GOP Has Already Declared Obama FY14 Budget DOA
This week's most frequently repeated description of the Obama fiscal 2014 budget, which is scheduled to be released this Wednesday, April 10, will be something close to "...which was sent to Congress more than two months after the statutory February 4 deadline..."
Yes, the budget is very late. Yes, this may be the latest any president has ever sent his budget to Congress since the Congressional Budget Act became law in 1974. And, yes, in spite of the fiscal cliff at the beginning of January and the sequester on March 1, both of which got in the way of the typical presidential budget formulation process, this extreme delay is more than just a little hard to fathom.
Having said that, the only real difference the delay to April will make in this year's debate is that it deprived House and Senate Republicans from declaring the president's budget dead on arrival in February.
That will be the great irony about everything that's said about the Obama budget this week. House Republicans, who were virtually certain not to think about taking the Obama budget into consideration when they drafted their own budget last month, this week will complain loud and long about not getting the chance to to ignore it earlier in the year.
The reality is that the Obama 2014 budget has already been declared dead on arrival by the House GOP leadership. Minutes after the first leaks appeared last week about the Obama budget proposing to change in the way the CPI is calculated so that payments to Social Security recipients would be lowered, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) denounced both the chained CPI proposal and the administration's efforts to tie that change to additional revenues. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) then repeated the denunciation on CNBC later in the week.
Anyone who has been in Washington for any time knows that formal statements like the one made by Boehner immediately after the leak occurred are not impromptu or ad hoc. The fact that this statement came so quickly after the leak shows that Boehner had been planning to say what he said as soon as it was clear that the White House was going to include the CPI change in the president's budget.
The overwhelming likelihood is that the GOP leadership had a similar statement ripping the White House a new one ready to go in case the president didn't include the CPI plan. That statement would have complained about the president backtracking and not providing leadership on mandatory spending.
In other words, in spite of the delay, it's business as usual this year as far as the federal budget debate is concerned.
When the budget is released this Wednesday, I expect the congressional -- Democrat and Republican -- reaction to be feigned sorrow about the president submitting a purely symbolic budget. Members of both houses are likely to say that the White House would have had more of an impact had the House and Senate been able to see what the president was recommending before they adopted their own fiscal 2014 plans.
This will be nonsense because:
1. The House and Senate budget resolutions are at least as symbolic as anything the White House will send Congress on Wednesday. Neither the Republicans in the House nor the Democrats in the Senate drafted their budget resolution to be anything but a political statement about their own preferences. Compromising with the other house, that is, actually governing, was never the point. That makes the House- and Senate-adopted budget resolutions as dead on arrival as what the Obama administration will submit.
2. The Obama FY14 budget was going to be declared DOA no matter when it was sent to Capital Hill. The phrase "dead-on-arrival" may not have been used, but House and Senate Republicans were never going to give it the time of day.
3. The Obama budget could still have a significant impact on this year's budget negotiations if the House and Senate were serious about coming up with a budget resolution conference agreement because the negotiators could substitute or add one or more of the president's proposals to what was adopted by either house. That won't happen, however, not because the budget was so late, but because the House and Senate aren't going to produce a budget compromise this year.