Brackets – As many busy themselves today going over the brackets for the big tourney, picking the next Cinderella and who will win it all, the real challenge for prognosticators remains predicting how the budget impasse will pan out. The budget process has gotten uglier than the 68 team bracket and all the moving parts – FY 2011 spending, the FY 2012 budget and the debt limit – make the road to Houston look like an easy jaunt.
Updated: Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), formerly of the President's Fiscal Commission, has introduced similar legislation in the House.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times? Let's just go with the worst of times.
Two important events are lined up for today. First, the Senate Budget Committee will hear testimony from Erskine Bowles and Senator Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the President's Fiscal Commission.
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.
In a vote of 91 to 9, the Senate has passed the House-crafted two-week continuing resolution (CR) to keep government doors open. Yesterday, this bill -- which will cut $4 billion in the next two weeks -- passed the House to set up this Senate vote. Congress was under pressure to reach an agreement before the current CR expires this Friday.
Today, the Senate Finance Committee had its first in a series of hearings for the coming year about reforming our tax code. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) has said he wants to hold weekly hearings on the subject in an effort to make progress on this issue in the near future. The issue has gotten a fair amount of attention in recent months, with hearings on tax reform also having taken place in the Senate Budget and House Ways and Means Committees.
UPDATE 3/1: House passes two-week CR by vote of 335-91. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says that the bill will be taken up in the Senate and is likely to be passed within the next 48 hours.
With the current CR for FY 2011 coming to an end March 4, both parties in Congress are issuing short term plans to avoid a government shutdown, or at least to have political cover in case the government is shuttered.
Day of Leaders – Today we celebrate great American leaders with mattress sales and a day off (for some) from work. Congress left town for the whole week. We at the Bottom Line honor the day by calling for the type of leadership embodied by the likes of Washington and Lincoln in dealing with our fiscal challenges. Last week both the White House and Capitol Hill put forth proposals that have much to be desired, meanwhile a bipartisan group of senators is negotiating on the type of comprehensive solution that the nation needs.
In a thoughtful Washington Post op-ed this morning, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) calls for leadership and shared sacrifice on the issue of deficit reduction and urges President Obama to join the growing number of senators who have been brave enough to tackle this critical issue head on.