Getting a budget passed is always a challenge for either party, particularly in an election year. Republicans regularly skipped passing a budget resolution during election years before they lost their majorities in 2006, and a dispute over a domestic spending freeze President George W. Bush sought to impose that year resulted in gridlock as a band of moderate Republicans refused to vote for domestic appropriations bills.
The failure to get Congress most basic business done was one of the arguments Democrats used to oust Republicans from office that year.
Both parties, meanwhile, have maneuvered this decade through assorted budget gimmicks to elude spending caps, and Democrats worried about cuts to favored programs in the regular bills could be assuaged by off-budget spending in the forthcoming emergency jobs bill, in the Afghanistan war supplemental or by shifting spending to off-budget mandatory programs.
Republicans generally reacted warmly to the proposed freeze but planned to dig through the budget to find whether it was a freeze in name only. But they, like Kaptur, pointed out that the idea covered only a small percentage of overall federal spending and would do little to reduce deficits expected to top $1 trillion a year.
But even if the GOP supports the spending freeze, its Members arent likely to support Obamas budget viewed as a political document in the end.
Votes aside, the fiscal 2011 budget process may be idling for a while. Democrats are focused on finishing a health care bill and want to leave open the option of passing it through budget reconciliation rules approved last year. Those rules would allow Senators to bypass a filibuster but expire once the fiscal 2011 budget is passed.
The budget resolution is supposed to be finished by April 15, although Congress routinely misses that date.