Between the ‘Lines’: A Midweek Update

Up-Hill Battle for the Budget – Democratic leaders in Congress are floating the possibility that there will be no budget resolution this year, citing election year pressures. Congress will definitely miss tomorrow’s deadline for producing a budget blueprint. The Hill faces a full agenda, including financial regulatory reform and a Supreme Court nomination. Democratic leaders may seek to shield their members from a debate that will surely highlight the nation’s bleak fiscal outlook as Republican leaders vow to make the deficit a major issue. However, the chairmen of the budget committees, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and John Spratt (D-SC), indicate that they plan to move forward with drafting resolutions and both have said they will seek to go farther than the president’s budget in reducing the deficit. Conrad said that he is “going full speed ahead” and wants to include budget reconciliation instructions to reduce the deficit. CRFB issued a statement today urging Congress not to neglect its responsibility to adopt a budget resolution. The difficulty in producing a blueprint underscores the problems with the budget process and the need for reform. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform will issue recommendations in the fall to fix the broken process.

Tax Expenditures ScrutinizedCongressDaily [subscription required] reports that Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) wants the president’s fiscal commission to look at tax expenditures in addressing the budget deficit. Doggett, who is not a member of the commission, noted that many of these tax breaks are treated like entitlements and are rarely reviewed by Congress. CRFB made a similar point last week in highlighting tax expenditures as part of the Bottom Line’s Count Down to Tax Day series.

Blue Dogs on the Prowl for Deficit Reduction – The House Blue Dog Coalition has introduced the Targeted Deficit Reduction Act of 2010. The bill sets three fiscal goals –primary budgetary balance (excluding interest payments on the debt) in 5 years; full balance and reducing public debt to 60% of GDP in 2020. CRFB has been a leader in calling for the country to set a fiscal goal. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform recommended the 60% goal by 2018 in the report, Red Ink Rising. This week a group of former Blue Dog members, including CRFB board member Charlie Stenholm, announced the formation of the Blue Dog Research Forum to promote centrist principles in fiscal policy.