Budget Process and Rules
Attempting to place a leash on federal spending, members of the Blue Dog Coalition are introducing legislation this week to reinstate discretionary spending caps. Led by Reps. Frank Kratovil of Maryland and Travis Childers of Mississippi, the legislation would impose caps that would cut non-security spending by nearly 2 percent in each of the next three fiscal years and then freeze those levels for an additional two years. The plan also would require a two-thirds vote in both houses for any "emergency" spending that would breach those limits.
Health Care Reform Moves Toward Showdown – The House Budget Committee today voted to push health care legislation forward. It now moves to the House Rules Committee, which later this week will make changes and approve of a rule for its consideration on the House floor. The bill approved by the Budget Committee today was merely a placeholder, the Rules Committee will make changes endorsed by the Democratic leadership designed to “correct” the health care overhaul approved by the Senate late last year in order to attract more votes in the House.
Today a new bipartisan caucus was announced to support passage of H.J. Res.1, a balanced budget constitutional amendment. The co-chairs are Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Jim Marshall (D-GA) and founding members are Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC).
Legislation from Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to establish discretionary spending caps may get a third vote this week in the Senate after falling one vote short of the needed 60 votes last week. The bipartisan proposal seems to be gaining momentum after getting 56 votes in January during the debt ceiling increase debate.
Here's a good one for you: Using the House legislative calendar as a guide, as of March 10, Congress will have 16 legislative days to enact a budget resolution to meet its April 15 statutory deadline. Sixteen days? Congress can't even name a Post Office after someone in 16 days. Under the Budget Act of 1974 and its later amendments, Congress is required to complete work on the resolution by that date; if the House and Senate fail to meet the deadline, appropriators are allowed to begin work on their annual spending bills on May 15.
UPDATE: The Coburn amendment was agreed to on a 100-0 vote.
The Senate today will consider a proposal from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to post information on spending approved by the chamber. Amendment # 3358 to the tax extenders bill (H.R. 4213) will require the Secretary of the Senate to post on the Senate website information on:
Temporary Tax Extensions Avoid “The Hurt Locker” – The Senate passed H.R. 4691, a 30-day extension of several expired tax breaks and unemployment and health-care benefits, last week after reaching a deal with Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). He had blocked the vote because the $10 billion measure was not paid for. Under the deal the Senate considered a Bunning amendment to offset the cost; the proposal was voted down.
Here are the highlights from this weekend’s editorials on fiscal and budget policy:
The New York Times called on Congress to do more to create jobs. They criticized Congress for not being able to pass "a puny bill that is expected to create, at most, a few hu ndred thousand jobs this year. The Times suggested making another round of fiscal aid to the states to prevent counterproductive fiscal tightening.
In last week's backgrounder blog post on budget reconciliation, we said that the process has been used 22 times in the past, with the President having vetoed three of the bills. That leaves 19 bills that have become law through this special process since 1980. In the graph below, we show the net effect on the deficit of all these bills over the years defined by that year's budget resolution rules.
Unable to pass health care reform using “regular order,” Congressional Democrats now are turning to much-misunderstood process known as “budget reconciliation” to enact the measure. They'll still have to do legislative back flips to get the job done, but the process gives Democrats two major advantages: In the Senate, debate is limited to 20 hours--in other words, no filibusters allowed--and it can pass the Senate with 51 votes, rather than the 60 that much legislation has been required to overcome the filibuster threat.