AASA Supports Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

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Congress faces two significant tasks before the end of the year: raising the debt ceiling (which expires Nov 3) and completing its annual appropriations work  to avoid a federal shutdown (the current continuing resolution ends Dec 11). Recent history would indicate that Congress would legislate by crisis, waiting until the 11th hour on both proposals, bringing the nation to the brink of a shutdown.

Not this week, though. Breaking recent trends of both last-minute legislation AND highly partisan approaches, Congress is set to vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, a bill that would raise the debt ceiling and replace sequester/raise draconian funding caps, setting the stage for far-less contentious discussions for wrapping up the annual appropriations work. 
 
On Monday, a surprisingly-well guarded round of discussions between House and Senate leadership and the White House was released, called the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. You can read the full budget agreement here

You'll recall that when it comes to FY16 funding, AASA has three priorities: replace/repeal sequester, advance a short-term continuing resolution to buy Congress more time to negotiate raising the caps, and then provide appropriations bills that invest in (Rather than cut!) education. To date, Congress had adopted a clean continuing resolution through December 11. In announcing the BBA, Congress replaces sequester for two years and raises the caps, putting Congress on a path to more adequately invest in education. 

What do you need to know about the deal? 

  • AASA supports the BBA. Read our letter of support. AASA is a member of the Committee for Education Funding, and I serve as President. CEF also endorsed the BBA; read their letter of support.  
  • The deal replaces sequester caps for two fiscal years (FY16 and FY17). In raising the caps, the deal maintains the very important principle of parity between defense and non-defense discretionary funding, raising caps for each by $33 billion in FY16 and $23 billion in FY17.
  • Raises the debt ceiling through March 15, 2017
  • This represents, potentially, the last budget negotiation of the Obama administration. 

What are the next steps?

  • The House is set to vote today on the bill. Once the Senate votes and it is signed into law, the next step is a return to the appropriations process.
  • Appropriations committees will receive their respective allocations (presumably with an increase, given the raised caps). These allocation numbers could be available later this week, and would give us an idea of what additional funding is available for education.
  • This process is far from over. The debt ceiling won't be breached, the funding caps were raised and the government shutdown was avoided. The negotiations for specific programs, though, can still be contentious and we have to see the extent to which policy riders (most recently best embodied in the debate over Planned Parenthood funding and the continuing resolution) rear their heads and threaten to 'disrupt the apple cart'


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