The House approved 228-191 the so-called Ryan FY13 budget blueprint (H. Con. Res. 112). The vote came after the House rejected a number of alternative budget plans proposed by various congressional groups. Ten Republicans voted against the Ryan budget plan and all voting Democrats voted against it.

Earlier, the House, also in a surprisingly lopsided vote, rejected (38-382) a bipartisan plan modelled on the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission report. The margin was somewhat surprising because many members previously expressed support for the comprehensive plan’s approach.

Because the Senate is not expected to take up a budget, Congress will have to find a way to address the gap between the House budget's discretionary spending cap of $1.028 trillion for FY13 and the Senate's limit of $1.047 trillion. If the House and Senate’s respective appropriations committees are unable to reach agreement on a uniform spending cap for discretionary programs by the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress will be unable to approve individual spending bills and a temporary stopgap spending bill would be needed to keep the government operating through the Nov. 6 general election.

Under current law, the ’01 and ’03 tax cuts are set to expire at ’12’s end, and $1.2 trillion in 10-year automatic across-the-board spending cuts are scheduled to begin in ’13. This will create significant challenges for Congress prior to the election. Action to reinstate the tax cuts and suspend sequestration likely will have to be addressed in a lame duck session. Even if the tax cuts are allowed to expire and sequestration takes effect -- which leaders of both parties have said should not happen -- the deficit for FY13-22 would total $2.887 trillion.

The Ryan budget also includes instructions to six committees to develop plans by April 27 to reduce spending by specific amounts by recommending changes to programs in their jurisdiction. The deficit reduction targets are: Agriculture, $33.2 billion; Energy and Commerce, $96.8 billion; Financial Services, $29.8 billion; Judiciary, $39.7 billion; Oversight and Government Reform, $78.9 billion; and Ways and Means, $53 billion.

The specific policy adjustments necessary to meet the assigned deficit reductions would be left to the committees. The agriculture committee will have to identify $33 billion in reductions based on current programs. Chairman Lucas (R-Okla.) has expressed confidence that the reconciliation process will not disrupt the development of new farm legislation as this process is unlikely to be followed by the Senate, thus having little effect on the farm bill process. However, Ranking Member Peterson (D-Minn.) has expressed concern that reconciliation could make the farm bill process more complicated and partisan.