The Fix: budget

Why the Obama budget is already dead

Why the Obama budget is already dead

Congress has passed a two-year budget agreement that sets spending levels through the end of 2015, meaning that members of the House and Senate can justifiably dismiss the budget President Obama unveiled Tuesday as irrelevant.

But the White House is required by law to present a budget proposal each year, so Obama used the moment to release an ambitious proposal that relies on more than $1 trillion in new taxes and includes more than $55 billion in new spending. Next week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is expected to follow up with a proposal that will focus on welfare reform and an overhaul of social programs, including Head Start and Medicaid.

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The winners and losers of the new spending bill

The winners and losers of the new spending bill

Updated and corrected 11:48 a.m.

Congressional negotiators released the details of a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill that would fund federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year and end the lingering threat of another government shutdown.

So, what's in it? We quickly sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want a detailed report on each of the 12 pieces of the broader spending bill, it's all here.)

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Breaking down the Senate’s cloture vote on the budget compromise

Breaking down the Senate’s cloture vote on the budget compromise

The U.S. Senate agreed Tuesday to proceed to final debate on a bipartisan budget agreement, the next-to-last step before sending the two-year spending plan to President Obama for his signature.

The procedural step required at least 60 votes to succeed, and senators easily surpassed that margin. Here’s the tally:

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Who voted for the budget bill?

Who voted for the budget bill?

It was never a question of if the bill would pass, just who might vote against it.

The House voted by an overwhelming margin Thursday night to pass a two-year budget agreement, the first time in years of strident fiscal fights that a spending plan passed with a majority of votes from both parties.

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Paul Ryan’s boldest moment? It’s happening right now.

Paul Ryan’s boldest moment? It’s happening right now.

The boldest political move of Paul Ryan’s career came this week when he stood side by side with Patty Murray to announce an $85 billion budget agreement.

“What!” you say. “How can that be?” you ask. “You’re crazy,” you allege. After all, this is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of the eponymous Ryan budget -- the ur-text of economic conservatism in the modern age. The Ryan budget is widely regarded by Republicans as the boldest statement of policy since the Reagan administration. Without the Ryan budget, Ryan is never a national figure much less the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012.

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The House is on the verge of a genuinely bipartisan budget vote. Here’s why.

The House is on the verge of a genuinely bipartisan budget vote. Here’s why.

This item has been updated.

The House appears on the verge of approving the the budget agreement unveiled Tuesday evening by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), according to conversations with members and aides on both sides of the aisle.

The path to 217 votes for a proposal that would replace parts of the sequester and avoid any budget showdown until the fall of 2015 is a political patchwork of ideologies and loyalties that represent what, at least for the moment, looks like the rarest of things in modern politics: A bipartisan success.

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Why Congress had to go small in pursuit of a budget deal

Why Congress had to go small in pursuit of a budget deal

Congressional budget negotiators are on the verge of a deal. Just don't call it a grand bargain, a sweeping agreement or a landmark accord.

The Post's Lori Montgomery reports that "the emerging agreement amounts to little more than a cease-fire. Republicans and Democrats are abandoning their debt-reduction goals, laying down arms and, for the moment, trying to avoid another economy-damaging standoff."

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The House and Senate will both be in DC for a total of 5 days this month.

The House and Senate will both be in DC for a total of 5 days this month.

By year's end, lawmakers need to strike a new budget deal, approve a new farm bill and finish legislation that authorizes military pay and policy. With 30 days left in the month of December, there's still plenty of time, right?

Not really.

As of now, there are just five days in December when the House and Senate will be in Washington at the same time and available to put the finishing touches on unfinished business.

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Why Wednesday will be ‘Another Tricky Day’ on Capitol Hill

Why Wednesday will be ‘Another Tricky Day’ on Capitol Hill

In the words of The Who, Wednesday will be “Another Tricky Day” on Capitol Hill.

