Line Items: Hockey Edition

Dropping the Puck – The NHL season is finally underway, and it only took the Washington Capitals five games to get a win. Things are similarly getting off to a slow start with the new session of Congress. Negotiations over filibuster reform officially kept the Senate in its first day until the matter was resolved last week. Policymakers have a full schedule: in addition to immigration reform, climate change and gun control, there are a series of fiscal deadlines that they will have to contend with. But if the NHL can resolve the lockout, perhaps anything is possible.

Debt Ceiling Going to the Penalty Box – Last week, the House passed legislation that would suspend the debt limit until May 18, putting off a contentious fight that could rattle markets. The Senate is expected to take up the measure Wednesday and it is expected to pass. The President is also expected to sign it when it reaches his desk. The bill also includes a “No Budget, No Pay” provision stipulating that lawmakers will have their pay withheld after April 15 until their chamber passes a budget or the 113th Congress ends. The debt limit drama may be delayed past mid-May, because the Treasury Department could again use “extraordinary measures” to ward off default.

Sequester Coming in on the Next Line Change – While Congress will likely put off the next debt limit fight for a while, the next fiscal battle will still come soon as the across-the-board spending cuts of the sequester will kick-in on March 1. While the fiscal cliff deal slightly reduced the cuts under sequestration, they would still be significant.

Americans Say: No More Passing the Fiscal Puck – A poll last week from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that reducing the budget deficit has risen on the public’s agenda. The issue now is only behind strengthening the economy and improving the jobs situation as the top issue for voters. It has climbed higher than any other issue in the past four years. The sentiment is echoed in a Gallup survey from earlier this month in which voters say the federal budget deficit is just behind the economy as the most important issue facing America today.

The Puck Stops with Her? – New Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is not wasting time in getting to work. Not only has she promised that the committee will produce a budget for the first time in years, but she is taking steps to involve the public in the process like never before. On Monday Sen. Murray announced “MyBudget”, a platform for Americans to share their stories about how the federal budget impacts them, express their budget priorities and provide ideas for tackling our budget challenges. The Fix the Debt Campaign also allows the public to share their stories about why the national debt matters to them and our online budget simulator allows people to create their own budget plan.

Still Trying to Ice IPAB – Legislation has again been introduced in the House to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was created by the Affordable Care Act. The panel of 15 healthcare experts will provide recommendations to reduce Medicare costs. Under the law, Congress has to vote on the panel’s recommendations, if Congress rejects a proposal, it must either do so with a three-fifths supermajority or find Medicare savings at least equal to the rejected ideas. IPAB is one of the central cost-cutting mechanisms in the health care reform law. As such, it should not be repealed unless it is replaced with another cost-containment process or a package of reforms.

Kerry Wants to Mind the Fiscal Policy Net – During his Senate confirmation hearing last week to be the next Secretary of State, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) went into unexpected territory when he talked about the global importance of the U.S. addressing its fiscal challenges. He said, "The first priority of business which will affect my credibility as a diplomat and our credibility as a nation, as we work to help other countries create order, the first priority will be that America at last puts its own fiscal house on order." Sen. Kerry previously served on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly known as the Super Committee.

Tax Reform Offsides or On Goal? – While some question if fundamental tax reform will occur this year with everything else on the agenda, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) is moving forward. Last week, he released a discussion draft with ideas for changing how financial products are taxed. Hopefully more steps towards comprehensive tax reform will soon be made.

Sandy Relief Finds the Back of the Net – On Monday, the Senate approved of $50.5 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy. The House already passed the bill. Debate over the size of the package and whether it should be offset delayed enactment late last year. In the end, none of the measure was paid for.

Entitlement Reform Power Play Coming Up?Politico reports on some reforms to Medicare and Social Security that have some support among progressives. One of the ideas in switching to the chained CPI, which is a more accurate measure of inflation, for adjusting benefits. Read more about the chained CPI here. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also recently laid out some ideas that have received bipartisan support.

What Should be the Game Plan?The New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman has recently argued that that the long-term debt should be addressed later and need not be addressed now. CRFB has taken issue with his views here and here.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times are ET)

January 30

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

February 1

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

February 4

  • By law, the President's budget must be submitted by the first Monday in February, occurring February 4 this year. The deadline will likely be missed this year because of the fiscal cliff.

February 5

  • The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will release its 2013 Budget and Economic Outlook at 1 PM.

February 6

  • House Budget Committee holds a hearing on CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook with CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf.

February 12

  • President Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

February 21

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

February 28

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

March 1

  • Across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending prescribed in the Budget Control Act, known as "sequestration," will take effect.

March 8

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

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 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.