There are 7-8 budget battlegrounds this year. The press focuses on only one at a time. You should understand all of them as this year’s components of a multi-year struggle.
1. FY11 appropriations – Just concluded. This one happened this year because last year Congress didn’t get their work done.
2. Early-ish 2011 debt limit extension – This struggle begins now. Like FY11 appropriations, the debt limit extension is a must pass bill. Unlike appropriations, the back-end date is somewhat flexible.
3. FY12 budget resolution – This is a Congressional-only document that does not involve the President. The recently House-passed Ryan budget was the House version. Senate Budget Committee Chairman has done nothing (visible) so far on this. In theory the House-passed and Senate-passed versions should have been conferenced and the conference report passed in both Houses by April 15th. This deadline often slips, but the Senate majority appears completely AWOL this year. Maybe Chairman Conrad is waiting to see what happens in the Gang of Six?
4. The Gang of Six – Democratic Senators Durbin, Conrad, and Warner have been negotiating with Republican Senators Coburn, Chambliss, and Crapo for a few months. Expectations are high that they might construct a Grand Bargain, maybe along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations.
(photo credit: Jen Goellnitz)