Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Finally, We Have a Budget for This Year

The House and Senate today approved of legislation funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, ratifying the agreement reached late last week that averted a government shutdown. For good measure, lawmakers flirted with one more deadline as the “bridge CR” that has been financing government operations since last Friday night’s last-minute deal was set to expire tomorrow.

The resolution cuts federal spending by about $38 billion from the 2010 spending level, providing approximately $1.050 trillion in total funding for FY 2011.

The House passed the bill first on a 260-167 vote. While 59 Republicans voted against the measure because it did not cut enough, their votes were more than offset by 81 Democrats who voted for the bill. The Senate then followed suit on a 81-19 vote.

When President Obama signs the legislation, it will bring an end to the 2011 budget process six months after the fiscal year began and a full year after the date Congress is required to produce a budget blueprint. Under law, Congress was supposed to enact a budget resolution by April 15 of last year.

Suffice it to say, the budget drama has underscored how severely dysfunctional the federal budget process has become and how ill-equipped it is to deal with the substantial fiscal challenges we face. The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform has issued ambitious, yet sensible recommendations for reforming the process that would not only make it more effective and transparent, but would also facilitate concrete action to reduce the federal budget deficit and national debt.

As the FY 2012 budget process moves forward with a House vote tomorrow and debate continues on how to reduce deficits and debt, we must keep in mind that budget process reform will play a key role in putting the country back on a sound fiscal course.