Bumping Up on the Debt Ceiling – On Monday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sent a letter to congressional leaders saying that his department this week would begin the “extraordinary measures” necessary to stave off a U.S. default absent an increase in the statutory debt limit, which will be breached around May 16.
Wedding Vows and Vows Kept – Last week the royal wedding in England between William and Kate garnered a great deal of attention on this side of the pond. Meanwhile another union seemed to blossom in this country – the pairing of a debt limit increase with some type of trigger mechanism. Now, the word that Osama Bin Laden has been killed and buried at sea puts an end to the quest for the man most responsible for the 9/11 attacks and finally fulfills a promise to bring him to justice that spanned two administrations.
“Trigger” has become the term du jour in the budget world as of late, particularly as it relates to the debt limit, and it doesn’t refer to shooting ourselves in the foot. On the contrary, agreement on a debt or deficit trigger could be just the thing to help us come together on raising the statutory debt ceiling and avoid facing the firing squad.
After the Bunny – Easter has come and gone. Chocolate-induced comas are being overcome and many -- though not Congress -- return this week from spring break. Are there still hidden Easter eggs waiting to be found? The debt ceiling and negotiations over a debt reduction deal will continue to be top items of interest.
Happy Tax Day – Today is about the consequences of procrastination for the great many waiting until the last minute to file their federal income tax returns. It is also the time when the most consideration is given to the costs and benefits of the federal government.
Deal on FY 2011 Spending Reached – A government shutdown was averted on Friday by an 11th hour agreement on federal spending for the rest of the fiscal year. The deal will cap 2011 appropriations at just under $1.050 trillion, reducing spending by about $38 billion from current levels. Congress passed a one week extension shortly after the deal was announced to allow time for the agreement to be drafted into legislation and enacted. The House is scheduled vote on the legislation enacting the budget agreement on Wednesday, with the Senate likely voting afterwards.
House GOP Budget Unveiled – On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, titled “The Path to Prosperity.” It is the Republican response to the White House budget released last month. The House Budget Committee will mark-up the bill today in an all-day session with the goal of voting on the House floor next week.
Today Senate Republicans unveiled legislation (S.J. Res 10) to adopt a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that has the support of all 47 members of the conference. Republicans had been previously split between two competing versions (S.J. Res. 3 and S.J. Res. 5). The united group will now work on gaining Democratic support. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants a vote on the proposal to accompany a vote to increase the debt limit.
In Bloom – Spring is officially here, though the weather would have one think otherwise. Frigid temperatures and even a little snow in the Washington, DC area early Sunday are indicative of how Washington often seems to resist the trends. Yet the inexorable change of seasons is upon us. The snow is already gone and the Cherry Blossoms are blooming. The Cherry Blossoms are a uniquely Washington tradition, drawing tourists by the thousands to experience their beauty and the promise of renewal that they represent.
Lots of Stopgaps, Little in Closing the Fiscal Gap – Washington averted a government shutdown last week by agreeing on a two-week continuing resolution (CR) that cuts $4 billion in spending. This is the fifth stopgap measure funding the federal government since the 2011 fiscal year began on October 1, 2010. The posturing and procrastination so far have resulted in little in the way of reducing our mounting national debt.