Budget Process and Rules
If they Don’t Win It’s the Same – Opening Day presaged much of the same for Washington as the home team was clobbered. The White House hopes that the president’s opening pitch being off the mark is not an omen for the upcoming political season. The return of Congress -- still battered from the health care debate -- next week will kick-off a critical stretch that will determine if any other major legislation will be enacted this year, or if lawmakers will just play small ball until after the election.
Signaling bipartisan support for much-needed spending restraint, more than 100 members of the House and Senate are sponsoring legislation that would impose spending caps on discretionary spending. Nine bills imposing spending caps have been introduced in the House during the 111th Congress, while one bill has been introduced in the Senate.
For the United States Senate, which likes to be referred to as the "Upper Chamber," the term "vote-a-rama" does not sound too dignified. But the term, which could be some type of amusement park ride, will likely describe the Republican plan to slow down Democrats' plans to pass health reform through the budget reconciliation process. As bizarre as the budget process is, the "vote-a-rama" is a bit stranger.
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.