No Budget, Just Spending

April 18, 2012

April 15 has come and gone.  And with it, another missed deadline by Congress to complete action on the federal budget.  Did you know by failing to complete a budget by April 15, Congress isn’t following the law?  It may be hard to believe but don’t take my word for it.  On page 926 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, it says that on or before April 15 of each year “Congress completes action on concurrent resolution on the budget.”  How can it be that Congress is able to disregard its own deadline?  Well, actually, since the law doesn’t contain any enforcement mechanisms, there are no consequences imposed on Congress if it fails to enact a budget by April 15.

A budget is important for many reasons, and one of the most important aspects of the federal budget to follow is the “top-line” number for discretionary spending. House and Senate appropriators watch this number closely, because it places a limit on how much they can spend.  And since the budget process appears to be stalled, the House of Representatives moved on Tuesday to deem a budget to have passed for the purpose of allocating  a top-line number to the appropriations committee to spend.

But there is a problem.  Yesterday, the House set their number at $1.028 trillion.  This number is below the number the Senate set out in the Budget Control Act that passed last summer to end the debt ceiling standoff: $1.047 trillion.  With different numbers on what to spend, we’re set for another spending clash between the House and Senate.

Unfortunately, taking the shortcut of not passing a budget and deeming one to have passed is in keeping with the pattern of recent years. For the last three years, the Senate hasn’t even bothered passing a budget. (Kudos to President Obama and House of Representatives, who have met their responsibilities to present a budget blueprint in recent years)

So the budget isn’t real. Big deal, right? Actually, it is a big deal, because the real losers here are the American taxpayers. It’s easy to see how this farcical process has led to our current dire budget situation, where towering debt and endless deficit spending have put our nation on an unsustainable fiscal course.

Think about it: The national debt is more than $15.5 trillion and counting, and the projected deficit for this fiscal year is an additional $1.2 trillion.  Is it too too much to ask that Congress and the president develop a realistic budget plan and then follow it?

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