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FCW : September 15, 2013
September 15, 2013 FCW.COM 17 Last spring, the House passed a scal 2014 budget resolution with a $967 billion spending cap --- the level that Republicans cite as required by the Bud- get Control Act of 2011. The Democratic- controlled Senate approved $1.058 trillion, which unilaterally assumes elimination of that law's requirement of a spending sequester. The two chambers have made little effort to reconcile the differences, which they ultimately must settle to keep gov- ernment doors open. Even within the House, many GOP lawmakers who voted for their budget have been unwilling to approve the req- uisite Tea Party-level cuts in discretion- ary spending. "Some House Republicans don't yet feel the pain" of the cuts they have mandated, said Stan Collender, a long- time budget expert. Even with their separate budget levels, both chambers have been unable to rally the votes necessary to approve routine appropriations. Evidence of this legislative never-never land came in July when each chamber failed to pass its committee-approved funding bill for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Because of the Senate's libuster rule, Democrats needed at least six Republi- can votes. "The far right appears to continue to have rm control over the Republi- can Party's negotiating posture in both houses, " wrote Scott Lilly, a senior fel- low at Democratic think tank the Center for American Progress and a former senior House Democratic Appropria- tions Committee aide, in an article on the center's website. House "prospects for passing this bill in September are bleak at best, " House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) conceded. The scal debate on Capitol Hill contin- ues to focus on so-called discretionary spending for domestic and national security programs. Lawmakers mostly ignore the far larger sums of money that are spent on the huge entitlement programs --- chie y Social Secu- rity, Medicare and Medicaid. Even the House-passed budget dealt cautiously with those programs, partly from fear of offending the core voting bloc of senior citizens. Likewise, following enactment in January of tax hikes on the wealthy, neither party has proposed speci c new taxes that could ease spending logjams. And Democratic insistence that tax reform must generate additional rev- enues appears to have scuttled support for that objective, which could boost the economy. "It's hard to see how that gets past [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, " said Dan Holler, spokesman for the con- servative Heritage Action for America. The only apparent discussions to build consensus on the budget have been halting negotiations between a group of Senate Republicans and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. But like an earlier effort by the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Six, those talks --- which were spurred by dinners with President Barack Obama --- have been longer on rhetoric than on budget reality. More to the point, Collender said, "the White House's problem is with House Republicans" more than the Senate. "There's a big gap to bridge, " acknowledged Will Allison, spokesman for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). "Most of us have a realistic view that Democrats and Republicans are not likely to take more than small steps. " Congressional leaders in both parties have mostly kept their heads down in dealing with one another and with their troops. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has become more cautious after repeated showdowns with the Tea Party faction. Some Democrats lament that he has become irrelevant, though others voice hope that he will ultimately agree to take the heat on a budget deal. GOP leaders have splashed cold water on hard-liners' call to use the budget talks to defund Obamacare. Ryan said that because the program is mostly entitlement spending, "there are more effective ways of achieving that goal. " But conservative groups, which insist they don't want a government shut- down, continue to press their health care initiative. "House Republicans will realize that this is where their constitu- ents are, " Holler said. As both parties circle each other in the latest budget debate, they have 1. Talking different languages 2. Searching for passage 3. Avoiding the real money 4. Engaging in sideshows 5. Abandoning leadership 6. Punting the decisions
August 30, 2013
September 30, 2013