Stumbling Back Home – Budget Day and Fat Tuesday collided this week as the White House unveiled its $3.9 trillion Fiscal Year 2015 budget request on Tuesday, a month later than the law dictates. The budget landed as people around the world partied ahead of Lent. It is fitting that the two events collided given that the budget this year, maybe even more than usual, primarily centers on parties, namely the political parties.
Closing the Ceremony – The Winter Olympics ended in Sochi, Russia on Sunday with the closing ceremony. The eye-catching spectacle put an exclamation point on two weeks of intense drama and competition. Another ceremonial closing occurred back in Washington as it was reported that the president’s forthcoming budget would not include any offers of compromise as last year’s budget did.
Cold Reality – The Winter Olympics are in full swing in Sochi, Russia, but Washington saw its own share of winter games before Congress adjourned for yet another break. Lawmakers played with the debt limit and considered virtually every idea under the sun before agreeing to put it off for another year. Legislators also fooled around with various budget gimmicks as they seek to game the system. There are a lot of issues that Americans want their representatives to tackle, but there isn’t much hope of that happening in this political climate.
Having Our Phil – Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last Sunday, traditionally meaning six more weeks of winter. That is no surprise to most of the country that has seen record low temperatures and extraordinary amounts of snow. Most of us have accepted the reality of more wintry weather ahead just as we recognize that little in the way of substantive action will come out of a polarized Washington. But that doesn’t mean we are happy about it.
Making a Statement – President Obama gave the State of the Union address on Tuesday. While he presented an optimistic message of action to promote growth and opportunity, the speech also made clear the reality that expectations for legislative action were low in this election year. The president highlighted several unilateral actions he would take by executive order.
One Debate Spent, More to Come – The long saga over the Fiscal Year 2014 budget came to an end as Congress approved of spending bills funding the government. While the votes on the appropriations package in both houses were lopsided, the bipartisan result came only after a protracted process that included a shutdown in October, two sets of tense negotiations, and several stopgap measures.
Out with the Old, In with the ? – 2013 is history and 2014 is just underway. While the New Year is usually a time for optimism, this year begins with many questions and concerns. Although there is hope for stronger economic growth in 2014, there is still much anxiety.
That’s a Wrap – The House wrapped up its work for 2013 last week, passing the budget agreement worked out by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and extending the “doc fix” into next year to buy some more time for negotiations on that front. The Senate is trying to finish up this week and also approved of the budget deal, sending it to the president who has promised to sign it. The budget deal is one of the few things Congress was able to leave under the tree after a year marked by partisanship, brinksmanship and general dysfunction.
We Have a Deal – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a budget deal late Tuesday after weeks of negotiation and a few days ahead of the December 13 deadline for their conference committee to report an agreement. The deal sets topline spending numbers for the next two years, $1.012 trillion for fiscal year 2014 and $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015.
Deals to be Had – We survived Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. While the door buster bargains may be gone, there are still deals for the taking in Washington. Namely, lawmakers have striking deals on a budget and farm bill on their wish lists.