Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ryan Sworn in as Speaker, Faces Appropriations Battle

Drew Thies

Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was sworn in as the 54th Speaker of the House late last week, inheriting a tumultuous chamber in the wake of former Speaker John Boehner’s surprise resignation announcement earlier in October.

The 16-year Congressional veteran and former Republican vice presidential nominee was sworn in just as the House voted on a bipartisan budget deal negotiated by Congressional leadership and the White House. The budget raises the debt ceiling and sets government spending parameters for the next two years, eliminating for Speaker Ryan two important deadlines before the close of the year.

Ryan, however, publically expressed dissatisfaction with the top-down approach of the deal, indicating that he will seek to return to a regular committee process during his tenure as Speaker.

The budget deal, which was signed into law by the President Monday, establishes top-line discretionary spending levels, but does not take into account how that money is appropriated. Congress will have to come up with a plan to divvy up the $1.067 trillion for fiscal year 2016 among the 12 appropriations subcommittees and their agencies of jurisdiction before the Dec. 11th deadline when current government funding expires.

Already, conservative Republicans have expressed concern with funding for controversial entities such as Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency, groups they say have over stepped their boundaries and for which federal funding should be drawn down or cut. Democrats view these attempts as non-starters.

Ryan has already indicated he will, in line with his promise to return power to Congressional committees, open the door to policy riders on appropriations legislation. Ryan said meeting the early December deadline will be “tough,” especially with the competing interests on what looks to be the last major piece of legislation passed in 2015.

A final agreement could range anywhere from a full, omnibus appropriations bill, funding all 12 committees for the full, 2-year budget period, to another continuing resolution (CR), funding the government at current levels until a deal can be reached. Additionally, some committees may receive full funding while controversy may force others to pursue a CR to avoid a partial shutdown.

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