The FY12 appropriations process continues to creep forward in the shadow of negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders over the debt limit and long-term deficit reduction. The Obama administration is sticking to August 2nd as the date by which a deal must be reached in order to avoid what would be the first ever U.S. default on its debt.
The administration is insistent on putting cuts to discretionary programs, entitlement reform, and taxes (particularly regarding corporate loopholes) all on the table. However, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), tax increases need to be removed from consideration because they can’t pass Congress. In a White House press conference today, President Obama stated that if revenue enhancements are not on the table, it will force major cuts in areas such as college student grants and medical research. The only path to the level of deficit reduction being discussed involves severe cuts to much of the domestic discretionary budget, or mixing cuts with revenue generating measures. Given the two competing proposals, Washington currently finds itself at another stalemate -similar to the threatened budget shutdown in the spring.
AADR meetings with congressional staffers have confirmed the widely held view that it is the high level debt limit/deficit reduction negotiations between the President and leaders in Congress that will ultimately decide the parameters for FY12 spending. However, offices on Capitol Hill continue to meet with constituent groups, because once the “big picture” is set… the House and Senate will still need to provide specific funding levels for agencies and programs in the form of 2012 appropriations bills. Members of the research community are still encouraged to reach out to their elected officials.