Every Budget Put the Debt on a Downward Path…and This One Should Too

In additional to reopening the government and suspending the debt ceiling, last night, both the House and Senate agreed to go to Budget Conference. Both Houses named their conferees, and the conference leaders -- House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA), and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- had a breakfast this morning to discuss the best way forward. Under the agreement last night, the conference is supposed to submit a final report on December 13th. That final report should include a plan to put the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.

Essentially, the conference committee will be looking to reconcile the House and Senate budget resolutions which passed their respective chambers earlier this year. While it may seem like those budgets have little in common, there was one overarching theme which was embodied not only in those two budgets (see a comparison here), but in every single budget resolution proposed this year. All of the budget proposals -- including from as far left as the Congressional Progressive Caucus and as far right as the Republican Study Committee -- put the debt on a downward path as a percent of GDP. Where these budgets succeeded, the conference must succeed as well.

Source: HBC, SBC, CBC, CPC, RSC, CRFB calculations
Note: Debt numbers are adjusted for changes in CBO's baseline and GDP numbers since the plans were released

The upcoming budget conference offers a real opportunity to agree to a package of deficit reduction. Although their recommendations are by no means bindings, they can put forward a process ("reconciliation") and create the political space (through a bicameral bipartisan agreement) to allow Committees of jurisdiction to enact comprehensive debt reduction.

Both parties have released a number of plans which put debt on a downward path and as a result of the many plans that have been put in recent years, there are many options that could be accepted on a bipartisan basis. The foundation for a deal is there. Now both sides have to come together in the spirit of principled compromise to truly address the country's long-term finances. For this budget conference, failure should not be an option.