Senate Panel Approves FY16 Corps Funding, But Bill May Not Move to Floor

June 4, 2015

The Senate Appropriations Committee late last month approved a fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill funding the water resources program of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the bill – and all other 2016 appropriations measures – may not move to the Senate floor unless Republican leaders first renegotiate budget spending totals with the White House.

The bill is H.R. 2028 and the committee report is S. Rept. 114-54. The White House traditionally does not release a Statement of Administration Policy on an appropriations bill until it moves to the floor, but the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to the Senate this week expressing its views on the bill.

The bill appropriates $5.50 billion for the Corps’ water resources program for next year, $140 million less than the House-passed bill and $17 million more than the FY 2015 appropriation. (The Senate total is $768 million above the President’s request, but Presidents of both parties traditionally request much lower budget levels for Corps programs because they know that the Corps-loving Congress will always restore the money.)

The Senate bill provides adequate appropriations to utilize all of the estimated fiscal year 2016 revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and meets the target level prescribed in the 2014 water resources development law for total funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

The table below shows the account-by-account spending levels in the Senate bill for Corps of Engineers accounts versus last year, the budget request and the House bill.


Hopes that the Senate would return to regular order (meaning the consideration of appropriations bills on the Senate floor, subject to a wide range of floor amendments) were dashed when the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), indicated just before the Memorial Day recess that Democrats intend to present a unified front and vote “no” on all motions to proceed to appropriations bills until Republicans negotiate an increase in the Budget Control Act spending caps that limit total appropriations for 2016. If the “vote no” strategy also includes voting “no” on cloture motions on motions to proceed (which require 60 votes), this would prevent any appropriations bills from coming to the Senate floor.

Republican and Democratic appropriators agree on the need to enact something like the Ryan-Murray law that will increase the BCA spending caps for 2016, paid for by cuts in mandatory spending and increased user fees (as Republicans want) or by spending cuts, fee increases and tax increases (as the President wants). But Republican appropriators want to keep working on amending and passing appropriations bills throughout the summer and then add money to them in conference once a cap increase is worked out, while Democratic appropriators are siding with the White House and are trying to force talks on a cap increase before the Senate can amend and pass any appropriations bills.

The table below shows the original BCA caps from 2011 and changes made since then.




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