With looming furloughs, layoffs, and cuts to services coming as a result of sequestration debacle, Washington prepares for budget season.
By law, the president is required to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February. Though the budget has been tardy in the past few years (with a Valentine’s Day delivery in 2011 and a February 13 arrival in 2012) this year’s presidential budget is set to arrive two months late).
Breaking a 92-year precedent, Congress is not waiting for the president.
Three proposals are currently on the table:
- The House GOP "Pathway to Prosperity" introduced by Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan
- The House Progressive Caucus "Back to Work Budget" introduced by Progressive Caucus Chairman Raul Grijalva.
- The Senate Democratic "Foundation For Growth" Budget, introduced by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray.
The budget resolutions drafted by the House and Senate budget chairs have passed committee and are now slated for consideration on their respective chamber floors. The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget is usually offered as an amendment to the House Budget resolution, though the Rules Committee will have the final say on whether the amendment is accepted and a vote allowed.
If both the House and Senate pass their budgets, the two resolutions will be sent to a pre-selected conference committee of representatives and senators to reconcile discrepancies. If a reconciled version can pass the conference committee, it will return for consideration by the House and Senate. Each must pass the exact same version in order for the budget to be adopted.
Budget resolutions have a special status in the Senate because a reconciled resolution does not have to meet the 60-vote threshold for "cloture" to end debate. Therefore, unlike most bills that come before the Senate, a budget resolution only needs a simple majority to pass in a "reconciliation" process.
Despite that advantage, the budget process takes months if done correctly and requires a cosmic alignment of the planets to work — which is rare. In fact, the last time Congress passed a budget was April 29, 2009.
Since that time, the government has operated on a series of "continuing resolutions" (or CRs) that extend the previous budget for a set period of time. The current CR expires on March 27, though a CR to fund the government through September September 31, 2013 (H.R. 933) is making its way through the process.