The Senate gave final approval to a concurrent budget resolution when 51 Republican Senators approved the measure last Tuesday. The resolution allows for two significant actions: it allows Congress to spend more on the Defense Department while keeping a cap on domestic spending and it allows for reconciliation.

Although it is not law it is binding on the Congressional appropriations process. Under the current allocations to the 12 appropriations subcommittees the Labor-HHS spending allocation or total for FY 2016 is $153 billion for the House Committee, in the Senate the Labor-HHS allocation would be $156 billion. By comparison that subcommittee spent $155 billion in 2015 and $156 billion in 2014. In other words the Senate bill keeps current spending limits while the House cuts $3 billion below the 2014 mark. Even level funding creates great pressure especially if more funding is sought for some areas such as health research and education.

The resolution also allows Congress to spend $38 billion more for the Defense Department and does it by keeping the sequestration/ceilings in place by allowing Congress to call the spending “emergency” and thus not counted toward budget caps. The original budget agreement written into law (unlike a budget resolution) placed equal budget caps on defense and domestic spending with a belief that the only way conservatives could get more money for defense was to also allow increases in domestic spending. Congress can pass a defense bill with increased spending but the President could veto it or he has the authority to not allow the spending to be categorized as emergency spending.