Another week has passed with no substantial progress reported towards a federal budget for the fiscal year that began nearly two months ago. Lawmakers began their Thanksgiving breaks last week, although private discussions on the budget were said to be continuing.
Unfortunately, numerous reports indicate that negotiators have narrowed their focus to modest, short-term goals – and seem to be struggling even with those. A more comprehensive approach would be better, although it would require more bipartisan cooperation than has been in evidence this year.
The budget conference committee, facing a Dec. 13 deadline, has held only two public meetings. Even if that deadline is met, lawmakers will then attempt to cram a year’s worth of budget work into a few short weeks before a stop-gap funding measure expires. House Republicans are now reportedly considering another stop-gap measure.
Lawmakers must also agree to raise the debt limit, currently suspended through early February. Without a timely increase, the government would be forced to rely once again on “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on some financial obligations.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that these measures would probably be exhausted in March although they could last until May or June. The Bipartisan Policy Center says the measures are “much more likely” to be exhausted between late February and mid-March.