‘Line’ Items: Derby Edition

Super Saver Cashes In – Those who couldn’t resist the irony of betting it all on a horse named Super Saver were rewarded handsomely on Saturday as the colt crossed the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby. Maybe the folks on Capitol Hill will see the victory as a sign that fiscal responsibility can be a winning strategy.

Fiscal Commission Out of the Gate – The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform held its first meeting last week. It set a slow pace to begin with, but its work will be no sprint. It is tasked with providing recommendations by December 1 for reducing the annual federal budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2015 and improving the long-term fiscal outlook. President Obama sounded the call to the post with opening remarks to the panel. In public remarks shortly afterward he set the tone by saying “Everything has to be on the table,” which echoed a CRFB press release the day before. He also made it clear he did not want recommendations to be ruled in or out until the commission deliberated on them. The group heard testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and CRFB board members Rudy Penner and Bob Reischauer.

Summit Addresses Fiscal Problems – Though it didn’t resemble the infield at Churchill Downs, the fiscal summit hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation last week featured a large gathering of economists and public officials who are energized to address the fiscal problems facing the country. Thoroughbreds who addressed the gathering included former President Bill Clinton and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Budget Resolution Fading Down the Stretch – The prospects of Congress adopting a budget blueprint this year are dimming as the House delays action. While the Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution last month, the House has yet to act and each passing day makes it less likely it will do so. Democrats fear a budget debate will highlight the nation’s precarious fiscal state in an election year and divisions within the party will make adopting a budget plan difficult. Blue Dogs want to cut discretionary spending each year for three years and freeze spending for an additional two years. They also want Congress to set fiscal targets that must be met. One of the goals supported by the Blue Dogs is to reduce the debt to 60% of GDP by 2020, which closely tracks the Peterson-Pew Commission proposal of reducing debt to 60% of GDP by 2018 in Red Ink Rising. Progressives are concerned that the spending cuts will seriously impact social programs.

War Supplemental Tries to Emerge from the Pack – House leaders would like to pass a FY 2010 supplemental appropriations bill to fund the president’s request for $33 billion for additional troops in Afghanistan before the Memorial Day recess. Because it is considered must-pass legislation, it is an attractive vehicle for riders such as $2.8 billion for aid to Haiti, $5.1 billion for FEMA, and the tax and safety net extension legislation (HR 4213). Republicans are asking for an open process that will allow them to offer amendments.

Wall Street Reform Takes to the Post – The Senate will debate legislation to reform financial sector regulation this week. The bill (S 3217) has attracted numerous amendments from both sides that will take up much floor time between now and Memorial Day.

Bank Tax Coming Up Along the Rail – Congress will continue examining the proposed “bank tax” on financial firms that accepted TARP funds tomorrow with a Senate Finance Committee hearing featuring Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Congress Goes for the Roses with Pay Freeze – Both the House and Senate approved measures blocking automatic salary increases for members of Congress last week. The measure is largely symbolic when it comes to deficit reduction since it will only save about $ 1 million.

Poll Position Not Good for President – President Obama received his lowest marks from voters on handling the federal budget deficit in a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week. Only four in ten voters approve of his performance on the issue.