Line Items: Budget Week Edition

Big Week – The budget once again takes center stage this week. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his fiscal year 2014 budget blueprint on Tuesday. His counterpart, Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) will follow suit this week as well. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved forward a spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year, and President Obama is making the rounds on Capitol Hill to drum up support for a grand bargain on the national debt. These developments could shape prospects for long-term debt action.

Dueling Budgets – The Ryan budget plan reflects the priorities of Republicans who run the House and will cut $4.6 trillion in federal spending over ten years compared to current policy in order to balance the budget. The Murray budget is the standard bearer for Democrats controlling the Senate and features $1.85 trillion in deficit reduction through a mix of spending cuts and additional revenue. The House Budget Committee will mark up the Ryan budget on Wednesday and the Senate Budget Committee is expected to finish marking up the Murray budget on Thursday. Both budgets are expected to be considered on the floors of their respective chambers next week where they will compete with other proposals and amendments. While the two plans have little in common, considering both approaches could spark a necessary debate on fiscal priorities and what fiscal direction the country should take. Check out our criteria for what to look for in budget plans. Read our statement and see our preliminary analyses of the Ryan budget here and here, and come back for more throughout the week.

More to Come – Missing so far is a budget proposal from the White House, which missed the statutory first Monday in February deadline because of the fiscal cliff uncertainty at the end of last year. Sources say the budget could come on April 8. The Obama budget is expected to follow his previous outline for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

President Obama Comes to the Hill – As part of his new effort to reach out to lawmakers, President Obama will meet with both parties in both chambers this week. One of the top issues he will discuss is the national debt and a possible grand bargain to address it. Obama wants any debt deal accomplished by the end of July ahead of the next debt ceiling fight.

Senate Moves on Spending Bills – While Congress moves on next year’s budget, lawmakers are also trying to put spending for the rest of this year to rest. The stopgap measure currently funding the federal government expires on March 27 and Congress is working to avoid a government shutdown and fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30. The House already passed legislation that takes sequestration into account and gives added flexibility to defense and veterans programs for meeting the cuts mandated by the sequester. The Senate Appropriations Committee agreed on a bill that will extend the flexibility to agriculture, homeland security and commerce, justice, and science. Democrats had to give up on flexibility for other areas, which was included in their original draft. The Senate will debate the measure this week, and votes on some amendments will be allowed.  

Tax Reform Moves Forward – House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) released a draft proposal to reform small-business taxes on Tuesday as part of a larger push for fundamental tax reform. Underscoring how serious the effort is, lobbying on the matter is picking up steam considerably.

Pressure for Entitlement Reform – Although President Obama signaled he is open to some entitlement reforms as part of a comprehensive debt deal that also includes new revenue, many Democrats in Congress are leery of going there. Now comes some pressure to address the issue. Left-of-center Third Way warns that failure to address the unsustainable finances of entitlements will harm investments in areas such as education and infrastructure. Similarly, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and Harry Holzer of the Georgetown University contend that entitlements must be reformed in order to preserve adequate funding that will strengthen the country in the future.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times are ET)

March 13

  • House Budget Committee mark-up of FY 2014 budget resolution at 10:30 am.
  • Senate Budget Committee begins mark-up of FY 2014 budget resolution at 2 pm.
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on "The Costs and Impacts of Crisis Budgeting" at 2:30 pm.

March 14

  • Senate Budget Committee continues mark-up of FY 2014 budget resolution at 9 am.

March 15

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases February 2013 Consumer Price Index data.

March 27

  • Current continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government expires.

March 28

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis releases third estimate of 2012 4th quarter and annual GDP.

April 5

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases March 2013 employment data.

April 15

  • Congress must pass a budget resolution as specified in the Congressional Budget Act. Also, due to the debt ceiling suspension bill, lawmakers will have their pay withheld after this date until their respective chamber passes a resolution.

April 16

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases March 2013 Consumer Price Index data.

April 26

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis releases advance estimate of 2013 1st quarter GDP.

May 3

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases April 2013 employment data.

May 16

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases April 2013 Consumer Price Index data.

May 19

  • The debt limit is re-instated at an increased amount to account for debt issued between the signing of the suspension bill and this date. After re-instatement, the Treasury Department will be able to use "extraordinary measures" to put off the date the government hits the debt limit potentially for a few months.

May 30

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis releases second estimate of 2013 1st quarter GDP.