November 26, 2014

With No Budget Resolution, Talk in Congress Turns to Incomplete Substitutes

  • The federal budget process is a mixture of rules, timelines and norms that work together to influence policy decisions. It shapes how the...

At a time when lawmakers are under public pressure to show greater fiscal responsibility, Congress has chosen to ignore its fundamental duty to pass a budget resolution for the coming year.

Instead, some on Capitol Hill are talking about approving a “budget enforcement resolution.” But what they have been discussing in recent days would fall far short of the fiscal discipline that could be imposed by a regular budget resolution.

Cliff Isenberg, Concord's chief budget counsel, says in a blog post that the budget enforcement resolution idea appears to be similar to a “deeming resolution,” a procedural shortcut that has been used in past years. A real budget resolution, however, provides a detailed framework for at least five fiscal years, complete with anticipated deficit figures.  It  could also include reconciliation instructions that may be needed for deficit reduction and compliance with the new PAYGO law.

Isenberg says it is troubling that members of Congress are using the work of the President’s bipartisan fiscal commission as an excuse for not passing a budget. While approving a responsible measure with credible enforcement mechanisms would require difficult decisions, he adds, “that is what it means to govern.”