New Speaker. Same Problem.

Special Guests: Tom Kahn, Richard Coffin

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This week on Facing the Future, we began with a status check on the stalled appropriations process on Capitol Hill now that a new Speaker of the House has been selected. Our guest for that segment was Tom Kahn, who served as Democratic House Budget Committee staff director from 1997 to 2016. He now teaches budget policy at American University in Washington.

Then we talked with Richard Coffin, Chief of Research and Advocacy at USA Facts, a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic initiative that makes government data easier for Americans to access and understand. The organization provides accessible analysis on U.S. spending and outcomes to ground public policy debates in facts. That’s certainly a useful mission for anyone interested in things like the nation’s fiscal challenges.

As usual, Concord Coalition policy director Tori Gorman and chief economist Steve Robinson joined the conversation.

Kahn began by noting that the new deadline for extending government agency funding and avoiding a shutdown is November 17th, a little over 2 weeks away. “If you look back at history,” he said, “keeping the government open was the thing that brought down John Boehner and essentially brought down Paul Ryan. And now it brought down Kevin McCarthy. I honestly don’t see any reason why the same fate does not await the new Speaker, because there is a wing of the Republican party –  and it is not the majority of the Republican party, but it is a very vocal and influential part of the Republican party, especially in the House –  that just does not accept the notion of governing and accept the concept of compromise.”

“Compromise,” he said, “is the core of success of any democracy. If parties compromise, then democracy can work, and if they don’t, then the democracy fails.”

Kahn foresees that “in the short term, which is to say, for the next few months, it is likely another continuing resolution (CR) will pass, because the far right is willing to cut the new Speaker a little bit of slack and allow another continuing resolution to pass.”

“But that probably will get you into January,” he said, “and then what happens? Ultimately, Speaker Johnson will be faced with the same dilemma and the same challenges his predecessors had in terms of the continuing resolution passing. The question will be, ‘at what level?’” 

Regarding the debate over whether to offset President Biden’s supplemental spending requests for Ukraine and Israel, Kahn lamented that, “for better or worse, and I think more for worse, there is no one sitting at the table who’s serious about deficit reduction.”

“Republicans talk about deficit reduction,” he said, “but they’re not willing to look at things in their own area which they’re willing to give up in order to reduce the deficit. On the supplemental, as an example, they have an offset which is cutting funding for the IRS which actually adds to the deficit. So unfortunately, there is not a great constituency in Congress in either party for deficit reduction. But this is an emergency, and I don’t want this money to be slowed down. Israel needs the help. Ukraine needs the help, and the longer this debate goes on the more problematic the news.”

Later in the program, Richard Coffin explained the10-K Report for the United States Governments, published by USA Facts. The idea is to simulate the 10-K forms, which public companies are required to file annually with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission.

“The idea of it is extremely well received. When people read it, they really get into the idea that we did something that kind of brings together all these different governments into one picture. Knowing that a company or organization that is outside the government is doing this, that there really is someone that is putting this together from a nonpartisan line and it doesn’t have any of the baggage that comes along with government itself, has been super exciting,” Coffin told us. 

Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL in Concord N.H., and it is also available via podcast. Join us as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.

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