The first official meeting of the conference committee is expected to occur sometime next week, at which point the conferees will begin attempting to reconcile the Senate and House budget proposals. Both budgets were passed with largely partisan support, so both Democrats and Republicans will need to look toward compromises over the next two months.
Bipartisan discussions over how to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling are coming down to the wire as this week begins, with only three days left until October 17 -- the date that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the U.S. government would be left with a dangerously low amount of cash on hand and default could potentially be imminent.
Today, the Fix the Debt Campaign's Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council released an open letter signed by a group of 120 former Members of Congress, calling for the President and Congress to start addressing the nation's fiscal problems. The members express that returning to the normal budget process is essential, and recognize that while working toward a bipartisan agreement may be difficult, it is necessary:
While it is incredibly disappointing that elected officials in Washington failed to avoid a government shutdown, attention is quickly turning towards raising the federal debt ceiling, which currently stands at $16.699 trillion.
Congress faces a number of looming fiscal crises this fall, and the first obstacle is just around the corner -- if lawmakers fail to pass legislation to fund federal programs before September 30, the government will shut down. Today, CRFB released a new Q&A for understanding government shutdowns and related issues, including continuing resolutions and the federal appropriations process. This new resource also provides a historical and legislative background to the upcoming fiscal
Yesterday, CRFB praised the recent bipartisan agreement to enact a permanent fix for student loans instead of another temporary and costly solution. The agreement would reduce interest rates for all borrowers in 2013 and then permanently peg future rates to those of government bonds in a way that will not add to ten-year budget deficits. The deal would be a permanent and fiscally responsible solution -- not something we see everyday.
After weeks of deliberation and two and a half weeks after a key deadline passed, we finally have a deal on student loans. A bipartisan group of Senators and the White House hashed out a deal to reform student loan interest rates, well after the 3.4 percent rate on subsidized Stafford loans had reverted to 6.8 percent on July 1.
The appropriations process is usually arduous, but this year may be even more so. The largest disagreement between the Senate and House, which is nowhere close to being solved, is how to deal with sequestration. The Senate Appropriations Committee is working from an overall funding level of $1,058 billion for FY 2014, as was set by the Budget Control Act caps without sequestration.
According to press reports today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are about to take a very encouraging step on tax reform this morning, releasing a letter to their colleagues to inform them that the Committee will follow the Fiscal Commission's "Zero Plan" approach to tax reform this year.