The House continues work on the first two appropriations bills of the FY-2016 budget, while the Senate and House named budget conferees last week to negotiate a concurrent budget resolution, with a goal to finish conferencing work within the next two weeks. On Wednesday, subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee approved the Energy-Water appropriations bill and the Military Construction – Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. Both bills passed at funding levels greater than the FY-2015 levels. The Energy-Water bill includes language that blocks a joint EPA-Army Corps of Engineers rule to define which waters can be regulated.

House appropriators released draft allocations for the subcommittees, which reduce funding for the spending measures that fund the IRS, EPA and Department of Education while increasing amounts for the spending bills that cover science programs and the departments of Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. Overall, the allocations are below the statutory cap of $1.017 trillion established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The draft allocation also includes $96 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is the full amount permitted in the House and Senate budget resolutions. The overall challenge to the budget process is keeping allocations within the spending limits imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011; some members from both parties feel the spending limits are too harsh to fund priorities. However, the only recourse to increase those limits is a new budget agreement approved by Congress and the White House.