2014 budget debate
In case you missed it, the FY2014 omnibus appropriation, which will keep the government funded through the September 30, that is, through the end of the fiscal year, passed the Senate yesterday 72-26. It was adopted by the House the day before 359 to 67.
Here are the five quick reasons why the votes were so big and bipartisan.
1. The GOP is still hurting from the October government shutdown. There's no doubt that the negative political repercussions from being blamed for this October's two-week shutdown is haunting House Republicans. As happened after the 1995-1996 shutdowns when congressional Republicans took it on the chin politically, the chances of a shutdown being threatened again any time soon are now significantly lower than they were several months ago and the omnibus was the first opportunity for the House GOP leadership to take advantage of this new sentiment.
Keep these things in mind if you're thinking about popping a cork or two to celebrate Congress passing an omnibus appropriation over the next week that will keep the federal government open for business through the rest of fiscal 2014:
Don't believe what you may have heard elsewhere about the budget deal. Here's the truth.
Myth #1: This prevents another government shutdown.
The deal may make a shutdown less likely, but it absolutely doesn't prevent one from happening.
Shutdowns occur when there is a lapse in appropriations, that is, when an existing appropriation expires and no new appropriation is enacted to replace it. This deal raises the ceiling on the amount that may be appropriated, but it does not actually appropriate anything.
There still could be, or likely will be, a fight in January over the amount being spent and what it is being spent on when the widely expected omnibus appropriation is debated. The deal provides a ceiling on the amount that may be spent rather than a guarantee and some members of Congress will want to re-litigate the increase that was negotiated in this agreement. Others will threaten to vote against the omnibus because they disagree with the bill's priorities.
Myth #2: Congress has now passed a budget for the first time in years.
Regardless of whether it's actually adopted, five individuals, groups and organizations stand out as being the biggest losers from the budget deal announced Tuesday evening. They are:
1. Fix The Debt. FTD is the high-profile corporate-funded organization that has been pushing hard for a grand bargain dealing with the long-term budget issues. In spite of the statement FTD issued, this deal was a total rejection of what FTD has raised and spent so much money trying to get Congress to do. You might even call it a smackdown. Not only will there be no Fix the Debt-preferred agreement in 2014, the deal closes the door on that type of agreement in 2015 as well. And does anyone really think Congress is going to take on Social Security and Medicare just before the 2016 presidential election?
The big budget question for this week is whether the budget conference committee will be able to agree to anything by its deadline this Friday.
My big budget answer: It doesn't matter.
1. The budget world won't end at midnight this Friday. The government won't shut down, the debt ceiling won't be breached and no sequester will occur. So there's no immediate practical impact if the conference committee fails to come up with anything. It would not be at all surprising, therefore, if at some point this week the committee announces that it will continue its deliberations when Congress returns to Washington in January.
2. Even if the conference committee does agree to something this week, there's only a limited chance that the deal will actually be voted on by one or both houses. If it happens at all, it will happen in January.