Just when federal budget dysfunction in Washington appeared to hit rock bottom, policymakers discovered new lows with this year’s process. And the affects will be widely felt.
Congress is nowhere near approving a budget for fiscal year 2018. The House Budget Committee just announced plans to mark up a budget resolution next week. If the budget plan makes it out of the committee, the House of Representatives as a whole must then approve it. Then the Senate, which has yet to make any movement on the matter, must approve of that budget or pass its own version and reconcile the differences with the House.
To underscore how behind lawmakers are, all of this was supposed be done by April 15 under the law governing the budget process. Learn more about the federal budget.
Not having a budget means that the annual government spending process is also way behind. Lawmakers must resolve funding the government before the new fiscal year begins on October 1 to prevent a government shutdown.
The delay in the budget also affects the prospects for the first major tax reform in over thirty years since Republican leaders want to use the budget reconciliation process to move reform without the threat of a filibuster. That will require having a budget in place.
As bad as the excessive delay in the budget is, producing a budget that uses gimmicks to mask the true extent of the debt situation and the cost of new policies would greatly exacerbate the problem. Our partners at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget warned:
With debt at near record levels, achieving a reasonable fiscal goal is critically important and Congress should pass a gimmick-free budget that credibly sets the country on a sound fiscal path. That will require real, significant savings and tax reform that improves the fiscal outlook.
Hopefully, Congress will not rely on unrealistic expectations of economic growth to bring down the debt, as President Trump’s recent budget proposal does. As the Committee pointed out:
As much as we would like to fix the debt with a wave of a magic wand, it is just not that simple. Righting our fiscal ship will require tough choices, especially when it comes to taxes and entitlement spending. The President’s budget, unfortunately, has yet to confront those choices.
As the budget drama drags on, the government’s financial situation continues to deteriorate. The latest budget forecast from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sees budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion in just 5 years and continuing to rise afterwards. That will inflate the national debt to 91 percent of the economy in a decade.
We need a timely and functional budget process that deals with our fiscal challenges in a real way.
Do you think you can do a better job than the politicians in Washington in devising a budget and fixing the debt? Try it with the new Debt Fixer interactive budget tool.
National Debt and You