The next round has begun in Congress' long-running partisan fiscal fight. The focus now is a fiscal 2014 budget resolution. House Republicans and Senate Democrats have advanced sharply differing budget frameworks. Narrowing the wide gaps will be tough, particularly with blasts of criticism flying from both sides.
At ENR press time, the House was close to passing a measure that Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says would trim outlays by $4.6 trillion over 10 years, compared with current estimated fiscal-policy levels, and erase the federal deficit by 2023.
The Senate Budget Committee cleared its version on March 13. A floor vote was possible by March 22. Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says it would slice—but not eliminate—the deficit by $1.85 trillion by 2023. The bill includes a $50-billion infusion for transportation infrastructure, plus $10 billion for ports and waterways, $20 billion for school facilities and technology and $10 billion to launch a federal infrastructure bank.
The House bill has no such infrastructure provisions. As envisioned, it would slash overall 2015 transportation funds 54%, to $40 billion, from 2014's estimated level. The Senate panel's version wants to pare 2015 transportation funding by less than 1%, to $88.5 billion.
Budget resolutions lay out overall spending levels. Appropriators set line-item amounts.