The Who frontman Roger Daltrey, performing at the Verizon Center last November in Washington. (Tracy A. Woodward/Post)

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Five things to know about the Ryan-Murray budget conference committee

Five things to know about the Ryan-Murray budget conference committee

The government shutdown is over. That means the work is just beginning for a group of lawmakers tasked with hashing out a long-term budget deal.

The group, led by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and her House counterpart Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), was formed as part of the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Murray and Ryan kicked off talks over breakfast Thursday morning.

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Would any House Democrats vote against a clean CR?

Would any House Democrats vote against a clean CR?

One provocative thing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in his news conference today: That a so-called "clean" continuing resolution might not pass in the House even if it came to a vote.

That statement is at odds with the assumptions of many political watchers — including us — who have documented how it is likely to pass if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) were to allow a vote on it.

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No, people don’t understand the budget. But the polls still matter -- a lot.

No, people don’t understand the budget. But the polls still matter -- a lot.

The current budget and debt limit debates in Congress bring the inevitable slew of polls telling us precisely what the American people think about all of it.

And, without fail, whenever The Fix team writes or tweets about one of these polls, the doubters make the same point.

The polls don’t matter one bit, they say, because the American people don’t know diddly squat about the budget and/or the debt limit.

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The people to watch in the shutdown showdown

The people to watch in the shutdown showdown

There’s only one game in town this week and it’s yet another down-to-the-wire standoff between the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama as they try to reach agreement on a short-term spending plan before the government shuts down next Tuesday morning.

The House started the process last week by passing a measure that would extend government operations through mid-December in part by repealing the Affordable Care Act. The House bill is expected to be changed considerably in the Democratic-controlled Senate and then sent back to the House with just days, if only a few hours, until the start of the new fiscal year.

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Kevin McCarthy’s strange, new definition of ‘bipartisan’

Kevin McCarthy’s strange, new definition of ‘bipartisan’

After Friday’s House vote to fund the government but defund Obamacare, Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made a bold claim.

“It wasn’t just a group of Republicans,” McCarthy said of the budget’s supporters. “It was a bipartisan vote.” McCarthy then repeated the statement for emphasis, urging all the reporters in the room to take note.

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GOP base to Congress: Shut it down (if you have to)

GOP base to Congress: Shut it down (if you have to)

The Republican-controlled House will vote Friday on a short-term budget that would defund Obamacare -- a law that Americans oppose by a double-digit margin (52-42), according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

So far, so good for the GOP.

Where things get dicey for Republicans is when a potential shutdown approaches at the end of the month, as all indications suggest.

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5 reasons why a government shutdown is (likely) coming

House Republicans’ decision to double down on their demand that any measure to keep the government open must be linked with the defunding of President Obama’s health care law makes a shutdown at the end of this month increasingly likely.

Here’s why -- in 5 steps.

1. Speaker John Boehner had a choice going into today’s meeting: Go forward with a plan similar to the one that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) rolled out last week -- which would allow the Senate to strip out the measure defunding Obamacare and then send it to President Obama -- or take a hard line, making it so that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can still strip the defunding out the legislation but the measure has to then return to the House for passage. Boehner took the hard line, which tells you that he isn’t willing to cross the cast-iron conservatives in his conference on this -- and that he likely won’t change his tune by Sept. 30. (For further explanation on “cast iron conservatives”, read this.)

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The American public wants money spent on disasters -- cost be damned

The American public wants money spent on disasters -- cost be damned

Nearly six in 10 Americans believe that the federal government should provide funds to states affected by natural disasters without having to cut spending in other areas to do so, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll.

Fifty-nine percent of all respondents say federal emergency aid need not be offset by cuts in other parts of the budget -- a number that includes a majority (52 percent) of self-identified Republicans as well as nearly seven in 10 Democrats.


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The most important person in the budget debate? Greg Walden.

The most important person in the budget debate? Greg Walden.

Not many people outside Washington know who Greg Walden is, and the new National Republican Congressional Committee chairman isn't all that well-known inside the Beltway either.

But for now, he's the most important figure in the looming budget debate.

