With last week’s passage of a short-term Continuing Resolution funding the government and a debt limit increase, elected officials gave themselves a tight set of deadlines to finally put together a budget plan that might consider more structural, long-range fiscal reforms.
The appointment of a House-Senate conference committee is a particularly positive development. That panel is supposed to develop a full-year 2014 budget by December 13.
At a minimum, the panel’s goals should be to prevent another government shutdown and debt limit crisis early next year. But it has an even more valuable opportunity: to forge a bipartisan plan for comprehensive fiscal reform that can put the government on a more responsible and sustainable path in the coming decade and beyond.
The agreement last week, approved as the government was approaching the possibility of defaulting on some of its financial obligations, raised the federal debt limit through Feb. 7.
The deal also ended the costly government shutdown, funding the government through Jan. 15. Economists say the shut-down, in addition to wasting millions of tax dollars, cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars and undermined consumer and business confidence.
A credible plan for comprehensive reform would involve three key items that could attract bipartisan support: additional health care reforms that reduce projected spending, tax reforms that target wasteful subsidies, and a new set of spending caps to replace the “sequestration” caps that neither party fully supports.