Restoring A Normal Budget Process
Normally people aren’t applauded for doing what they ought to do, i.e. fulfilling basic expectations. Instead, they are applauded when they fulfill their requirements excellently, or even more so, when they surpass expectations.
Not so for the United States Congress in 2013.
For years, we have had to tolerate the frequent abdication by lawmakers, especially those in the Senate, of their legal budgeting responsibilities, so it’s almost exciting when they fulfill these basic and essential duties.
The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Knudsen states:
It is no great achievement for lawmakers simply to do what the law requires of them. Still, the passage of budget resolutions last month by both houses of Congress—after the Senate’s four years of neglect— does seem noteworthy.
In light of the Senate’s sudden burst of long-awaited action, President Obama’s tardiness in submitting his budget is not a blessing in disguise. It’s just a blessing because he is eager to raise taxes again.
This is, after all, the first time in 92 years that the House and Senate have completed their budgets before the President has released his. Thus, President Obama’s fiscal blueprint, scheduled for submission Wednesday (64 days late), is all but irrelevant. This creates a distinct opportunity for congressional leadership and an even greater need for the regular order in Congress and progress in fixing the government’s finances.
Congress should be able to ignore the President’s tax and spend strategy for now. The question facing lawmakers is whether they can reconcile the two very different budgets that passed in the Senate and the House. Knudsen explains that this is a remote possibility. Indeed, there is very little “common ground” to be found between the House- and Senate-passed budgets.
However, even if they do not succeed, they still have other ways not to be utterly dysfunctional (as they have been for the past two years) and instead to get on a path of spending discipline.
At a bare minimum, Knudsen suggests that Congress pursue regular appropriations. “Even without a budget resolution, the two chambers should adopt a single top-line appropriations figure write their 12 separate spending bills to that level, and clear all of them separately.”
They should delay, if not repeal the not so aptly named Affordable Care Act. Obamacare contains within it two unaffordable entitlements, namely, the health coverage subsidies and broadened Medicaid eligibility. Combined these will add $1.8 trillion to government spending over the next 10 years.
Finally, they should not push their budget work to end-of-year sessions – a practice that leads to higher spending and more debt .