With one fell swoop Wednesday, Walden signaled that he and his party might well try to use the entitlement reforms in President Obama's budget against Democrats, calling Obama's budget a "shocking attack on seniors."

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The ins and outs of 'chained CPI' explained

The ins and outs of 'chained CPI' explained

President Obama released his budget blueprint on Wednesday, a proposal that cuts more than $1 trillion in spending on government programs and adds nearly $800 billion in new taxes. With the release comes greater attention to a very technical term: "chained CPI."



No, it's not the name of a heavy metal band or a new workout routine. It's an important part of Obama's budget which has already been met by both praise and criticism. Want to know more? Below, we give you the details on what you need to know.

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Sunday shows roundup: Debate over gun legislation ramps up

Sunday shows roundup: Debate over gun legislation ramps up

The debate over guns was a major focal point across the Sunday show landscape, with the question of whether lawmakers will pass a measure to expand background checks on firearm purchases front and center.

As Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was hopeful the Senate could still pass background checks, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has been working on the issue, has found a new GOP partner, Sen Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). If they can strike a bipartisan agreement, chances of passage will go up.

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The GOP's confidence gap over the deficit, in 3 charts

The GOP's confidence gap over the deficit, in 3 charts

The question of whether Democrats and Republicans can reach a broad long-term deficit reduction deal remains an open one. For now though, it's notable that polling shows the public has more confidence in President Obama to deal with the deficit than it does in Republican congressional leaders.

A new Pew Research Center survey released Thursday shows that more than half (53 percent) of Americans said they have at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama when it comes to the deficit. By comparison, only 39 percent said the same thing about GOP congressional leaders; and only 45 percent said the same thing about congressional Democratic leaders:

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Van Hollen: House Democratic plan will balance budget by around 2040

Van Hollen: House Democratic plan will balance budget by around 2040

This post has been updated.

The House Budget Committee's top Democrat said Sunday that House Democrats' budget proposal will balance the budget by around 2040.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen's remarks came on the heels of mounting Republican criticism that Democrats have not been serious about balancing the budget.

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GOP Sen. Corker opens the door to new tax revenue

GOP Sen. Corker opens the door to new tax revenue

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Sunday that he believes Republicans would consider adding new tax revenues by closing loopholes if Democrats show a willingness to embrace "true" entitlement reform.

"I think Republicans, if they saw true entitlement reform, would be glad to look at tax reform that generates additional revenues," Corker said on "Fox News Sunday." "And that doesn't mean increasing rates, that means closing loopholes. It also means arranging our tax system so that we have economic growth."

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People agree the sequester is bad. They don't agree on how to fix it.

People agree the sequester is bad. They don't agree on how to fix it.

Big majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe that the sequester will hurt the economy and the military. But a newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals that no proposed solutions to the sequester (of five tested) rallies majority support across party lines.

That's the conundrum facing Obama and Congress as they search for a replacement for across-the-board cuts that both parties blamed each other for causing. Fully two-thirds of Americans want lawmakers to work to stop the cuts from continuing, but there's much less consensus about what to replace them with.

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Paul Ryan: Budget blueprint will promote repealing health care law

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that the budget blueprint he plans to unveil later this week will promote repealing President Obama's signature health care law.

"Yes, our budget does promote repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a better system," Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Past House Republican efforts to repeal the president's health care law have failed and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of law last year.

On Thursday, Ryan lunched at the White House with Obama and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Ryan said Sunday that only time will tell how effective the president's recent outreach to him and other congressional Republicans will be.

"The proof will be in the coming weeks as to whether or not it is a real sincere outreach to find common ground," Ryan said.

The 'continuing resolution', Edsplained (VIDEO)

Congress and the White House aren't expected to cut a deal by the end of the week to avert "sequestration."

But House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) could strike a deal to stop, or at least tweak the automatic spending cuts in time for the next major deadline at the end of March.

By March 27, Congress will need to pass another continuing resolution, or "short-term spending plan," or stopgap "spending resolution." Whichever term you choose, it's a congressional gimmick that could help Washington avert draconian spending cuts.

