On Budget Negotiations

Republicans seem to have dropped their demands fir defunding Obamacare. First they shifted to a proposal to just delay it for a year and eliminate the meducal device tax. Now they’re hardly mentioning it at all. Instead, they just want negotiations on spending.

OK, we are dealing with the budget, so that’s not wholly unreasonable. But traditionally continuing resolutions have not been subject to negotiation about spending and taxes. Instead, they are what keeps the status quo going while negotiations about spending and taxes–about the budget–continue. So the Republican demand is not normal politics, but a change in the (informal) rules of the game.

But then it’s been a long time now since our budget politics was playing by the normal rules, because we’ve been operating by continuing resolution not as coverage for the gap between the end of the fiscal year and the completion of the next year’s budget–which has been common–but as a years-long means of funding the government through a years-long failure to budget.

So if the CR has become the de facto hudget process, is it surprising that they now want to use the CR as the battleground for negotiating budgets?

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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6 Responses to On Budget Negotiations

  1. Matty says:

    Could they, hypothetically, start work on the next years budget before the current one runs out so there isn’t a gap, or is that crazy talk?

  2. Troublesome Frog says:

    That seems reasonable to me. If CRs are the normal way of doing things and that’s suboptimal, it’s reasonable for one side to say, “Look, no more CRs. We have to do a real budget,” and then back it up with a serious threat to stop voting for CRs.

    Normally you’d announce that well in advance with enough time to properly negotiate a budget and then make a good faith effort to reach an agreement during that time. Using the lack of a CR to incentivize both sides to come to an agreement is useful in that case. Doing something like, say, running down the clock because you think you’ll have a negotiating advantage when time runs out might be considered kind of nefarious. But the path to doing the right thing is a long one, and every small step in the right direction is something.

  3. Michael Drew says:

    I’d agree if the the debt limit weren’t simultaneously at play. The fact that it is swallows up all the salience in any procedural distinctions to be made in the appropriations fight right now. But generally, I agree. Outside the debt-limit context, I think Obama should be somewhat more willing to countenance the shutdown tactic given the state of the budget process. Not perfectly willing: a shutdown is more understandable in light of a broken budget process than outside that context, but a government shutdown is still not the same thing as a switch to CR-based appropriations from a regular budget. Everyone would be right to decry the state of affairs and decry the other sides willingness to countenance it/use it to sustain leverage. But outside the debt limit context, I would see an absolute rock-solid refusal to negotiate before the shutdown was ended as something of an abrogation. The government’s shut down because you can’t agree on what to fund: so work it out! Threatening default is utterly different: that has to be off the table before anything gets offered or agreed to. With that going on, there was no way to separate negotiations over the one from negotiations over the other – certainly not with Republicans internally unclear about what they were demanding for restoration to normalcy from either irregularity.

  4. Troublesome Frog says:

    Kevin Drum has a piece noting the perfect symmetry between the two sides’ desires: Obama believes that he must prevent future debt ceiling hostage crises, and the Republicans want to ensure that we get annual debt ceiling hostage crises. It’s not about today’s deal so much as the institution going forward. Drum has an interesting idea–what about a deal that replaces the debt ceiling that still gives the minority some leverage in forcing a deal?

    Not sure how it would work, but off the top of my head something like, “No other legislation may be passed until the annual budget is approved,” has some potential. Everybody has *some* pet project they want approved.

    Alternately, bring back more pork. It seems like pork was the lubricant that got these things passed in the past. In the grand scheme of things, it was a cheap way of making compromise happen.

  5. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Alternately, bring back more pork. It seems like pork was the lubricant that got these things passed in the past. In the grand scheme of things, it was a cheap way of making compromise happen.

    Mostly wasteful spending, but generally a pittance of the overall budget, like buying flowers for your wife.

  6. Michael Drew says:

    Not sure why Drum believes institutionalizing this practice would yield annual disputes. We’re already at a faster-than annual pace where before the frequency was basically decades between disputes where the debt ceiling was actually used to try to leverage substantive concessions. There weren’t clear cases of this in recent memory before 2011, then it took from from 2011 to 2013 repeat, then (at least) twice in 2013, now possibly twice again in the last quarter of 2013 if the six-week plan goes through. The trend and the incentive points toward this becoming essentially a continuous rather than intermittent process if this faction isn’t decisively brushed back from this tactic (which looks doubtful to be the result at this point in any case).

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