopted in the House are certain to set up a clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will continue to use its own budget rules requiring tax cuts and spending increases to be paid for.

After winning passage in both chambers just before the end of last Congress, the legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act was signed into law by President Obama yesterday.

(APLU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)