So what is a continuing resolution? Watch our "Edsplainer" below, or here:

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

WATCH PREVIOUS EDSPLAINERS:

What happens at the State of the Union?

What is the sequester?

What are the biggest tax deductions and exemptions?

What is the AMT?

How are unemployment numbers calculated?

What is the ‘fiscal cliff?'

Chuck Schumer: Senate will pass a budget

Chuck Schumer: Senate will pass a budget

The Senate's third-ranking Democrat said Sunday that the upper chamber will pass a budget this year, something House Republican leaders have insisted as they've agreed to hold a vote on a short-term increase in the nation's borrowing limit.

"In our budget that we will pass, we will have tax reform, which many of my Republican colleagues like. But it's going to include revenues," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on NBC News's "Meet The Press."

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Republicans' severe lack of leverage on the 'fiscal cliff'

Republicans' severe lack of leverage on the 'fiscal cliff'

There's a reason President Obama has spent part of his time during "fiscal cliff" negotiations appealing to voters: They are Democrats' ace on the hole.

In fact, poll after poll shows Democrats have the American public on their side when it comes to the major issues at hand in the fiscal cliff talks.

And more and more, it's looking like Republicans have very little leverage -- at least, when it comes to public sentiment.

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Why Romney is distancing himself from Ryan’s Medicare cuts

In his first one-on-one interview since announcing Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney sought to put some distance between himself and Ryan’s Medicare proposal.

Echoing his rhetoric on the campaign trail in recent days, Romney emphasized that he is the leader of the GOP ticket and that he does not agree with the Medicare cuts in Ryan’s budget — which are similar to the cuts in President Obama’s health care bill.

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Paul Ryan’s budget: Democrats’ ace in the hole?

Conservatives will be thrilled with the selection of their favored pick, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as Mitt Romney’s running mate, but Democratic campaign operatives may be just as excited.

Democrats have gotten significant mileage out of attacking the budget Ryan has proposed as chairman of the House Budget Committee, particularly the portion of it that would turn Medicare into a voucher program.

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Resolved: Supercommittees and debt commissions don’t work

The Bowles-Simpson debt reduction commission’s proposed budget went down in flames in the House on Wednesday night, failing by an overwhelming vote of 382 to 38.

And in doing so, it became just the latest bipartisan creation of Congress to crash and burn when it comes time to implement its proposals.

Think about the congressional “supercommittee,” which after the debt ceiling deal of last August was charged with crafting an additional $1.2 trillion in savings. Its effort ended in partisan gridlock, with no votes or even recommendations sent to the whole Congress.
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Further back, there was the Grace Commission in the 1980s, crafted for much the same reason as Bowles-Simpson and the congressional supercommittee. It went nowhere.

So why doesn’t this kind of thing work? In an era in which Congress raves about bipartisanship, the two commissions designed to craft a bipartisan agreement on fiscal matters have yet to produce any kind of consensus or results.

In the end, they’re failing for the very same reason regular legislation doesn’t pass: members just aren’t ready to stomach voting for them.

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Why Obama’s budget is smart politics

President Obama released a $3.8 trillion budget this morning that includes tax increases, continued infrastructure spending aimed at getting the country out of the economic crisis, and less debt reduction than Obama had previously promised.

And Republicans are pouncing, calling it an irresponsible budget-buster.

That argument was a winner in the 2010 election; today, though, Obama’s budget is a smart political document — at least when it comes to his 2012 reelection campaign.

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President Obama picks a political fight on taxes

When President Obama unveils his deficit-reduction plan this morning in the Rose Garden, the proposal sure to draw the most attention is his call for people making $1 million or more to pay more in taxes.


U.S. President Barack Obama makes a speech to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. (Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg)
Obama is touting the proposal as the “Buffett Rule”, an homage to billionaire investor Warren Buffett who has repeatedly insisted the wealthy should be paying more taxes.

And there are (smart) politics everywhere in it. Here’s why.

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