House of Representatives
Even in best years the congressional appropriations process usually results in a proverbial train wreck. And this year is shaping up to be such a bad year that news headline writers may have to come up with a new description. The spending process which begins this week is fraught with bumps and unanswered questions.
Summertime, but the Living Isn’t Easy in Congress – Today brings the first official day of summer, but Washington has already been experiencing searing days and the Capitol dome is about to blow off from the heat inside. The longest day of the year comes as lawmakers face a long road on appropriations and taxes, not to mention the never-ending “extenders” bill, which still has no end in sight.
With much of the nation's attention focused on President Obama's oil spill address and much of the fiscal policy universe focused on the extenders bill, another bill was passed by the House on Tuesday. The Small Business Jobs Tax Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 5486) provides, as you would expect, a number of small business tax breaks, although the gross cost is expected to be very small (less than $4 billion).
“Beautiful Game”and Not-So-Pretty Agenda – Add soccer to all the other distractions in Washington as lawmakers face a packed agenda. With the World Cup under way and workers gathered around monitors in offices across the globe (when they’re not at the local bar), legislators in DC face action on key bills that will affect the nation’s bottom line. Meanwhile, the growing chorus for fiscal responsibility and offsets to spending are becoming as loud and ubiquitous as the sound of the vuvuzela at matches.
In testimony before the House Budget Committee this week, Ben Bernanke called for a plan to be put in place now to reduce deficits once the economy recovers. Already being a (frequently re-affirmed) member of the Announcement Effect Club, Bernanke's testimony was no surprise to readers of our blog or anyone who is familiar with Bernanke's public statements.
Chairman Bernanke's testimony today underscored the fundamental lack of sustainability of the growing federal budget deficit, while simultaneously defending the large increases in deficit spending that were necessary to support economic recovery. Bernanke predicts real GDP to grow at 3.5% over the course of 2010, yet he acknowledged that this must be tempered by latent problems in the housing market.
The establishment of a fiscal commission either in Congress or by the President was attacked from both sides of the political spectrum. Liberals thought that the group would be cover for cutting entitlement programs, while conservatives thought the commission would be a cover to raise taxes. When President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform came to be, both sides wanted to fence off different options for consideration. And it continues to happen.
Lawmakers have railed against the inability to stop the leaking of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, yet they are having no better success in staunching the flow of red ink. Congress needs its own containment cap to suppress spending and tax cuts that are deficit-financed.
Making the Pitch – With much of Washington eagerly anticipating the debut of Stephen Strasburg on the mound tomorrow, the return of Congress this week is an afterthought to many. But Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the Congressional rotation will need to have some pretty good stuff when they take the mound on Capitol Hill and face an opposing legislative line-up. They will have to show a lot of range as they pitch both economic stimulus and fiscal responsibility.