Status Report

AIP FYI #125: Congress Looks to 2003 for Resolution of Appropriations Deadlock

By SpaceRef Editor
November 18, 2002
Filed under , ,

Hopes that eleven deadlocked FY 2003 appropriations bills might be passed
by a post-election Congress evaporated last week with the decision to fund
government programs until January 11, 2003. Under this plan, a new Congress
will take up the remaining bills when it reconvenes, intending to clear this
legislation before President Bush sends his FY 2004 budget request to the

The House of Representatives has essentially gone home until January, and
the Senate is expected to do so within the next few days. Before leaving,
the House passed a continuing resolution providing funding at FY 2002 levels
into January. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-West
Virginia) had hoped to pass at least a few of the less controversial bills,
but the House’s action forced Byrd’s hand.

When the Senate returns, Byrd will no longer be chairman of the
appropriations committee, with that position being passed to Senator Ted
Stevens (R-Alaska). Although it might be expected that Stevens’ accession
to the chairmanship would significantly smooth the appropriations process –
for both the current year and next year – that may not be necessarily true.
Stevens has had some well-publicized clashes with the director of the Office
of Management and Budget, with Stevens at one time saying that Director
Mitchell Daniels could best defuse a spending conflict by going home to
Indiana. Daniels declined to do so, and will be pressing Stevens and the
other appropriators in the next two months to adhere to President Bush’s
spending target for the FY 2003 bills.

This logjam will only be broken when the White House and the congressional
leadership agree on the spending target. Byrd and Stevens were able to get
all thirteen appropriations bills passed on the Senate floor earlier this
year, but only because they “spent” about $13 billion more than the
President had proposed. When the House tried to pass these bills using the
President’s number, the process deadlocked when it reached the very
expensive Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations

The plan is for the leadership and staff of the appropriations committees
and the White House to produce a spending agreement in the next 55 days that
Congress will vote on when it returns. The thinking is that the end result
may be in the form of one or two massive omnibus appropriations bills that
will take the remaining eleven bills and bundle them into one giant package
(defense and military construction have been passed.) All parties will be
trying to clear the decks before the Administration sends its next budget
request to Congress, touching off another difficult year in the
appropriations cycle. Complicating the resolution of this conflict will be
fiscal conservatives wanting to hold the line on spending, with other
Members seeing the omnibus bill as the last chance in the current fiscal
year to increase spending on favorite programs or projects.

Until this legislation is resolved, federal program managers will be
operating under last year’s spending rate, trying to make coherent plans for
the rest of the year with an uncertain budget.

Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3095

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SpaceRef staff editor.