Federal Budget Battles – FY 2011 Timeline

By YeOldeScribe ~ April 12th, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

As promised, Political Progressives is taking a look at more things happening on the national level at the moment, and there’s no better place to start for that then the Federal Budget. Before we dive into the most recent debates, we’d like to take a step back and see how we got here. Then we’ll assign winners and losers, and we’ll wrap things up by looking ahead to the future of economics in America (hooray for three-part series!). We’ll do our best to keep you entertained, informed and awake as we go. Economics isn’t exactly the most fun subject in the world (our writer was fortunate to scrape out a B in his college microeconomics course), but it’s an important one – especially for its political ramifications.

First and foremost, we want to make it very clear that in no way, shape or form should the events of last week happened. It doesn’t make sense both politically and practically. We’ll start looking at the political side. It makes zero sense to us why a budget deal wasn’t reached earlier because at the time, Democrats owned Washington D.C. Last year, they had a clear majority in the House and almost a super-majority in the Senate. Here’s how this the budget process is supposed to work:

February/March: President submits budget to Congress

April/May: Budget committees in House and Senate get to work, hear testimonies, etc. Appropriations committees meet.

June: House and Senate prepare their appropriations bills (the Senate typically revises House bill at this time)

July: House and Senate pass appropriation bills

August/September: House and Senate conference committees resolve differences between the two pieces of legislation and agree on one bill to become Federal Budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

September: President signs Federal Budget for next fiscal year.

October 1: Fiscal year starts.

Instead of that, here’s what we got.

February 2010: Obama presents budget to Congress

June: House doesn’t come to agreement on budget. Democrats want more money, Republicans want less. Their solution? Don’t pass any form of a budget and hope for the best. According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the two sides were unable to reach even the most basic agreements on the bill.

July-September: More of the same. Democrats are too busy with other reforms to do their jobs and pass a budget. Republicans, equally to blame, refuse everything offered by Democrats. Nothing gets done.

September 31: Congress has an “Oh Shit” moment and realizes that tomorrow is the start of the next fiscal year. They pass a continuing resolution so the government continues to operate at last year’s levels.

November 2: Republicans take back the House and make significant gains in the Senate, in part due to campaigning on plans to drastically cut the federal budget.

December 2: Congress agrees to extend the continuing resolution until the 18th

December 16: Sen. Harry Reid gives up on trying to pass a full budget before the new year when the shifts in Congress takes place. Continuing resolution extended six days.

December 21: Continuing resolution extended again, this time for three months, set to expire March 4th.

February 2, 2011: WI Republican Rep. Paul Ryan announces Republican Party will push for $35 billion in cuts. Tea Party upset and demands that Republicans stick by their election pledge of cutting $100 billion. New Speaker of the House John Boehner says deeper cuts than what Ryan’s proposed are needed.

February 14: Obama releases FY 2012 budget. Kind of ironic considering FY 2011 budget hasn’t been completed yet.

February 19: House passes a budget calling for $61 billion in spending cuts for the remaining fiscal year. The cuts would have been $100 billion if stretched out over an entire fiscal year rather than an abridged one.

March 2: Continuing resolution extended until March 18th. Dems offer a budget with $6.2 billion in cuts, and are surprised when Republicans laugh and throw it back in their face.

March 17: Continuing resolution extended, this time with $6 billion in cuts, until April 8th. Tea Party + President Obama draw the line at five extensions, say this will be the last.

April 4: Democrats present budget with $33 billion in cuts. Boehner counters with $40 billion offer. Democrats cry foul. Boehner shrugs shoulders.

April 5: Reid says that the two sides have agreed on a number for budget cuts, but the only thing holding up the bill is a Republican ploy to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Republicans shocked and offended, grab dictionary to look up definition of “ploy”. Obama sits down with Reid and Boehner, attempts to mediate.

April 6: Obama mediates with Reid and Boehner again. Both sides tell each other where they can stick it.

April 7: House Republicans go back on their word and pass another continuing resolution extension. Senate ignores it, Obama says he’d veto it. Tea Party argues in favor of government shutdown.

April 8: At the eleventh hour – literally (the deal was struck at 11 p.m.) – Republicans and Democrats agree in theory to fund the government for the rest of the year with $39 billion in cuts from last year, which is $79 billion less than Obama originally asked for more than a year ago. Because the deal was struck so late, another extension of the continuing resolution has to be made, this time for a week, and with $2 billion in cuts. Obama signs stopgap measure, going back on his promise.

Sometime this week, hopefully: Both sides do what they said they were going to do and pass a budget for the rest of the year pursuant to the terms they agreed upon on the 8th.

Phew. That’s a lot of work for what should have been a simple task. If we could sum the process up in one word, it would be “yuck”.

We’ll take a look at the winners and losers tomorrow, but we just want to reiterate one more time that this debacle never should have happened. The Democrats didn’t even have to listen to the Republicans in the House or the Senate to pass this budget. Why they chose to bend to their will on something as important as the budget but blew right past them on Health Care Reform is beyond us. We’re not saying that Health Care Reform was unimportant, but we would argue that funding the Federal Government via the FY 2011 Federal Budget (which, by the way, includes Obama’s Health Care Reform plans) was a bigger issue. Shame on the Democrats for not doing their jobs and getting done what needed to be done. They were only willing to come to the negotiation table when they had to. If they had just accepted modest concessions early last year, they could have had a budget with fewer cuts then the one that was eventually agreed upon last week. Instead, they didn’t do their jobs, passed seven stopgap measures, and were essentially beaten by the Republicans and the Tea Party (which in itself is an embarrassment).

Tomorrow, we’ll be taking a look at the winners and losers from the budget battle, and we’ll wrap up this mini-series on Thursday talking about the future of the Federal Government’s Budget, specifically taking a look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget Proposal. Stay tuned!

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