September 22, 2014

Congress Should Compromise on a Budget Resolution

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

The House and Senate passed budget resolutions with largely partisan votes before leaving for a two-week recess. Resolving the two competing visions of fiscal policy in the weeks ahead will be difficult, though both parties should accept the challenge and come together on a compromise.

A compromise should address revenues and spending by including fiscally responsible components of both proposals. It should at least stop federal debt from growing faster than the economy in the years ahead.

In the House, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal  passed with a 221-207 vote. No Democrats supported it and only 10 Republicans opposed it. His proposal attempts to balance the budget over 10 years. The Concord Coalition supports the general goal of returning to balance but has questioned the Ryan plan’s reliance on vague revenue assumptions and unrealistic cuts to domestic discretionary spending and means-tested entitlement programs.  

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray’s proposal passed with a 50-49 vote in that chamber, which marked the first time since 2009 that the Senate has passed a budget resolution. All Republicans and four Democrats voted against the proposal.

The Murray proposal calls for a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to reduce debt held by the public from 78.5 percent of GDP in 2014 to 70.4 percent of GDP by 2023. This is a responsible goal, though the proposal is vague about some of the specific policy choices that will be needed to get there. Murray’s plan proposes cuts to discretionary spending but does not sufficiently address the mandatory spending programs that are driving the growth of the debt. To its credit, the plan proposes revenue increases, though it includes little discussion of the specific choices necessary.

Also last week, the House passed a continuing resolution that will prevent a government shutdown by funding federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Senate previously approved the bill and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.