Unreconciled

Remember when congressional Republicans were going to use budget reconciliation to bulldoze Senate Democrats and put all sort of unpalatable but politically salients items on Barack Obama’s desk? Never mind, says budget maven Stan Collender at Forbes.

The fiscal 2016 budget resolution Congress adopted earlier this year included what’s known in the federal budget biz as “reconciliation instructions” (see sections 2001 and 2002), that is, directives to House and Senate committees to recommend policy changes that will reduce the deficit. The committees’ recommendations are supposed to be made by July 24th, that is, by this Friday.

Although the committees that received the reconciliation instructions – Ways and Means, Educations and Workforce and Energy and Commerce in the House and Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the Senate – have been insisting they will meet the deadline, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that they will do so, or that they will meet the deadline only by producing placeholders that will be partially or completely abandoned later this year.

The budget committees could come up with their own recommendations to achieve the reconciliation-required deficit reductions if the committees that received the instructions miss the deadline, but so far neither budget chairman has indicated his committee will do that.

It’s pretty easy to grasp that Republicans have become reluctant to go to too much trouble over the Kabuki exercise of passing a huge omnibus budget bill the president is sure to veto. But beyond that, there remain signs Republicans are in disarray over their own budget priorities, particularly when it comes to deficit reduction vs. tax cuts vs. defense spending increases. Those could well remain unreconciled even if Republicans win the White House, but the sheer embarrassment involved in admitting their budgetary fecklessness when Democrats are helpless to stop them might force some sort of breakthrough.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.