Girding for a federal budget battle royale, parties wrangle over rules
With Capitol Hill bracing for a battle over financial policy this summer, the focus now is on rules for the committee that will seek to reconcile House and Senate versions of the federal budget.
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“We need a conference,” says Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama, the ranking conservative on the Senate Budget Committee. “But it’s certainly preferable that we have some understanding of what it’s going to be like before we go. There are a lot of concerns there.”Skip to next paragraph
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Why is this agreement such a key concern?
Last week, Speaker Boehner laid out the political importance of having the two budget chairs reach a deal.
If the budget negotiators deadlock, Boehner pointed out in his weekly press conference, legislative rules allow the minority party (in this case, Democrats) to offer “politically motivated bombs” on the floor of the House. In the Senate, both majority and minority parties can offer what are known as “motions to instruct” their budget negotiators.
The results in the Senate can be just as politically explosive, with both parties jamming their instructions full of language meant to scorch vulnerable members of the other party.
At this point, both parties are trying to figure out just how far they’re willing to go on the budget. In years gone by, the budget has largely been confined to outlining the spending priorities for the coming fiscal year.
But the confluence of the document’s political visibility, Washington’s long-running financial battles, and the measure’s special legislative rules make it a potential vehicle for change in the nation’s spending and taxing structure.
Democrats portray Republicans, as Reid told reporters on Tuesday, as beholden to deeply conservative members of their caucus with a seemingly congenital disapproval to the tax increases pushed by Democrats. Without some new tax revenue, Democrats say, what’s the point?
In turn, Republicans like Sessions believe it will take a stronger sign from President Obama himself on altering the nation’s entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security to make a budget conference worthwhile.
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