StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

House And Senate FY14 Budget Resolutions = Legislative Masturbation

28 Mar 2013
Posted by Stan Collender

I've come back from two weeks on the mountaintop (and a few beaches) with an additional healthy dose of skepticism -- and that's saying a great deal given how skeptical I was before -- about what Washington says and does on everything having to do with the federal budget.

From my vantage point 5000+ miles away from the beltway, it was simply impossible not to think that what was happening in DC -- the House and Senate passing fiscal 2014 budget resolutions -- as being even slightly important.

I know that wasn't what was being said in Washington. The GOP was taking credit for its No Budget No Pay provisions pushing the Senate to pass a budget resolution for the first time in four years. Senate Democrats were crowing about passing that budget resolution. The House GOP was bragging about it adopting the latest plan drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) even though it has no chance of becoming law. And Dems were expressing a great deal of pride about the job first-year Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) did in getting the resolution out of committee and adopted in the floor.

What no one was sayings was that none of this actually means anything in terms of getting a 2014 budget agreement. No one I know in the federal budget community thinks the House and Senate will be able to compromise their differences and agree on a budget resolution conference agreement that would actually be binding and create the opportunity to use reconciliation. In fact, no one I know in the budget community thinks the House and Senate are even going to go to conference and try to negotiate.

That means that the No Budget No Pay provisions were meaningless and accomplished nothing; the country is no closer to having a budget agreement afterwards than it was before.

In fact, the only thing No Budget No Pay accomplished was to provide an additional incentive for Senate Democrats to vote for a budget that they could be virtually certain would never be implemented and, therefore, to remove a key GOP talking point from the past few years.

It also means that all the time and effort devoted in each house to passing a budget resolution was worthless. The House and Senate may have felt better afterwards, but they really didn't accomplish anything in the process. 

That's close to a textbook definition of legislative masturbation...and the House and Senate did it out in the open while everyone was watching. They then bragged about what they had done to their friends.

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