Last night the House passed a “budget enforcement resolution” setting discretionary spending levels for fiscal year 2011 at $1.12 trillion. This is approximately $7 billion less than President Obama’s budget and $3 billion less than the Senate proposal. However, the resolution isn’t newsworthy so much for what it contains but rather for what it lacks.
Make no mistake: This is not a true budget. All future federal spending and revenue projections, which would normally be included in an actual budget resolution, are conspicuously absent in what was passed last night.
This has never happened. The House of Representatives has passed a budget resolution in every single year since the modern budget process was established in 1974—until now.
The budget resolution functions as the budget of the Congress, setting both federal spending and revenue levels for the next five fiscal years. The “budget enforcement resolution” differs greatly in that it covers only a single year and completely ignores both mandatory spending and revenue.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D–SC) attempted to explain the lack of any out-year budget figures, stating:
While this resolution does not project the budget out over five years, it does look to the future by assuring that the House will have an opportunity to vote this year on longer-term budget proposals made by the president’s Fiscal Commission and approved by the Senate.
It is a curious coincidence that any vote taken on recommendations from the Presidents fiscal commission—likely containing hefty tax increases—would take place after the November 2010 elections. Moreover, the fiscal commission was never intended to be a substitute for elected officials to fulfill one of their most basic duties and pass an actual budget.
Americans have been forced to closely examine their own budgets in these tough economic times. In an era of trillion-dollar deficits and sky-high unemployment, Congress should at least do the same.
This vote should be called out for what it is: a cynical political maneuver to avoid the consequences of voting in favor of mounting spending and tax hikes during an election year.