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Important Budget Questions to Ask This Week

Will what Reagan did be enough for House Republicans? Early reports about the Obama fiscal 2012 budget say that his deficit reduction plan will be two-thirds spending cuts and one-third revenue increases, the same formula Ronald Reagan agreed to with Congressional Democrats when he was president. If true, the question is whether House Republicans, who venerate Reagan and his policies, will be willing and able to do in fiscal 2012 what he did in the 1980s.

Is anyone trying to appeal to a wider audience? Although White House budget requests are generally accepted without much change, the president’s budget usually is as much an opening bid in negotiations as it is a firm plan. This year may be different: At least on spending and revenue issues, some in Washington have now redefined compromise as being the political equivalent of collaborating with the enemy.

The question is whether the White House, House and Senate Republicans, and House and Senate Democrats will see the need to broaden their support as the budget debate continues or whether solidifying their standing with their base supporters will be the primary goal.

Is it spending or federal services? Republicans supposedly were shocked in 1995 and 1996 when, during the two government shutdowns, individuals and companies were not happy that the federal services they rely on weren’t available. The question is whether, as some believe, the situation has really changed since then. The reaction to the specific spending cuts the GOP announced Friday and those included in the Obama budget released Monday will be the best indication of whether the debate has really shifted. It will also be the best indicator of whether gridlock, stalemate and threatened or actual shutdowns on budget issues are the norm the rest of the year.

Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”

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