Lessons From the Past on Reaching a Budget Deal

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As lawmakers continue to struggle over appropriations for the fiscal year that starts a week from Thursday, it is clear they will need to find some compromises to avoid a government shutdown.

A new Concord Coalition issue statement provides background on the 2013 Ryan-Murray bipartisan budget deal and suggests some ways that lawmakers can improve the chances of a better agreement this time around.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires sequestration (automatic cuts) if Congress fails to keep appropriated spending below certain caps. But Ryan-Murray provided some sequester relief, increasing appropriations spending for two years while reducing mandatory spending and creating small revenue increases, mostly through user fees.

Both parties are again unhappy with sequester appropriations levels. It will help to reach a new deal if they both remember that they never actually intended the sequestration levels set in 2011 to go into effect. The original plan was that the sequestration threat would induce lawmakers to approve something better.

Congress must honestly pay for any sequester relief by looking at other budget areas and new revenue. Otherwise, projected deficits will be even larger.

In addition, any new budget deal should still be followed up with entitlement and tax reform that can reduce projected long-term deficits. Otherwise, the issue statement warns, “the tinkering around the edges itself becomes a budget gimmick.”

External links:
Another Government Shutdown? (Fiscal Times)
What Is a Continuing Resolution? (Concord)

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