Congress is on a two week Easter Break after passing a continuing resolution to keep the government running through the end of September. The continuing resolution kept the $85 billion in sequester budget cuts in place but provided some flexibility to avoid the planned furlough of meat safety inspectors.
The Congressional Budget Office says that Congress has now cut discretionary spending below pre-recession levels. However, entitlement spending continues to rise exponentially as the population ages and medical costs continue to rise.
Reconciling the House and Senate budget proposals for fiscal 2014 will top the agenda when Congress returns. And reconciling the budgets will be extremely difficult.
The Senate budget closes tax loopholes, cuts spending and increases spending for some job promoting, infrastructure rebuilding programs. The House proposal balances the budget in 10 years primarily through spending cuts.
With Republicans vowing to oppose the increase in taxes and Democrats arguing that the Republican spending cuts would hurt the economy the two parties may not be able to bridge their differences.
The House proposal would cut funding for the Agriculture Department by $184 billion over the next decade while the cuts in the Senate bill would total only $23 billion.