Congress Passes Republican Budget Resolution

2016_budget_header On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a GOP proposed budget by a narrow 219 to 208 margin. 182 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted against the measure. Fissures between Republican members focused on those advocating for universally decreased spending, while others insisted on the restoration of funding to defense programs – a point of contention that was directly reflected in two separate budget drafts. The passed budget would ultimately raise defense spending by $96 billion in the “off-budget war account” — a loop around requirement that defense and non-defense funding levels remain equal. If enacted, the House version of the budget would gut $5.5 trillion in spending over the course of the next 10 years (the largest cut of any House Republican budget proposal during the Obama years), and 3.7 trillion (69%) of those reductions would come directly from non-defense discretionary funding, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Non-defense discretionary is the pool of federal money used for education, healthcare, care for veterans, and a host of other programs. Specifics of how such cuts would be distributed across programs in corresponding areas stands to be decided at the committee level, during the appropriations process. Across the Capitol, the Senate approved their Republican Budget resolution around 3:00am on Friday with a 52-46 vote, after a all day “marathon” of amendment vote additions. Hundreds of amendments were introduced on the floor of the chamber over the last several days, including ample education related additions. Among amendments passed related to K-12 education included Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA), which allows states to opt-out of Common Core Standards without penalties, and Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) where the government will establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation that reforms and strengthens elementary and secondary education. Amendments enacted related to higher education featured Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN), which establishes a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to providing students and families with transparent, and easily accessible information on higher education financial aid. Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), also planned to introduce two amendments affecting higher education, including one that would block President Obama’s controversial college ratings system from being implemented. However, neither were introduced before the Resolution was passed. The House and Senate will now undergo a joint conference, and will attempt to hash differences in their budget proposals. The proposals vary by little, however if the numbers stay consistent, the deep cuts sustained across the board in non-defense spending will likely mean large spending reductions to education programs and bad news for proponents of K-12 and music education, all around. Ronny Lau, Special Assistant, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, March 2, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (