US Senate gives final approval to budget resolution

On May 5, the US Senate gave final approval to the FY16 budget resolution conference report (S. Con. Res. 11), marking the first time in six years that Congress has been able to agree on a budget blueprint. The measure, which passed the Senate by a vote of 51 to 48, provides overall guidance for spending. Unlike appropriations bills which have the force of law, the resolution does not. It is significant because it signifies the approach Congress will take in enacting spending bills. It was approved by the House on April 30.

The FY16 agreement technically adheres to the spending caps (known as sequestration) enacted in the Budget Control Act of 2011 for both defense and nondefense discretionary spending in FY16, but it works around the defense spending cap by identifying an extra $38 billion through the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is not counted against the spending caps.

On the higher education front, it cuts the overall pool of funds for student aid, scientific research and institutional support by $496 billion over ten years, including $145.6 billion from Pell Grants and student loans.

While the resolution does contain reconciliation instructions (a process that allows for expedited legislation), they are directed only towards changes in the Affordable Care Act.

More on the budget resolution is available here.