Senate Follows House, Passes Two-Year Budget

AASHTO Journal, 20 December 2013

Less than a week after the House passed the budget deal agreed upon by both chambers, the Senate passed the bill that outlines spending levels for two years by a vote of 64-36. The agreement came after weeks of close negotiation between House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA).

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which passed the House last week by a vote of 332 to 94, sets overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year (which began Oct. 1) at $1.012 trillion. This number is roughly halfway between what the Senate originally wanted ($1.058 trillion) and what the House was aiming for ($967 billion). That $967 billion level for 2014 was set as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The measure provides $63 billion (split evenly between defense and non-defense programs) in sequester relief during the next two years, which was fully offset by savings found in other areas. Defense discretionary spending for FY 2014 would stand at $520.5 billion and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion. Finally, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the budget agreement would cut the federal deficit by $85 billion through the next 10 years.

The budget deal likely will not have an impact on the Federal-aid Highway program, the highway safety programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or the Federal Transit Administration programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund. These programs are funded by contract authority and therefore not part of the discretionary spending caps in the budget deal.

The bill raises Transportation Security Administration fees from $2.50 per flight to $5.60. The bill also requires that TSA continue to staff airport secure area exit lanes rather than turning that responsibility over to airport officials. TSA had explored the idea of ceasing its staffing of those lanes to save money.

“This bill isn’t exactly what I would have written on my own, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chairman Ryan would have written on his own,” said Murray in a speech before the Senate vote. “It’s a compromise—and that means neither side got everything they wanted, and both sides had to give a bit… I am hopeful this deal can be a foundation for continued bipartisan work, because we have so many big challenges we need to tackle for the families and communities we represent.”

The bill now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Text of the legislation is available here.

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