John Kasich Get's His Wish 20 Years Later
It was 1994 and Rep. John Kasich (R-OH), the soon-to-be-named chairman of the House Budget Committee for the just-elected GOP majority, was telling anyone and everyone who would invite him to speak that he didn't care if President Clinton submitted a budget for the coming year because House Republicans were going to ignore it. Kasich didn't use the standard "dead-on-arrival" line, he simply said that nothing Clinton proposed would be of interest because it would be "irrelevant."
Fast forward almost 20 years. The Obama fiscal 2014 budget proposal, which technically was required to be sent to Congress by February 4, now is not expected to be released until late March or even early April. That will make it irrelevant to the House and Senate Budget Committees, which are set to markup their respective versions of the fiscal 2014 budget next week, that is, two weeks or more before the White House's proposal will be available. The president's plan also won't be released before the full House and Senate are expected to debate and vote on what the budget committees produce.
This is largely unprecedented. Although final presidential budgets previously have been sent to Congress in the spring, that typically only happened after the White House sent a shorter, preliminary version by or shortly after the deadline and that was mostly in the years following presidential elections.
To be fair, no president has ever faced the situation that existed this year. Not only did the presidential election slow down the budget formulation process that usually takes place between September and November, but first the fiscal cliff and then the sequester took up much of the time of the same people who had 2014 budget responsibilities. It was also hard to figure out what to request for 2014 when so much of 2013 was still very much up in the air.
This extreme delay in completing work on the fiscal 2014 budget will not render the White House's proposal moot. Much of the top line numbers in the budget either are based on formulas that are already know -- interest on the debt and Social Security, for example -- or will be determined by the spending caps that were established in the Budget Control Act back in August 2011.
But the real budget meat of what will be discussed by Congress much of the rest of the year -- appropriations -- will be specified in detail in the president's budget long before those debates begin in either house and will be important to the appropriations committees.
This is not to excuse the White House for the delay. It's not acceptable that at least some form of the president's budget wasn't available close to the statutory deadline.
But contrary to the message Kasich delivered 20 years ago and which the GOP no doubt will repeat often in the next few weeks, even the long-delayed Obama 2014 budget will definitely be used to guide congressional decisions the rest of this year.