Today the Senate began considering the $59 billion supplemental spending bill (HR 4899) that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved last week. The bill includes emergency funding for priorities such as military operations in Iraq/Afghanistan, disaster assistance and veterans disability payments. (For more details on the legislation, please see last week’s Washington Budget Report).
During the course of the week, amendments will likely be proposed to add extraneous items to the bill. The Concord Coalition urges policymakers to resist adding non-emergency spending that will add to deficits that are already fiscally unsustainable. If these items are added, they should be paid for without emergency designations that exempt them from budget allocations.
Another potential addition to the bill is a procedural device called a “deeming resolution.” Deeming resolutions are procedural shortcuts that Congress resorts to when its members have not lived up to their responsibility to pass a budget resolution. Deeming resolutions have frequently been used to set allocations for considering annual appropriations bills. They can also be used for other purposes, including adjustments to budget enforcement mechanisms such as the PAYGO point of order.
A deeming resolution may be necessary because over a month has passed since the April 15 deadline for completing a budget resolution. The Senate has taken no action on the budget resolution reported last month by the Senate Budget Committee. The House Budget Committee has yet to even report a budget resolution.
As The Concord Coalition has argued repeatedly, the government needs a budget resolution. When CBO is forecasting deficits over ten years that total $6 trillion in the baseline and $9.8 trillion in the President’s budget, a historic commitment to fiscal responsibility is required. This commitment should be enforced with a budget resolution. Instead, the House is poised to make history by failing to even consider a budget resolution for the first time since the modern budget process was created in 1974.
In the days ahead, some may argue that a deeming resolution is an effective substitute for a budget resolution. It is not. Section 301 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires a budget resolution to include at least the following levels for a period of at least five fiscal years:
- Totals of new budget authority and outlays
- Total federal revenues
- The surplus or deficit in the budget
- New budget authority and outlays for each of the major functional categories
- The public debt
- Outlays and revenues for the Social Security program
A deeming resolution that includes only an allocation to the Appropriations Committee or adjustments to budget enforcement mechanisms is not considered a budget resolution under the Budget Act. Without multi-year targets for deficits, spending, and revenue, it will not establish a new framework to guide Congress as it considers legislation. A deeming resolution also can not be used for reconciliation instructions that may be needed for deficit reduction and compliance with the new PAYGO law.
Responding to trillion dollar annual deficits with a deeming resolution that will not impose fiscal discipline represents the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure to govern, and our nation deserves more from our elected officials.
The Concord Coalition strongly urges Congress to fulfill its obligation to pass a real budget resolution, and to do so as soon as possible. For elected officials who lack the political will to make difficult choices, a deeming resolution is a tempting shortcut that will move appropriations bills forward. Unfortunately for Congress, you can’t deem the deficits away.