‘Line’ Items: New World Edition

Happy Columbus Day – Today we celebrate the man who introduced Europe to the riches of the New World. Nowadays, Europe could use such a discovery to alleviate its debt crisis, but what the EU is discovering instead is that the U.S. likely won’t be able to bail them out this time. The New World we find ourselves in now involves an economy that can’t seem to pick up and a debt trajectory that won’t head down without considerable action. Meanwhile, an intrepid band of 12 lawmakers is treading new ground in trying to forge agreement on concrete deficit reduction using a novel process. And the calls for the group to Go Big continue to grow. Will our new world produce prosperity or will it be an aimless search for a shortcut to fiscal sustainability?

Appropriations Still Off Course – Though we are more than a week into Fiscal Year 2012, there is no sign of land when it comes to agreement on a spending plan. The latest stopgap measure funding the federal government ends November 18, shortly before the Super Committee must agree upon its deficit reduction recommendations. Rolling the 12 annual spending bills into one big package, or a few smaller ones, is the best bet.

Senate Exploring How to Boost the Economy – The Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on ending a filibuster on the American Jobs Act (S. 1660), President Obama's jobs plan with the 5.6 percent surtax on those earning over $1 million that more than offsets the cost of the bill. CBO estimates that the package would result in about $6 billion in deficit reduction over ten years.  

Lawmakers Discover Budget Process Reform – The inability of Congress in recent years to pass a budget resolution or enact appropriations measures in a timely fashion has spurred legislators to consider a long-overdue overhaul of the budget process. The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the topic last week, which included CRFB President Maya MacGuineas testifying on biennial budgeting and board member William Hoagland discussing the “vote-a-rama” process. The hearing was followed up with a meeting of Committee members where most expressed support for biennial budgeting and tweaking the “vote-a-rama” process. The Committee holds another hearing on budget reform Wednesday. Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) unveiled his own bill to improve the budget process along with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). The House has also been looking into budget reform lately, with House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) saying he plans to release a package of reforms by the end of the year. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform put forth a detailed set of budget reform recommendations last year in Getting Back in the Black.

Can You Hear Me Now? – Just as Columbus returned to the Americas three times after his initial discovery, CRFB finds itself returning to Capitol Hill often to help lawmakers discover how to best address the country’s fiscal challenges. In addition to the budget reform hearing above, CRFB’s Maya MacGuineas briefed the Economic Policy Subcommittee of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee last week on the economic effects of the budget deficit. She returns this week for testimony on Medicare reform before the Senate Special Committee on Aging along with board member Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Key Deadline Looms for Congressional Committees – Committees seeking to influence the Super Committee must send recommendations to the panel by Friday. It will be interesting to see what committees chose to issue recommendations and what proposals make the cut. CRFB is tracking the submissions to the Super Committee. Meanwhile, the business leaders at the nonpartisan Committee for Economic Development became the latest group to urge the Super Committee to Go Big.

Presidential Contenders To Debate Economic and Fiscal Issues – The GOP candidates will debate once again on Tuesday, but this debate, sponsored by Bloomberg News, The Washington Post, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, will be different. The candidates will be sitting around a table and the questions will focus on economic and fiscal issues. CRFB has offered questions for the candidates before and this will be the ideal forum to ask them.

Still Searching for a Doc Fix – The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MEDPac) has recommended a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), also known as the 'Doc fix,' that would freeze Medicare payments to primary care physicians and cut payments to non-primary care doctors by 5.9 percent over the next three years. The board also offered a list of offsets for the $200 billion cost of the fix.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times ET)

October 11

  • Federal budget for September released by the Treasury Department.
  • GOP presidential debate on economic and fiscal issues in New Hampshire at 8pm.

October 12

  • Senate Budget Committee hearing on "Improving the Congressional Budget Process" at 9:30 am.
  • Senate Finance Committee hearing on "Tax Reform Options: Capital Investment and Manufacturing" at 10 am.
  • Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on "A Time for Solutions: Finding Consensus in the Medicare Reform Debate" at 2 pm.

October 14

  • Congressional committees must submit any recommendations to the Super Committee by this date.

October 18

  • GOP presidential debate in Nevada.

November 18

  • Continuing resolution (CR) currently funding federal government operations expires.

November 23

  • The Super Committee is required to vote on a report and legislative language recommending deficit reduction policies by this date.

December 2

  • The Super Committee report and legislative language must be transmitted to the President and Congressional leaders by this date.

December 9

  • Any Congressional committee that gets a referral of the Super Committee bill must report the bill out with any recommendation, but no amendments, by this date.

December 23

  • Congress must vote on the bill recommended by the Super Committee by this date. No amendments are allowed.