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.
Share the Love – Today’s the big day: messages will be sent, some will be showered with love, and others will feel left out. Of course, today is Budget Day, with the White House releasing its Fiscal Year 2012 budget request. [We also have a nagging feeling we should be sending flowers to loved ones for some reason.] The release of the budget will set off a debate over priorities and fiscal responsibility for next year.
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) have joined efforts in yet another bipartisan pairing, this time to enable enhanced rescission authority for the President in order to restrain spending. Last week we saw senators reach across the aisle to propose reforms for biennial budgeting and discretionary spending caps.
Budget Season Ramping Up – Football season may have ended last night, but budget season is just heating up. Lawmakers have introduced a plethora of bills in order to show voters that they are serious about addressing our fiscal problems. Expect that trend to continue, but pressure will increase for real action.
With the House Appropriations Committee releasing their spending allocations for each subcommittee yesterday, it is useful to examine what the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is still chaired by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), wanted to do with last year's failed Omnibus spending package -- wrapping all 12 appropriation bills into one.