Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Jacob Lew urges Congress to hew to the FY2012 funding levels set in the Budget Control Act (BCA) and to reject policy riders (legislative provisions) that undermine or severely underfund administration priorities.

Congress and the Administration agreed to funding levels that set FY2012 total discretionary funding at $1.043 trillion.  However, some representatives and senators have persistently argued that this level is too high and have pressed for additional cuts.  In a letter to House and Senate appropriations committee leaders, Lew says the administration strongly opposes this position.  “Disregarding the BCA agreement and cutting already-tight discretionary program levels even further would be a serious mistake,” Lew writes.

Lew says the administration also rejects the practice of including policy provisions in appropriations bills.  He points out that the agreement reached on FY2011 appropriations “reflected this understanding” and presses appropriators to follow this approach for FY2012. 

He also argues against passing short-term continuing resolutions (Congress passed seven for FY2011) saying that such a practice “prevents agencies from making needed decisions, generating harmful uncertainty and waste.”  Lew warns that the president would veto any FY2012 appropriations bill that “undermines critical domestic priorities or national security through funding levels or language restrictions, [or] contains earmarks.”

In what amounts to an appeal to Congress before the fact, the letter then lists administration priorities that if threatened by congressional action could cause a presidential veto.

On national security funding levels and issues, Lew’s letter urges Congress to adopt the Senate’s FY2012 allocation for DoD ($513 billion), which is the same as the FY2011 enacted level.  The president requested $530 billion for DoD (excluding military construction) for FY2012.  So, freezing DOD funding represents a $26 billion cut from the request and a reduction in real terms (adjusted for inflation) from the previous year.

The Administration urges Congress to support adequate funding for the State Department and Foreign Operations programs, and warns against cutting funds for global health, food security, and global climate change initiatives.  The letter urges robust funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to enable it to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and upgrade the nuclear stockpile.  The administration also wants Congress to provide $7.1 billion to replenish the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) so it can address the needs cause by recent disasters.

Nonsecurity priorities’ funding and programs highlighted in the Lew letter include:  Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) proposed funding for key education and training programs (Race to the Top, Pell Grants, and Workforce Innovation Fund), adequate funding to implement health care reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, adequate funding for infrastructure programs, and $50 billion for new surface transportation investment. 

The administration also urges Congress to support robust funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue to implement the provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act and provide at least $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The administration warns against cutting funding for what it calls core government functions such as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) programs and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations and modernization efforts.